Norma Jarrett opened up the synagogue's wall space to top artists around the world and set a new standard for congregational art exhibitions.
Norma Jarrett, whose longtime direction and curatorial work of the Olitsky Gallery at Congregation Beth Or opened up the wall space to top artists around the world and set a new standard for congregational art exhibitions, died Jan. 12 at age 88.
Helming the gallery for more than three decades before her retirement last year helped reshape her own life, she told the Jewish Exponent in 2014 after being recognized as a Mitzvah Hero for her invaluable role in the community.
The Beth Or position came at a time when she had lost her son, Andrew Jarrett, who was 24.
“I stopped painting,” she had told the Exponent. “I thought this, directing the gallery, would be a good way” to resurface while helping the Jewish community.
“She was a remarkable human being,” said her son-in-law, Larry Kane. “She could brighten up the cloudiest day with her personality.”
She placed family above everything else, Kane said. But the community also benefitted from her talents and involvement, including the Women’s Center of Montgomery County.
She was not one to sing her own praise, Kane said of a woman who went out of her way to assure that her exhibiting artists felt comfortable and the full focus of attention, but she “will leave a big void.”
Rita Rosen Poley, director/curator of the Temple Judea Museum at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, appraised Jarrett as a role model.
“Many years ago, when I was just starting out as an artist and arts educator, I remember visiting the gallery at Beth Or. I was always impressed by the quality of work displayed there and by Norma Jarrett’s leadership,” she said in an interview related to Jarrett’s Mitzvah Hero nomination.
Norma’s “standard of excellence” served as a guide for her to emulate, said Poley.
It did the same for Karen Liebman, who succeeded Jarrett after her retirement from directing the Olitsky Gallery.
“Norma was the heart and soul of the gallery for more than 35 years,” Liebman said. “She was such a lovely, vibrant woman who earned a lot of respect from the art community.”
Rabbi Gregory Marx of Beth Or recalled the impact she had: “Many who were struggling as artists were grateful to Norma for showing their work to the larger community at Beth Or. Norma was dedicated, worked with quiet devotion and dignity.”
Jarrett is survived by two daughters, Donna Jarrett-Kane and Robin; two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Andrew Jarrett Fund at Congregation Beth Or, 239 E. Welsh Rd., Ambler, Pa. 19002.