Fulfilling your dreams may sometimes seem impossible, but perseverance and strength can push you toward your goals. Take it from Tara Dietzel, a small-town girl from Cherokee County who pursued her desire of moving to The Big Apple.
A Passion for the Arts
Tara Dietzel’s passion for fashion soared when she attended The Walker School, a private school with an award-winning fine arts department. Ardent about creativity, Tara practiced many forms of art, including sewing, sculpting, painting, and drawing. Although she enjoyed school, she dreamed bigger dreams of living in New York City.
Through determination and practice, Tara now attends the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “The process was extremely difficult,” recalls Tara of the admissions process for the prestigious school. In addition to completing the application process, Tara submitted a detailed portfolio with original outfit designs, sewing projects, mood boards, and samples of her work.
Embracing Her Faith
From Tara’s perspective, each stroke of paint on every canvas holds a deep meaning. A specific piece titled What is Light represents her devotion to the Hebrew prayer Modeh Ani, meaning “I give thanks,” which is recited every morning. The prayer states, “I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion—abundant is Your faithfulness.” Tara explains, “I interpreted the concept of light to mean many things in relation to the parallels between my religion, spirit, essence, and the concept of light. After years of battling in the darkness, I found my inner light that guides me in the right direction.”
Tara further elaborates on the importance of light in Judaism, with the cradle of her religion being the story of the burning bush and Moses. Because of the profound importance of the concept of light within Judaism, Jewish people light and bless candles every Friday night to honor the Shabbat or Sabbath, traditionally celebrated from Friday evening through Saturday evening. The lighting of the menorah is also essential in Hanukkah traditions, serving as a symbol for God’s eternal flame and for the nation of Israel’s mission to be “a light unto the nations.” Throughout Tara’s artwork, she depicts her own representation of light through flames and sunbeams.
Growing up in an area where most of Tara’s peers celebrated Christmas took an emotional toll on her. She often felt like an outcast, constantly judged for her beliefs and differences. At a young age she felt jealous and uncomfortable, seeing so many children dismiss her traditions in favor of theirs.
Tara expresses, “As I grow, I continue to take pride in my religion, because it plays a significant factor in who I am. I no longer feel any sense of embarrassment, but rather, I feel empowered.” Now Tara isn’t shy about expressing both her religious views and passion for art. They coincide, creating masterpieces of inspiration that range from her personal journeys to the history of the Jewish people. Other pieces of her work represent envy that disrupts the light that Jewish people admire so deeply as well as the horrors of the Holocaust. Through artistic visuals, Tara brings attention to and honors her religion and aspirations.
Tara proves that through will and growth, anyone can accomplish their dreams if they don’t cast their dreams aside.
The Festival of Lights
The celebration of Hanukkah includes a variety of nonreligious and religious traditions. Some of the nonreligious customs include songs, games, festive meals, and gifts for children. While you may have heard of the dreidel that many children play with during this time, you might not know what the Hebrew letters on the tops represent. They form the initials of the phrase nes gadol haya sham, which translates to “a great miracle happened there.”
The utmost important detail of all Hanukkah traditions is the lighting of the menorah, called a Hanukkiah, each evening. It recalls the Temple lampstand and can be either a simple or elaborate candelabra with eight branches plus a holder included for the shammash, which is used to light the other eight candles from left to right, the way Hebrew text is written. Along with the importance of the menorah comes the values in the daily reading of scripture, recitation of some of the psalms, almsgiving, and singing of a special hymn. The liturgy includes Hallel—Hebrew for praise—along with public readings from the Torah and the al HaNissim (“for the miracles”) prayer.
This year Hanukkah will be celebrated from Sunday, December 18 through Monday, December 26. The city of Acworth hosts an annual menorah lighting event at Logan Farm Park—learn more at Acworth.org.
UPDATE | NOVEMBER 7, 2022
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Emma Tyler is a senior AP/honors student at Cherokee High School and two-time Governor’s Honors Program nominee for literature. She is currently an intern at Enjoy Cherokee Magazine and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English or journalism.