Heritage Quest: A Sculptural Retrospective Into The Life Of Russian/Jewish Immigrants

Designed and created by artist Diana Sorkin Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase Regrant in partnership with the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI).

Introduction. The Heritage Quest sculpture is a visual retrospective of the difficult life Jewish families experienced in Russia over the past 100 years. Growing up Jewish in Russia and living behind the Iron Curtain, my family as all Jewish families, had to conceal their identity and suppress our Jewish culture in order to protect loved ones and escape prosecution. Over many years we were brainwashed to believe being Jewish was a sin, a curse. Unable to practice our Jewish faith and celebrate our Jewish/ Russian culture, millions of Jewish families fled Russia to give their children and grandchildren the opportunity to live free, learn and prosper. Many, as my family choose to immigrate to the United States.

Sculpture Description. The Heritage Quest sculpture presented takes the form of a Jewish Star dressed with a collage on each portion of the Star. It captures life in the difficult past and the recent days on our way to religious freedom and prosperity. The tree in the collage is depicted without roots, to emphasize the little we know of our past but the collage of pictures, groups of people, demonstrates the strength in numbers, families still determined to provide their children and grandchildren with a chance to learn, grow and prosper.

The Jewish people in the pictures from our early days in Russia show the lack of smiles. In government’s effort to restrict personal growth, Russian Jews were taught not to smile, were forced to surrender their identity and abandon their religious beliefs. They suffered in silence in order to avoid discrimination, exile and even death…

My Message. I am passionate about creating art. To me it is a source of endless inspiration. Every project represents a new challenge of bringing other people’s feelings and visions to life. Living in the United States we all have the freedom and the ability to be who we are and to embrace our cultural and spiritual identity. Immigrating to the United States has afforded me the opportunity to be an artist and express myself without being afraid for my life.

I thank God for the inspiration and my family for their support. Despite all these challenges, these people persevered and preserved the knowledge of being Jewish in order to pass it on to the next generations. There are many who contribute to a successful project; my sculpture would not have been possible without the stories (sometimes difficult stories) and pictures (old and recent) shared by a very special group of people who I have listed below. These people have as I have benefited from the sacrifices our ancestors made over the last 100 years. We thank them and hope you also will acknowledge their sacrifices and determination to live free.

Significant Contributions to this Project: I appreciate all the contributions made to this project, my sponsors COAHSI and JP Morgan Chase. The COJECO organization, Alex Kreymerman, Danny, Anna and Erik Braz, Emma Dukhovny, Paul Kvitnitsky, Irene and Ilya Yusim, Leo Rotman, Yakov and Svetlana Ezra, Alfred Saulo, Rabbi Lester Polonsky, the Staten Island JCC and especially my parents, Mila and Vladimir Sorkin, and my children Rebecca and Benjamin.

Thank you all!