The Artwork

Melbourne artist Simon Kessel was commissioned to create a sculpture to launch the Tree of Life project.

The tree was chosen as a literal and spiritual metaphor, not only for Torah study, but as a universal representation of growth and renewal. For a Jewish community in Australia, these qualities have significant resonance. Without trees there can be no life, therefore the view that continuity of life is interconnected with the natural world that God created around us. The sculpture is the artist’s way of establishing this connection and expressing it in visual form.


The tree has seven roots representing the days of Creation. The roots surround and grow out of a rock. Rock or stone has biblical and geographical association with the desert. The tree, the eternal symbol of life, is symbiotically growing out of and dependent on this foundation. In the desert, nothing will grow until the tree develops a trunk, branches and leaves, and the life cycle recommences.


Numerical symbolism is not limited to the roots. There are numerous branches growing out of the trunk, but the twelve main branches allude to the twelve tribes of Israel and their descendants. The multitude of leaves symbolizes the diverse individuals emerging from this life force. The solid trunk that sustains and holds it is a metaphor for Jewish faith and its foundation, the Torah.


For the artist, the Tree of Life represents a symbol of growth and regeneration of the community in Adelaide. The bronze sculpture stands almost two metres high and isrealistically rendered as a generic tree. It is installed in the foyer of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation and was unveiled on 9 September 2001 by His Excellency Sir Eric Neal, AC, CVO, Governor of South Australia, and Lady Neal.


Back to the Tree of Life.