Artist’s work comes home to Covenant Place

Covenant Place resident Rosy Weinstein (left) stands with a painting she created and donated to the Jewish Center for Aged many years ago.  The painting, which Weinstein had not seen since the 1980s, was part of the JCA’s collection of artwork  donated to Covenant Place. Joan Denison, executive director of Covenant Place, is shown at right. Photo: Joan Denison

By Margaret Gillerman, Special to the Jewish Light

Every day after leaving the dress shop where she worked, Rosy Weinstein visited her mother, Sarah, at the Jewish Center for Aged and often would volunteer to help other patients.

Weinstein, a talented artist, also donated some of her paintings to JCA, including one of a fiddler that was very special to her.

The JCA has since closed, and Weinstein, who turns 96 this month, hadn’t seen that painting since the 1980s — until now. She will be able to see it every day when it goes on public display at Covenant Place, a Jewish-community sponsored residence facility for seniors, in the very building where Weinstein lives.

Thanks to a donation of art by the JCA Charitable Foundation Board, Weinstein’s painting is one of a few hundred that have been transferred to Covenant Place from the old JCA and from JCA’s successor, the Cedars at the JCA.

The art will be placed in public spaces in three replacement  apartment buildings and in the senior-lifestyle Mirowitz Center that Covenant Place is building in an $84 million,  three-phase redevelopment through 2020. The first building, where Weinstein lives, opened in late June.

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Weinstein said she is so excited about her painting finding a home at Covenant Place that it “makes me want to cry” tears of happiness. Her mother also lived in Covenant House before going to JCA.

Weinstein says her new building is “magnificent.”

Everybody seems to like it, honey,” she says.

As she showed a visitor her sunny new apartment with yellow, white and orange furnishings – it’s “like Florida,” she says – she unfolded a copy of an old letter. Dated June 22, 1987, it explains why the fiddler painting means so much to her. It was written to Weinstein from a man whose father had lived at the old JCA and suffered from dementia and depression.

The son wrote that for months, nothing could arouse his father’s interest from “pathetic blankness.” Then, one day, the son wrote to Weinstein, he saw his father “staring at your violin drawing.”

“Look at the detail in this, Sonny,” the son recalled his father saying.

“Ain’t this miraculous?” his father asked.

“I was unable to speak,” the son wrote. “Your talent has done more to add some meaning to life for my father than anything any of the rest of us have yet been able to do.” 

 

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Joan Denison, executive director of Covenant Place, says she’s happy that Covenant Place will be able to hang Weinstein’s painting along with all the other art that has been donated.

“It’s a treasure trove of art,” Denison says. “A wonderful gift that enlivens the space and provides a beautiful environment for residents and visitors.”

Denison says “the new building itself is very nice, and the art provides the finishing touches, adding exciting color and vibrancy to the décor. It’s stimulating.”

Covenant Place, which opened in 1973 as B’nai B’rith Covenant House, provides affordable senior housing across the parking lot from the Jewish Community Center on the Millstone Campus in mid-St. Louis County. The nonprofit housing organization also runs a variety of daily programs and events and offers religious services to a diverse population of about 425 residents.

Denison says all three of the new buildings will get some of the art, which will be displayed in lobbies, hallways and in the Mirowitz Center, which will be open to the public and provide medical and physical therapy, affordable café dining, education and social services, entertainment, banking and more.

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Ken Rubin, president of the JCA Charitable Foundation, says the foundation donated all of the art on behalf of JCA, still a legal entity although it has not owned or operated a facility since 2008.

“We felt that Covenant Place was the natural place for the art to go,” Rubin says. “There’s no more JCA building structure, and Covenant Place has new buildings as part of a master plan, so it was a logical place for the art to end up.”  

Rubin says Covenant Place leadership appeared to be “extremely happy.”

Denison says the gift was especially appropriate because JCA was one of thefounding member organizations of B’nai B’rith Covenant House, along with B’nai B’rith, Jewish Federation of St. Louis and the Jewish Community Center.

“This gift of art to the new Covenant Place keeps this asset in the community and provides a beautiful and lasting legacy for the JCA and the donors who contributed these works for the enjoyment of older adults,” Denison says.

Alice Handelman, who was community relations director at the JCA for 18 years, acquired the art from original donors, including from Weinstein, for Jewish elderly residents to enjoy. Since the sale of the Cedars, Handelman has urged that the art go to Covenant Place.

Weinstein is one of 110 residents who recently moved into the first new building, which features one-bedroom apartments with design elements that allow a person to successfully age in place and “stay as long as possible,” Denison says.

The old building will be demolished late this month.

Volunteers from various synagogues and from throughout the Jewish community helped many Covenant Place residents move into their new quarters.

“The support from the community has been fabulous,” Denison says. “People of all ages have been volunteering to help residents move in and settle.”

Coincidentally, Weinstein and Denison’s mother, Betty Lehrman, are artists and good friends. (As for Denison, Weinstein says, “She’s a doll.”)

Meanwhile, Weinstein is welcoming visitors to her new home, which has a cheery rose – for Rosy – outside the door. She draws a rose when she signs her name.

Inside, there’s a bouquet of welcome flowers from her children, who helped unpack china pieces of sentimental value and hang family photographs.

Weinstein, a widow since her husband, Sol, died when he was young, has three children, Ellen Weinstein of Fenton, Robert Weinstein of Kirkwood andBurtonWeinstein ofMartinez, Calif.; twograndchildren; and an 8-month-old great-granddaughter whose middle name is Rose.

A large portrait of a beautiful woman holding a rose adorns her apartment. Weinstein, an admirer of Renoir, laughs and explains that the painting was originally a nude that she created from a picture, but that she painted clothes on the lady at her daughter’s suggestion.

Weinstein says she may start teaching arts and crafts again – and she’ll definitely put her new full-size oven to good use.

“Everybody knows mom for her kamish bread and her cookies,” says Weinstein’s daughter Ellen, who also bakes and does arts and crafts.

Rosy Weinstein, who calls friends and strangers alike “honey,” baked hundreds of pieces of her bread from her mother’s recipe for the ribbon-cutting for the new building in June. She also baked craisin cookies, which Weinstein proudly says were from her daughter’s recipe.