Rabbi Shmuel Gopin isn’t your typical rabbi. On any given Sabbath, he can be found presiding over synagogue services, but on the second Saturday night of each month, he’s right next door at an art gallery, welcoming Jewish visitors to one of Miami’s newest hotspots.
Situated in the heart of the South Florida metropolis, the Maor Gallery – its Hebrew name roughly translates to “lighthouse” – sits next door to Chabad-Lubavitch of Midtown Miami, where Gopin directs services, teaches Torah classes and organizes programs for the greater community.
The gallery, which opened just before Chanukah, draws a crowd of about 150 each month with its Jewish-themed art exhibits, classes and receptions. Its most recent installment was a Purim photography arrangement.
When the city’s art world descends on the area for the district’s monthly “Artswalk” event, Gopin shuttles back and forth between both locations.
“I’ve been to all of the exhibits, and this gallery is really comparable to none,” says Phyllis Heiffer, who works in the telecom industry. “It’s really extraordinary, and there are fabulous artists there. The gallery is a brilliant concept and is perfect for this area.”
When Shmuel and Chana Gopin moved to Miami seven years ago, they immediately felt the strong presence of art galleries in their neighborhood. According to the rabbi, however, there was no Jewish representation among them. The couple, with the help of Morris and Lillian Tabacinic, decided to “do something about it.”
“They really did a great job and it’s a beautiful space,” says David Lombardi, a real estate owner who has some galleries as tenants. “It’s great what they’re doing, to fit in to an arts district. We’re so happy to have them in the neighborhood.”
“It’s great how the gallery brings people together,” echoes Nir Perets, who often brings friends to Maor. “It’s the perfect place to learn about spirituality and culture. I go every Saturday.”
Another local woman agrees.
“It’s really innovative what they’re doing with the gallery,” says Lisa Shephard, who enjoyed a recent Hebrew alphabet movement class at the gallery. “It’s very cool that it honors traditional Jewish concepts in a very modern venue.”
In honor of the upcoming Passover holiday, a professional curator will collaborate with the rabbi to present an Exodus-themed exhibit.
“The gallery has created a lot of excitement in the community,” says Rabbi Gopin, who hopes that the 1,800-square foot space will eventually become a multi-functional spiritual space for Shabbat, holidays, classes, and workshops.
“Art is the perfect medium to teach about G-dliness and mystical ideas, because art is infinite; you can never tell an artist really what to do.”