By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

Power of Faith

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez
At the entrance of the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, a group of statues bring aspects of traditional Judaism to life.

Years ago, a group of five silver figurines adorned a shelf in the home of Howard and Gloria Scharlin in Coconut Grove, Florida. Only a few inches tall, the cleverly curated group of Orthodox rabbis each symbolized different facets and rituals belonging to Jewish religious traditions. In the Scharlin household, the statues stood out among the décor and served as a reminder of their faith and roots in Judaism.

As prominent figures in the greater Miami Jewish community, the Scharlin family shared and supported the Jewish community in many ways. In a letter on display at the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, a young Howard Scharlin wrote about his dreams of being a successful businessman and his wish to share his wealth in many ways. Throughout his life and even after his passing, Mr. Scharlin was able to do just that.

In 2005, four years after Mr. Scharlin’s passing, his wife Gloria pledged a significant gift to UM’s Miller Center in memory of her husband. With her pledge, the Center built and dedicated the patio leading to the Center’s auditorium and commissioned what are now known as the Scharlin Patio Statues to decorate the outdoor space.

Today, because of the Scharlin family’s generosity, the small silver figurines that once served as décor in the Scharlin’s home, stand at almost eight feet tall and take on a life-like presence at the Miller Center.

According to Haim Shaked, founding director of UM’s Miller Center, the statues represent a number of figures that are part of Jewish religious traditions and can be viewed both individually and as a group.

“Each statue is interacting with an item that has substantial significance to Jewish religious culture and rituals,” said Shaked.

Crafted from copper, the sculptures have stylistic similarities but are posed in different mannerisms depending on their clothing or the item they are holding.

“Traditional items seen with the sculptures such as the Torah scroll, violin, shofar and the garb of the high priest each represent different areas of practice and faith,” said Shaked. “The figures are diverse in their own manner, yet they stand together, just as the Jewish community does.”

Cleverly placed at the Miller Center entrance, the patio and the sculptures are separated by small area of grass and set of stones that were brought in from Jerusalem to compliment the display of art. Currently, the Scharlin Patio and its’ sculptures welcome guests to almost 30 public events per year at the Miller Center, and each day they greet the UM community with a reminder of the power of the faith.