Artist-in-Residence Hillel Smith shares his views on Jewish art

February 4, 2019

What’s Happening

Tuesday, February 12, 12 pm
Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus

Lunch $12/Lunch and signed book $50

Artist Hillel Smith will discuss his book, Parsha Posters, over lunch, and then conduct a gallery tour of the exhibit, which is on display in the Leon Family Gallery throughout February.

Smith’s Parsha Posters project is inspired by modern minimalist graphic design, with 54 illustrations of the weekly Torah portion. In the book, Parsha Posters, the entire series is printed alongside an original translation of the biblical verses.

When asked what drew him to art, Smith says, “When I was growing up, I wasn’t interested in the vast majority of the Jewish art I encountered. It felt old and dated, and the subject matter—watercolors of Jerusalem, men in black hats and beards—was not interesting to me. For most of my life, my artistic interests and Jewish identity were totally separate.

“It wasn’t until I was out of college that I started making Jewish work, and even then, as an experiment. My friends said it was the coolest Judaica they had seen—seemingly no one else was making Jewish art with spray paint—and that encouraged me on my path toward my brand of contemporary Jewish art,” says Smith. “Part of that journey has included researching the amazing Jewish art of previous generations, too much of it forgotten or under-examined.”

Through sharing his vision of what Jewish art can be, Smith broadens the scope of Judaica by exploring the role of creativity in Judaism with audiences around the world.

“Learning the history of Jewish art and craft is important in better understanding who we are as a people,” Smith says. “When I travel to new communities, I hope to show that Jewish art isn’t old and stale, but can incorporate all kinds of outside influences, and in that way be more meaningful to those with different tastes. I want participants to feel a sense of ownership over their Jewish identity and be able to make Jewish art that appeals to them.

“Ultimately, I don’t want anyone else to feel like they have to separate their Jewish and aesthetic identities or live under the mistaken impression that they are an anomaly in Jewish history,” he says. “Hopefully, they (attendees of his talk and tour) will leave with tools and the knowledge to craft a more vibrant Jewish life and see themselves as creators of yet another link in an enduring chain.”

Smith’s Tidewater visit is part of the Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival, in coordination with the Jewish Book Council, a national organization which encourages and contributes to Jewish literature in North America.

Parsha Posters, the book, and all posters displayed in the Leon Family Gallery are available for purchase.


For information about Smith’s visit, and other visiting authors, or to purchase tickets, visit JewishVA.org/BookFestival or call 757-321-2338.

By Callah Terkeltaub

Letter to the Editor