Tag Archives: The Friendship Circle

You Gotta Have Friends

30 Mar

The Friendship in West Bloomfield, Michigan is an amazing place. The mission is “to create friendship in the lives of children, teens and adults with special needs and those facing isolation while providing opportunities to become contributing members of the community.”

Here is an article about a Friendship Circle event I wrote for the Detroit Jewish News.

Friendship Circle Showcases the Talent from Soul Studio Art Program During Elegant Evening in Palm Beach County

By

 Carla Schwartz

 

Dylan and Jeannine Somberg
Dylan and Jeannine Somberg. (Liza Kue/Friendship Circle)

“Soiree in the Sunshine State” was filled with extraordinary art, food and libations.

“This was a crazy idea we had a year ago, but our friends helped us” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov of Friendship Circle. The rabbi is referencing “Soiree in the Sunshine State,” an event filled with extraordinary art, food and libations. More than 160 patrons and friends attended the event and auction.

The evening began with schmoozing and viewing the exhibition at the Arts Warehouse in Delray Beach, Florida. A variety of media, from oil paintings to ceramics to digital art and more by Soul Studio’s participating artists filled the space. Upon entering the gallery, visitors were handed a booklet of the displayed artwork and an explanation of the artist’s inspirations. The auction raised $33,300.

Friendship Circle, founded in 1994 by Rabbi Levi and Bassie Shemtov in West Bloomfield, is a nonprofit organization that supports children, teens and adults with special needs and their families. One of its many projects is the Vera and Joesph Dresner Foundation Soul Studio. The studio is a professional art space and gallery encouraging the creativity of any individual with cognitive or physical disabilities, regardless of artistic talent. Completed artwork is displayed in a curated exhibition at the studio and other venues.

Left to right: Estelle and Phillip Elkus; Gail Danto and Art Roffey; and Rick and Dana Lowenstein.
Left to right: Estelle and Phillip Elkus; Gail Danto and Art Roffey; and Rick and Dana Lowenstein.

“The vision of the Rebbe inspired us to help one person at a time and to see the bigger picture,” said Bassie Shemtov. “We have many friends in Florida, and we needed to bring the artists and the artwork to the next level,” she added. She described the Arts Warehouse space as a new and exciting platform to showcase the talent.

Artist Dylan Somberg, 28, of Shelby Township, who has autism, had three artworks on display. One was a ceramic clam with a pearl inside and the others were multimedia paintings.

“I just love animals, and I’m very passionate,” Somberg said. One animal painting had a three-dimensional look with turtles, fishes and birds suspended. His fascination with nature and geometric shapes combines many processes and techniques.

Rabbi Levi and Bassie Shemtov
Rabbi Levi and Bassie Shemtov

Dylan’s mom, Jeannine Somberg, praised Friendship Circle and the Soul Studio. “This is a special place, because my son is safe there, and his self-esteem soared,” she said. “I know they don’t see a disability; they see an ability,” she added.

Proud supporters Estelle and Philip Elkus, of Bloomfield Hills and Boca Raton, were part of the host committee and have been involved with Friendship Circle since the beginning. They introduced others to the programs.

“My friends, Estelle and Philip Elkus, took me on a tour of Friendship Circle, and I was amazed,” said Rhoda Tobin, of Orchard Lake.

Rhoda Tobin
Rhoda Tobin

Friendship Circle is a family affair for Gail Danto and her husband, Art Roffey, of Palm Beach Gardens. “We were involved with the Soul Studio when it was just an idea,” Danto said. Her brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Sandy Danto, were also on the host committee.
Dana and Rick Loewenstein, of West Bloomfield, came to support their friend Ron Hodess, who is chairman of the board. The Loewensteins are longtime supporters of people with disabilities and are also supportive of the inclusive environment of the Soul Studio. Rick Loewenstein is the former CEO of JARC.

With the artists, the artwork and all the supportive friends, it’s evident the magic of the Soul Studio came to the Sunshine State. Bassie Shemtov summed up the vision: “Miracles do happen.”

Carla Schwartz is the former editor of Style magazine, a former Jewish News columnist, community relations consultant and blogger. Visit her blog at motownsavvy.com.

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