Marilyn Heisman Ramsdale has endured some struggles in her life, and she doesn’t mind talking about them and sharing with others just how she got through them all.
An Albany native now living in South Bethlehem, Ramsdale has a spiritual story that’s a bit more complicated than others: She’s a Messianic Jew, which means she believes in Jesus Christ despite the fact that she grew up in a Jewish family and continues to call herself Jewish.
“You can call me a Messianic Jew or a Hebrew Christian, it doesn’t matter to me,” said Ramsdale, “But you don’t stop being Jewish just because you believe Jesus Christ is your savior. I’m still Jewish, but my life has changed. I was depressed and sick, and then I accepted Jesus.”
Paintings by Marilyn Heisman Ramsdale
WHAT: Ramsdale, a Messianic Jew, expresses her faith through her inspirational artwork
WHEN: Now through April 26
WHERE: Wildgrube Fellowship Hall at the Zion Lutheran Church, 153 Nott Terrace, Schenectady
HOW MUCH: Free
Through all the ups and downs she’s experienced, art has remained an integral part of Ramsdale’s life.
Art on display
During this month and through April 26, a celebration of her work will be on display at the Zion Lutheran Church at 153 Nott Terrace in Schenectady. A series of Ramsdale’s paintings, all of them upbeat and uplifting, will be available for public viewing.
“What I really try to do with my artwork is to express the joy of the Lord,” said Ramsdale. “I want my paintings to be inspirational and not be negative. I don’t enjoy painting sad things. I want my paintings to be about the joy of life and the Lord.”
About 26 of Ramsdale’s paintings will be on display in the Wildgrube Fellowship Hall at Zion Lutheran.
“It’s a wonderful place for an artist to show his work,” Ramsdale said of the hall, named after retired Zion Lutheran pastor Paul Wildgrube. “It’s set up very nicely, so I’m very happy to have a show there. It’s been a while for me.”
Ramsdale grew up in Albany and went to Albany High. When she was in the fourth grade, her artistic talent was made known to her and she hasn’t stopped painting since.
“If you have talent I think it will eventually come out,” she said. “But when I was in the fourth grade, my art teacher put three apples out in front of us and told us to draw them and do something different. So, what I did was I drew these apples with hearts, diamond, clubs and spades, because my father used to play poker with his friends. She told me I have talent. I thought, ‘Gee, I like this anyway, so maybe I’ll stay with it,’ and that’s just what I did.”
Ramsdale married her first husband right out of high school, Donald Heisman. They had two children, but the marriage eventually ended in divorce.
“We moved all over the country because he was a store manager for B.F. Goodrich, but then we eventually moved back to Albany, and unfortunately the marriage didn’t last,” said Ramsdale. “I always painted, although when you have two children, they take up a lot of your time. But after the divorce and after my kids got older and moved out of the house, I was pretty depressed.”
Ramsdale was also in a fix spiritually. Her Jewish faith just wasn’t helping her.
“My parents were pretty secular really, but if I started to ask questions, because I used to wonder about things a lot, my mother would say, ‘Oh, you can’t believe in Jesus,’ ” said Ramsdale. “Well, the truth is I never really got along with her, so it really didn’t matter much to me what she thought. I had a lot of friends and some of them were Catholic and they started to talk to me about Jesus.”
It was actually the Lutherans, in particular a group from the Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on Mountain View Avenue in Colonie, that helped Ramsdale make the final transition to Christianity.
“I was divorced, I was sick and in and out of the hospital, and things weren’t going very well,” said Ramsdale. “But I decided to find out more about Jesus and eventually some friends of mine came over to the house and led me through the sinner’s prayer. I was a sinner, I repented and I accepted Jesus to be my savior.
“The people just loved me and it was a great experience,” said Ramsdale. “When they found out I was a Jew that had accepted Christ they started hugging me and kissing me. They made this big fuss and I just couldn’t believe it. They were wonderful.”
Ramsdale still goes to Lutheran churches and other denominations as well, but has found a home at the Seed of Abraham Messianic Congregation on New Karner Road in Albany.
“There are gentiles and Jews that go there, probably more gentiles, and I think it’s because they like the style of worship,” said Ramsdale.
“There’s a lot of music, and it’s definitely a Jewish-style worship. I really enjoy it, but I also like going to other churches.”
Ramsdale has been remarried for 26 years to Jim Ramsdale. Between her faith and her art, she keeps pretty busy.
“I like to spend at least two hours a day, three or four times a week, in my studio,” she said. “I call my art semi-realistic, and it’s almost always some kind of Christian art. Before I was born again, I did do some Jewish art, and now I would say it all falls under the category of Judeo-Christian or Messianic art.”
Ramsdale’s work was uplifting enough to catch the eye of a few members of the Zion Lutheran Church in Schenectady.
“One of our members recommended her to me and when I checked it out I thought, wow, this is really neat artwork,’ ”said Gail Karl, the art coordinator at Zion Lutheran.
“We try to keep different things up here and sometimes it’s hard to find religious artwork. Marilyn has a real nice selection of wonderful work, and it’s all very good. We’re very excited to have her work on display.”