I am a rabbi painter. What started off as a doodle I did while studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem in 1994 has become my most consistent and popular image.
I've been a portrait painter since 1986, when I started creating "forehead portraits" that captured my subjects—including real and imaginary people, historical figures, animals, and Sesame Street's Bert—from the eyes up.
In 1994, the rabbi portraits were a spiritual and stylistic breakthrough for me. The elongated, bearded visage of the rabbis conveyed so much history and so much wisdom, I felt that I couldn't do justice to them without giving them mouths. So with these rabbi portraits, I began to expand my cropped portraits to represent more of the face.
I haven't stopped painting my fictitious rabbis since I started. My relationship to them is always changing, but they all tend to walk the fine line between being reverent and being playful. Sometimes the power is in the juxtaposition of who the rabbi is paired with. In Tolerance, Bert and the Rabbi have settled their differences because they have each come to accept who the other really is. Sometimes they must confront serious issues by engaging in meaningful dialogue. Putting The Rabbi, the Imam and the Nun Together on the Brooklyn Bridge envisions such a dialogue. And a painting like The Bar Mitzvah of Jesus Christ recognizes the interconnectedness of all religious faiths. The Rabbi with Gumballs equates gumballs to a peace offering, an offering that can be seen as overly idealistic or naive. But I would respond that the pursuit of peace is always worthwhile regardless of how unattainable it may seem.
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