Astoria resident hosts ‘Ruth Sent Us’ Charity Benefit

The performers for ‘Ruth Sent Us.’ Photo: Cathryn Lynne

By Alicia Venter

Astoria resident and professional artist Mara Jill Herman is doing more than creating work for pleasure and enjoyment. With her numerous individual works and charity benefits, Herman is trying to spread a message. 

“Usually what happens is that I feel frustrated or rageful about something and I channel that rage into an art baby,” Herman said. This ‘art baby’ takes the form of activism, as Herman has dedicated much of her individual work towards raising awareness and proceeds for humanitarian and social causes.

Her third and most recent charity benefit concert was this recent Tuesday, Oct. 11, titled “Ruth Sent Us: A Benefit For Reproductive Justice.” This “Ruth” is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female Supreme Court Justice and the first female Jewish Justice. 

Some of the proceeds from this concert were donated to benefit the Jewish Fund for Abortion Access.

Herman was inspired by a sign she saw while protesting in Washington Square Park on June 24 — when the Supreme Court Case Roe v. Wade was overturned — which read ‘Ruth Sent Us.’

“That really hit me and impacted me in a meaningful way. I felt like ‘yes, she most certainly did [send us,]” Herman said “That’s where the inspiration came from for the title of the concert and why I wanted to celebrate her legacy.”

Fellow actors joined together for ‘Ruth Sent Us,’ at the Green Room in Manhattan, including Jennifer Apple, Rebecca Hargrove, Kendyl Ito, Annemarie Josephson and Austin Ku. 

Original music from the duos Marina Pires and Luke Wygodny of The Heartstrings Project were performed.

The livestream video can be purchased through Oct. 24.  

Tickets are on sale now but they must  bepurchase no later than 5 p.m. on Oct. 24 to view the replay later that night. 

The venue will distribute livestream tickets two hours before showtime. Tickets are $19.

To purchase the video, visit this link:

For additional livestream support, email or call (917) 239-6560.

Herman is a Jewish woman, and this identity influences her artistic expression. She has often gravitated towards roles that are an extension of her culture, and allow her to express this cultural identity. Such a role she played was is in ‘The Band’s Visit,’ a Tony Award winning musical.

“That was a really cool moment in my life when I was specifically hired for that project because of my ability to read and sing in Hebrew,” Herman said. “So that was a nice way to blend my artist and Jewish identity in a work that went on to have some great success.”

Herman views a ban on abortion as against her religion, and as such, it should be protected under the Constitution. 

The first benefit that Herman produced, titled “Stronger than Hate, was for the anti-Semitic attack in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. 

“Several people were killed, simply by showing up and praying in a synagogue,” she said. “So that really hit me.” 

The following year, Herman had been actively volunteering with the StateraArts, an organization that works to uplift and amplify women in art spaces, with their mission dedicated to gender equality. The benefit, titled ‘Changemakers,’ was about celebrating female and non binary people in the arts. 

Her goal from her most recent benefit is simple — education. 

“I want to feel like I helped raise awareness and  helped raise funds that get to the people who need it the most, because while abortion may be legal in New York State, it still impacts all of us,” she said. 

Art contest doubles as cancer fundraiser

A virtual art contest and breast cancer fundraiser broadcast from Ridgewood Savings Bank in Forest Hills last Friday attracted 33 artists.
Money raised from the event benefited Elmhurst Hospital and local nonprofit Paddle For The Cure (PFC).
It was produced and co-hosted by this columnist and PFC founder Leah Salmorin. Technical support was provided by Michael Wechsler.
“Salmorin is a former patient of our Hope Pavilion Cancer Center, where our excellent team of cancer specialists provide more than 12,000 visits a year treating people with cancer,” said Ruchel Ramos, associate director of Public Affairs & Community Engagement for Elmhurst Hospital.
“Faith, Hope, and Goodness” is a drawing by Judy Pesantez, a Middle Village resident who immigrated from Ecuador.
“The faith of cancer patients, represented in the background behind a pink ribbon, has a large sun for everyone to grasp,” she explained. “Hope is represented by the pink ribbon. Goodness is represented by caduceus on an evergreen field, which symbolizes the work of health professionals and first responders.”
“Unravel My Heart” by Forest Hills resident Nelly Lester took top prize in the painting category.
“My canvas is mostly filled with bright acrylic colors and clean designs,” she said. “My preference is usually flowers, women, and children in abstract form. My artwork tends to represent reality and true happiness, and that’s a sign of freedom.”
Photographer and animator Amy Lipson was the winner in the photography category with “N.Y. City: Home Base.”
“The symbolism of a strong foundation surrounded by plant life relates to the resilience of New York City and the comforting power of nature that my home base of Forest Hills provides during these trying times,” she said. “Staying local this past year allowed me to profoundly explore its beauty and peacefulness while on my daily walks.”
David Chatowsky, an artist and owner of three galleries from Rhode Island, entered his painting “Hope.”
“It features a young woman harvesting dates from the Judean Date Palm, which was extinct until recently when it was cultivated from 2000-year-old seeds,” he said. “The sun rays represent a blessing on her of health and security, and they go back into the rising sun, which represents a hopeful new day for all creation.”
The winner in the drawing category was 17-year-old Tina Zhao of Elmhurst.
“Tina decided to draw my older sister Panny because she has so much respect for her,” said her cousin, Amy Zhao. “Panny is an emergency room nurse who had to work countless hours. Being surrounded by death and mourning families and being separated from her loved ones just to keep them safe took a toll on her mental and emotional health.”
“I jumped out of my seat when I heard I was one of the winners,” said Glendale resident and Poland native Dorothy Stepnowska, who owns Flower Power Coffee House NYC.
Stepnowska won in the mixed media category for her installation “COVID-19 Memorial.” She donated her $100 prize to Elmhurst Hospital.
The prizes were made possible thanks to a donation by Ridgewood Savings Bank.
“Ridgewood Savings Bank believes that banking is all about people, helping them obtain their dreams, and making a positive impact on each other and the communities we share,” said Forest Hills branch manager Nancy Adzemovic.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing