“Embracing Our Differences” raises awareness of antisemitism

By Leora Druckman

Mollie Meadow, a member of the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, recently had her artwork selected in a juried art contest through Embracing Our Differences Michigan, a non-profit organization that celebrates diversity. Mollie’s drawing and art and other selected 2023 entries are currently displayed on billboard-sized banners at installations at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor and Riverside Park in Ypsilanti.

In Mollie’s drawing, a large snake is coiled menacingly and poised to strike. Below it stands a small, vulnerable mouse who is wearing a yarmulke and a Star of David. Mollie has titled her work Me. She explains, “Me is a representation of how I feel about my religion, and what it’s like sometimes when I reveal my true feelings and thoughts in a public space, like school.” Unfortunately, like an increasing number of American Jews, Mollie has encountered antisemitism in her everyday life. While it can be difficult for her to talk about it, her art has given her a way to express her feelings and to have a positive impact on other people’s lives.

Mollie, who recently graduated from the Ann Arbor Open Middle School, shares, “I wanted to raise awareness.” She says “I can’t remember not knowing (about antisemitism) in the back of my head, but the first time I really saw it in action was when I went to (a local synagogue), and there was a swastika sign right outside. I was just kind of taken aback, like, this still happens.” She notes that the drawing “shows how you feel, not how you actually are. You feel like you’re so vulnerable … The thing is, it’s not just me. It’s everyone. Everyone feels that way sometimes, and this piece is meant to showcase that.”

Mollie credits her art teacher at Ann Arbor Open, Deb Ennis, with encouraging her to enter the contest and to trust her own artistic voice. Mollie says, “She helped me learn to use art as a method for processing emotions, and she helped me grow a lot.” Deb describes how Mollie would spend her free time in the art room practicing her art and developing her own style. She says, “It’s a real treat when I get students as dedicated as Mollie”. 

“Embracing our Differences is an art and education program, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion through the transformative power of art.” explains Nancy Margolis, the director of Embracing our Differences Michigan. Annually, young adults and children submit art that reflects their interpretations of the theme “Enriching Our Lives through Diversity.” The program envisions “a society that embraces differences, builds respect, and celebrates the diversity of the human family.” Nancy continues, “All of the banners are meant to spark discussion about diversity … all different kinds of diversity: race, sex, LGBTQIA, physical and mental challenges, neurological challenges, et cetera.”

The organization offers docent-led tours of the art exhibit for groups of all kinds, including student groups from local schools. Nancy says about Mollie’s drawing, “That particular piece generates a lot of discussion on the tours that I have taken. The younger children see it as bullying. They see this big serpent attacking this little mouse. The older children, the older they get, the more they talk about the fact that the little mouse is wearing a yarmulke and a Star of David. One of the older children said, ‘gosh, this reminds me of the Holocaust. We studied about that!’ So, it brings in a lot of different ideas and things that the children themselves come up with.” In addition to educating about the impact of antisemitism, Nancy hopes that Mollie’s participation in the program will help her “feel somewhat more affirmed and maybe stronger to deal with antisemitism.”

A multi-talented individual, Mollie recently returned from Blue Lake Fine Arts camp where she received a scholarship in drawing and painting and Interlochen Fine Arts Camp where she played the oboe. She frequently attends dance camps with her parents where she enjoys English, Contra, Square, and other forms of dance. She enjoys writing, spending time outside, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with her friends.

This fall, Mollie will be attending Pioneer High School where she looks forward to joining the Pioneer Band, learning German, meeting new friends, and, of course, continuing her art. Deb Ennis, her middle school art teacher, says about Mollie, “I’m going to miss her. Her high school teachers are going to be lucky to have her.”

Mollie’s drawing and other select 2023 entries are displayed at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor and Riverside Park in Ypsilanti through October of this year. The Gallup Park display can be found at the second entrance to the park, east of Huron Parkway, where Fuller becomes Geddes Road.

Docent-led tours of the Embracing Our Differences Art Exhibit can be arranged for individuals and groups of all kinds. For more information and to arrange a docent-led tour of the exhibit, please go to https://eodmichigan.org/

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