An ink drawing by M. Rynecki?

An email arrives. It’s from my friend, Piotr Nazaruk, in Poland. The subject line makes my heart race. It says, “An ink drawing by M. Rynecki.” I’m in the kitchen eating breakfast. It’s early, maybe 6am. I open the email and my phone struggles to download the large PDF. Piotr explains he found the image in the Warsaw Yiddish daily newspaper, Unzer Express from September 25, 1938. “The quality is very low,” he writes. But the Yiddish is clear, it says it’s an India Ink drawing by רינעצקי, the Yiddish spelling of Rynecki.

I walk into my office and boot up my desktop computer to download the image. The black and white image slowly appears. Our internet connection this morning somehow feels throttled. I wonder if the boys are playing too many video games and eating up the bandwidth. Then the image appears, but it’s dark, and I can barely see the people in the painting. unzer express september 1938

Piotr tells me he thinks the title is תקיעות = tkija, sound of the ceremonial shofar. “It’s hard to say what is in the painting,” Piotr hedges. “A man blowing a shofar, some books, Torah scrolls?”

I stare at the black and white reprint of the painting in a newspaper published 78 years ago, trying to see something, anything. The top and edges of the image are too dark. I look at the bottom where I think I see two figures, and older man reading a book, and a young man standing(?)/sitting(?) next to him.

“Do you know this one?” Piotr asks.

No, no I do not.

I write to my trusty Yiddish translator, Nick Block. “Can you read this?” I ask. “Does it say it’s my great-grandfather’s?”

“I’m not sure why Piotr is hedging his words so much. It certainly says what he’s translated.” Nick assures me. Then he offers a slightly edited translation of Piotr’s Yiddish. It is plural, “tekies / Tekiot,” he writes. “It means, Sounds of the Shofar  or Shofar Blasts.”

I stare at the painting, willing it to become clearer, but for now it’s all I have, another partial clue in a long line of mysteries.

Israel’s Nazi Art Hunters in Foreign Policy

This article is primarily about Holocaust era looted art in Israel. It opens with the story of how Polish provenance researcher Agnieszka Yass-Alston discovered a painting held in Israel at Ein Harod’s Museum of Art that belongs elsewhere and talks quite a bit about Elinor Kroitoru of Hashava and the Israeli governments’ efforts to find and locate heirs of Holocaust-era property in Israel. There is also a lovely mention of Moshe Rynecki and the search for his lost art (although the facts are a little off).

Foreign Policy December 2015

Przeglad – Poland

first page of articleSławomir Grünberg was interviewed about his Karski & The Lords of Humanity film in the most recent issue of Przeglad (nr 45/2015). In the article the interviewer asked him to talk about some of his other projects. He told them a bit about his involvement in the Chasing Portraits documentary film project and my quest for my great-grandfather’s lost art. The article is in Polish and is available here as a PDF.



Chasing Portraits Down Under

In may be Thursday 13 August 2015 in California, but down under, in Australia, it’s Friday August 14th. And in today’s  edition of The Australian Jewish News, you can now read: A search from the heart about the Chasing Portraits project.

Australian Jewish News August 2015

Lost and Found – Chasing Portraits in Hadassah magazine

The newest issue of Hadassah magazine, their April/May publication, features an article, “Lost and Found,” about Chasing Portraits. You can now read it online.

IMG_1495 (1)

Chasing Portraits is Indiewire’s Project of the Day!

The Indiewire Project of the Day features films in progress. Today the site is featuring Chasing Portraits as its Project of the Day! On Friday readers vote on the project they liked best. The winning project goes onto another vote at the end of the month! Winner get prizes… the weekly winner gets a digital distribution consultation from SnagFilms (Indiewire’s parent company). And the monthly winner receives a creative consultation from Tribeca Film Institute’s Scripted Programming Department or Documentary Programming Department.

Don’t forget to vote for Chasing Portraits on Friday!

You can see the project featured here:
screen shot indiewire


Chasing Portraits is the Cover Story for J (the Jewish news weekly of Northern California)

What a great way to end 2014 and ring in 2015! Chasing Portraits is the cover story for J, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. Here’s hoping for another stellar year for the project!

A lost world, on canvas: Oakland woman reclaims her great-grandfather’s legacy


By the Rivers of Babylon We Sat and Wept

npi1938nr32I really, really, wish I could explain what it’s like to get an email that says, “I’m sending you images and links….have you seen these images?” There’s palpable excitement in the moment before I get to actually see the image – my heart beats faster, my hand moves towards the cursor to click on the link or download the image… Will it be something I’ve seen before? Will it actually BE a Moshe Rynecki painting? Will I recognize the style? Will I know the subject? And then I open the file and it is, in fact, an image I have NOT ever seen before, and yet there is the immediate recognition of the style – the look and feel of my great-grandfather’s approach to painting and composition. There’s an incredible euphoric feeling of the discovery of a piece I had not previously known was out there and the instinct to immediately share it. First I send it off to my father (Moshe’s grandson), then I tell my husband and sons about it, and I have several friends who I share it with in an email, and then I upload it to my website, and then I post it here. Sometimes I struggle to do all those things all at once. A discovery must always be shared with others! It’s what the Chasing Portraits story is all about. I have a line in a grant proposal I recently wrote which says, “This is a story of frustration, hope, and fear, and not one that is easily revealed. But the chase is neither hopeless nor quixotic: I have found dozens of lost works, and have evidence that at least dozens remain to be found.” Today is one of those days where I am ecstatic that I continue to search because today proves that if I keep looking, keep asking for help, keep making my cause known, I *will* find more paintings, I will learn more about my great-grandfather’s oeuvre of work, and I will better understand his art legacy. Thank you for being here so that I may share it with you. The piece here today is the one that is new to me this morning. It is titled, “By the Rivers of Babylon we sat and wept.” It was printed in 1938 in Nasz Przeglad Ilustrowany, no 32, page 2.[Read more…]

Young Jewish Artists Abroad…The translation of an interwar years newspaper article

Those of you who have followed the Chasing Portraits story for over a year will be familiar with the story of the Otto Schneid archive collection at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. One of the items in the archive was an article in a German language newspaper that appeared to be almost exclusively about my great-grandfather. The article, printed with the Fraktur font (an almost impossible font to read!), has now been translated into English thanks to the generosity of a follower of the project! There is no header from the newspaper, so it is unclear which newspaper published the piece, or the date of publication.[Read more…]

The Moshe Rynecki Project Hits the Airwaves on KHSU

Through the Eyes of Women is a radio show based out of KHSU in Arcata, California. Several weeks ago they interviewed me about Moshe Rynecki’s art and the Chasing Portraits documentary film project. The interview aired Monday 8 September 2014. Did you miss the show? No problem! The show, “Brenda Starr Welcomes Filmmaker & Archivist Elizabeth Rynecki Discussing The Quest For Her Great-Grandfather’s Lost Art Legacy From Holocaust Poland” is archived on their website.