What People Are Saying about Jonatas Chimen

From Rabbis

  • Rabbi Steven Sirbu, Temple Emeth, Teaneck, NJ
    Image of Jonatas Chimen
    Jonatas Chimen

    Equal parts scholarship, artistry, enthusiasm and a sense of personal quest, Jonatas Chimen DaSilva uncovers the story of the crypto-Jews in a way no one else can. Jonatas weaves his family’s story—the many questions he had as a teen until at 18 his parents told him the truth about their Jewish heritage—into his tent exhibit. “In Thy Tent I dwell” and the many photos and documents that are incorporated into it captured the attention of my congregants, from schoolchildren to seniors. His canvas paintings show a different side of his talent, telling the story of the Jews during the Inquisition and their evolving relationship with their Jewish identities and the countries they called home. Of particular interest was a painting that showed a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) bearing the Phoenix of Abraham, an emblem virtually unknown to Ashkenazi Jews. So evocative was the painting that two of our members purchased it for permanent display in our Temple building. Jonatas is charming and his story is both surprising and compelling. We are still discussing his tent and its history.

  • Rabbi Robert Scheinberg, United Synagogue of Hoboken, Hoboken, NJ
    What a wonderful Shabbat we were privileged to have in Hoboken! Jonatas, your presentations – about your journey of Jewish rediscovery, and about your artwork – were spellbinding and so powerful. We were so glad to have hosted you this shabbat. We wish you much success in all your future endeavors.

From Congregants at Temple Emeth, Teaneck, NJ

  • Fantastic Presentation
  • Very enlightening weekend.
  • He did a wonderful job explaining his art and making connections with our Religious School students.
  • Jonatas Chimen’s stories and art made an infamous period of Jewish history fascinating, personal, and alive. I am so grateful to have met him, heard him, and seen his beautiful work.
  • When I saw the paintings from “The Journey” hanging in the museum my first reaction was how much better they looked in person. However after Jonatas explained the background stories, the exhibit became much more meaningful and impressive. He continued to share his journey by allowing people into the illuminated tent of his personal history. Both parts of the exhibit made for a very rewarding weekend.
  • Our artist, in his energetic presentations throughout the weekend, explored his own personal journey within contexts of art history, the Jewish history of survival, archived materials, and the persistence of memory which continues through the ages. His creativity is astounding; the paintings and tent tell his story and that of his people, enabling all to enter in. His imagination, consistency and highly developed painting skills were all evident in the beautiful – and meaningful – works of art he created. Temple Emeth’s Artist in Residence programs have always been outstanding and this one was up there with the best.

From Kulanu

  • Leora Ferster, Kulanu Coordinator
    You did an amazing job really bringing to life the story of the Inquisition and its many consequences. As someone who is a descendant also of people who suffered the inquisition, I never really paid much attention to it and it’s devastation. Thank you for giving me perspective.It made me think of the Passover, how we’re commanded to view ourselves in every generation as if we ourselves have left Egypt. I think in your case it is very personal.
  • Harriet Bograd, Kulanu President
    I was confident that Jonatas would be an excellent speaker, but the weekend in Teaneck was richer than I had imagined. I was so impressed with how the volunteer leaders of Temple Emeth and Rabbi Steven Sirbu orchestrated the weekend. A Friday dinner for donors, a Saturday lunch, and a Sunday brunch, many intimate guided tours of the 10 works in the museum, talks by Jonatas on his personal quest, on art history related to Crypto-Jews, and on documenting his history, programs for young children and for teens, opportunities to examine “In Thy Tent I Dwell” and to discuss it with Jonatas. And the special opportunity for some synagogue members to help assemble and disassemble the tent, getting to know it more intimately.It all felt like a wonderful multimedia museum experience. When food was served, people could choose to visit the museum, examine the tent, watch a video, look at smaller prints and original works, or just talk to their friends.Temple Emeth’s lay leader Karen Rappaport and Kulanu’s Leora Ferster planned ahead and arranged for every detail. Rabbi Sirbu was fully present for every minute of the weekend, welcoming Jonatas and Kulanu and shepherding his community through this rich experience.