Tell Hitler the Rabbi’s Surfing.


The entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp.

Arbeit Macht Frei

(Work Will Set You Free)

I had seen movies and heard several stories about the Holocaust. I knew it was tragic and I had met people who had survived it. But I never really got it until I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, where two million people were murdered. I got it that day. It was the most haunting experience of my life. I saw barracks with thousands of pounds of women’s hair that was shaved before they were put through the gas chambers, and the endless tortures documented on this massive plantation used to murder human beings. I was searching within the ashes to find that one little flower that was growing and that’s what I was going to focus on and make art of. There were no flowers, not there, and my heart broke in a way that I could have never imagined and I awakened to an incomprehensible reality I did not know existed—until that day.

I was at a loss for how to process what I had taken in. It was way too much. When I returned home to Los Angeles, I contacted a surfing Hasidic rabbi I had heard about. We decided to go to the beach and make art. Our trip yielded the surreal “Perseverance—Portrait of a Surfing Rabbi,” which depicts a grey-bearded rabbi in long black coat, prayer shawl, and fedora, carrying a surfboard under blue skies gazing out to sea.

What I love about this work of art so much is that it is the biggest, most hopeful, warmest, feel-good scenario I could have ever imagined—and it’s our reality, filled with a sea of “flowers.”

Perseverance: Portrait of The Surfing Rabbi


Follow Sturman’s Creative Journey.

 “Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing.” ~ Marc Chagall


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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Kate Bartolotta Apr 27, 2012 7:41am

I agree with Rebecca wholeheartedly—you are that flower. It's what we take away, what truly passionate work breaks free in us that allows beauty to emerge from those ashes. Thanks for sharing this, Robert.

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