Lighting the Way through Art: Rebecca Goldstein Shomair


Buying art can sometimes seem like something only wealthy people do, but it doesn’t have to be that way, says Rebecca Goldstein Shomair.

“It seems like a world that’s unattainable or you can’t touch, and I really like being involved in that world,” she says.

As a volunteer for the Anti-Defamation League’s Next Generation Philanthropy board, she wanted to combine her passion for art with her passion for the ADL’s mission. The result was the first ArtWorks ADL: Justice, Advocacy, and Art event in 2012, which brought together local artists around ADL themes for a gala art show and fundraiser. Since then, over 240 artists have participated in ArtWorks events around the country, raising more than $845,000 for the ADL. (Last year’s theme, tied to one of the ADL’s programs, was “Imagine a World Without Hate”; artists interpreted the theme in a variety of mediums, considering such issues as civil rights and combating hate.)

The events appeal to different age groups and showcase the ADL’s mission outside of surveys of anti-Semitism and condemnations of horrific incidents.

“It’s not just people going to a cocktail party; it’s a different type of event,” she says. “It’s a way to meet the artist, buy some artwork. You attend a different type of affair and also show the ADL mission in a different light. You’re not just talking about it.”

Shomair grew up in Griffin, Ga., near Atlanta, where she and her sister were the only Jews in the school system and her synagogue was 45 minutes away. It was there she learned to combat anti-Semitism through education.

“I was definitely the only girl holding a menorah during the Christmas pageant when I was little,” she says.

Shomair got involved with the ADL while attending Indiana University, Bloomington. She was drawn to the ADL’s education outreach and impressed by its impact. She moved to New York in 2007 and is the director of communications for the software development company Pentaho. She lives in Manhattan with her husband Benji and their 18-month-old son Izzy.

ArtWorks events have popped up around the country, from Detroit to Los Angeles, and Shomair would like to see them become turnkey events for every region.

The imagery of ArtWorks, she says, makes it easier for people to “step back and think what a world without hate would mean.”

City woman: When not working or volunteering for the ADL, Shomair and her husband like to explore New York’s parks and museums, especially the American Museum of Natural History.