2 February 2015 l Gainesville, Florida. During 2013 Steven Greenwald Design, Inc., artists Frank Martin and Judeen Young (Martin-Young), under the personal direction of Mr. Steven Greenwald, produced two remarkable pieces of artwork that drew their inspiration from the founding of the aerial branch of the Israel Defense Forces (Zahal/צה”ל). Production was completed in May of that year and the paintings were delivered the following July to the Museum of American and Canadian Volunteers In Israel’s War of Independence, which is housed within inside the University of Florida’s Norman H. Lipoff Hall (the Hillel building).
Dr. Ralph Lowenstein, Director of the museum, Keith Dvorchik, then the CEO & Executive Director of the University of Florida Hillel and Campus Rabbi Gail Swedroe graciously accepted the loaned paintings on behalf of the two facilities in July 2013. In January 2015, after funds were supplied to cover the costs associated with gifting the pieces, the beautiful artwork was officially donated by Steven Greenwald Design, the nonprofit Jews in Aviation and the University of Florida. The works are now on permanent public display.
John Stemple, the Central Florida Chapter Representative of Jews in Aviation (an organization of Jews and non-Jews jointly co-founded by Matthew Ritter, an Air Canada pilot based in Canada and general aviation aviator Howard Cooper, who resides in the United States) played critical roles by proposing the creation of the art, conducting research, transporting the finished products from Ft. Lauderdale to Gainesville, and obtaining a contribution from Jews in Aviation.
When asked what inspired him to suggest the concept to Steven Greenwald, John replied, “In the 1990s I visited Israel as a tourist and during the group’s time in Israel, on Independence Day in fact, a Kurnas (McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II) and Netz (General Dynamics F-16 flew) slowly over the country. A couple of years later I first served with Sar-El (שר-אל) and the base I was posted to was directly beneath an airbase’s flight pattern. Each morning and afternoon IAF fighter jets passed overhead, as I labored at my assigned tasks, on final approach to the active runway. I recalled being awestruck by the beauty while gazing skyward and seeing the graceful fighters and the pilots strapped inside the cockpits as they made their base turn prior to landing. The sights were personally inspirational.”
Mr. J.R. Hafer, Publisher of 20th Century Aviation Magazine, supported the project from the beginning and was instrumental in delivering the works to the Hillel building and subsequently coordinating with Steven Greenwald Design and the University of Florida via Dr. Lowenstein and the Museum of American and Canadian Volunteers In Israel’s War of Independence.
On 19 January 2015 Rabbi Adam Grossman, the current CEO and Executive Director of the University of Florida Hillel, expressed the joy felt at the prospect of the UF Hillel owning the paintings. In a message to John Stemple he said, “The paintings are fantastic. I and the entire UF Hillel community appreciate the work you did to bring those to us.” Notably, the University of Florida reportedly possesses the largest Jewish student population of any public institution of higher learning.
Ironically, as discussions related to converting the loans to ownership were in progress the unaffiliated documentary film Above and Beyond, which deals with the founding of the nascent Israel Air Force in 1948, debuted and was being screened in theaters around the world.
Dr. Ralph Lowenstein reports that a plaque acknowledging Steven Greenwald Design and the other principal parties will soon hang in a hallway. The telephone number for the University of Florida Hillel (Norman H. Lipoff Hall) is (532) 372-2900.
To learn more about the art readers may contact Steven Greenwald Design at (954) 975-2010 and access the following associated articles:
Spectacular Israel Air Force paintings unveiled by Martin-Young
Contributing writer (Susan Gale) thanks Dr. Ralph Lowenstein, Jews in Aviation, Rabbi Adam Grossman and J.R. Hafer of 20th Century Aviation Magazine for their cooperation during the preparation of this article.