She sings, she paints, and she works around the clock to make sure everything she does meets her own standards of perfection.
Meet Betty Grodnitzky, known to many by her Hebrew name Bracha-Shira. Her home in Pikesville is filled with detailed paintings, posters and other works of art depicting Israel that could easily be displayed in a museum
Grodnitzky’s newest project is a series of 10 videos that are a collection of prayers to Israel and one that is a prayer for the United States.
“I was not trained in this video avenue, but my thought was, why don’t I take this music, the artwork that I’ve done and put it all together?” she said.
The newest work is a three-minute video entitled “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem,” which is a collage of images ranging from iconic sites such as the Kotel and Temple Mount to moving images of rallies for Israel from around the world. Grodnitzky’s paintings also appear in the video. It is set to a song by the same name from her first album from more than 30 years ago with her appearing in a shiny, golden dress.
Grodnitzky has the unique ability to sing in four octaves and has sung every genre of music from light rock to opera.
“It’s like when I came out of my momma’s womb I was singing and dancing,” she said.
Grodnitzky began her musical career when she was in her 30s by taking lessons with Alice Stringer and produced an album that aired on the radio in Baltimore.
“I had had some previous study with a classical teacher,” she said.
After the success of her first album, she was offered a singing contract in Las Vegas, but declined.
“That wasn’t the avenue I felt I could take,” she said.
After Grodnitzky married and had children, she met tragedy twice. Her husband, Stan, died of a heart attack in 1989, and seven years later her daughter, Kandye, took her own life. She made a pilgrimage to Israel to help aid in the grieving process.
“I thought [Israel] was the only place that’s going to bring me back to life after my husband died,” she said.
Grodnitzky says the art she’s created since losing her husband and daughter has been therapeutic. In 2007, she published “Tribute to Jerusalem, Art from the Heart” to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. The book was dedicated in honor of Stan and Kandye.
“The most beautiful works of art, poetry — so often come out of pain,” she said. “This is how it was, and this is how it is.”
In late 2012, Grodnitzky turned to Stacy Gillis, a video production specialist who co-founded Advanced Video Systems with her husband, Larry, in 1983, to produce her videos.
“This nice lady comes in the front door; she brings in an audio cassette tape, and she says, ‘I have these songs, these seven songs that I would like on CD,’” she said. “So we transferred all her music onto a CD, and I showed her around. And she was just such a lovely, lovely woman. We just totally connected.”
For “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem,” Gillis videotaped Grodnitzky singing along to her original recording from 30 years ago then synchronized the lip-synch imagery of Grodnitzky with the original audio track so the result is a video of her singing in the present day.
Other imagery in the video is a menorah drawn by Grodnitzky as well as her photos of a sunset and video of leaves blowing in the wind.
Gillis said the two would sometimes spend 50 hours fixing one particular piece of video that Grodnitzky was not satisfied with.
“She would take it home and analyze it and then change her mind,” she said.
Gillis said Grodnitzky is the type of person whose brain never slows down.
“When an artist is into her work, she won’t put the paintbrush down,” Gillis said. “That’s Betty. She puts
her heart and soul into everything she touches.”
All of Grodnitzky’s videos can be found on Gillis’ YouTube page at goo.gl/FQLuS4. Grodnitzky says she expects to launch a Facebook page soon under the name Bracha-Shira.
“I don’t know where I get the chutzpah,” she said. “Something comes over me when it comes to standing up for Israel.”