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Un-Orthodox Orthodox Art

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Jacqueline Nicholls is a fine artist in her words “…who uses art to explore traditional Jewish ideas in untraditional ways.” Jacqueline is an Orthodox woman living in London with lots of questions about her religion and its relationship with women. Perhaps it would be easy for her to write off Torah as not being up to date with current ideas of feminism, but not for Jacqueline, she is both a Torah observant Jew as well as a feminist, looking for ways of understanding the two together. Not looking to shy away from confrontation, Jacqueline has devoted a large body of her work to questioning the relationship of Torah and women, their role in Torah society, and to what she views as unanswered biblical quandaries that relate to women.

What struck me most about Jacqueline and her work was that while Jacqueline pushed the envelope –way passed where I would push – she still had respect for the Torah and its truths. Perhaps she still has not found adequate answers to everything, but the process is real and personal as she strives to make sense of heritage and world around her.

Below is an open interview with Jacqueline and a window in to her world.

What was your relationship with creativity growing up?

I always drew, painted and made things. I had a great grandmother who was a very talented dressmaker and as a child whenever relatives saw my work they would talk about her. She died before I was born but I grew up hearing those stories and being inspired by her memory. When I was very little apparently I would get very upset that I was not allowed to draw on Shabbat. My mother was upset that I hated Shabbat for this and so she decided to let me draw, even though in every other way we were a Shabbat observant family.

What was your relationship with Judaism growing up?

I grew up in a traditional orthodox family. My family observed Shabbat and Kosher
I attended mainstream schools but went to Cheder (religious school), on Sunday morning and after school during the week. When I was older and wanted to study in a yeshiva for women in Israel (Nishmat), they were fully supportive.

In your bio you mention that you studied architecture and medical illustrator before you turned to fine art. What was it about fine art that drew you in?

I went to art school after architecture school to unlearn that way of drawing. While I was there I was not just learning a different approach to drawing but also thinking. Using art to explore and express different ideas. I had a tutor who was Jewish, but not religious and or particularly learned, but he knew that I had spent time in traditional Jewish learning and also taught those texts, and he encouraged me to bring them into my art.


You challenge certain passages of the Torah, especially in relation to women.
When did these questions first arise?
What were you like as a teenager?
What was the nature of your questions then?

I have a younger brother. And I remember very clearly when he was born there was quite a bit of ‘finally a boy!’ being bantered around. (I also have an older sister) And despite various reassuring noises from my parents, the shock that a boy was what was really wanted never quite disappeared.

But there was no one moment when these questions first arrived. I was used to jew = male and all examples about Jewish identity were male and required me to abstract and translate into a female experience. There are certain things growing up you just accept until you can’t anymore. There are many times when I just knew, on an intuitive level, that my life would have just been easier if I had been born a boy not a girl.

Is there an answer to these questions?
How do you resolve on a personal level?

I don’t know if there is a way to answer the questions. The main thing is to keep questioning. Find people to learn from, and debate and talk to. The hardest thing is having these questions in isolation, that can be very lonely.

What area of Torah do you celebrate the most?
Both personally and in your work?

I’m not really sure how to answer that. I keep coming back to traditional learning and engagement with the text. It is a problematic relationship, and often it has been an argument rather than a conversation. But it is a relationship that I can’t walk away from and so go back to it again and again.
The text is my intellectual heritage, Jewish history is my story and so I try to find a way
to engage with it in my own way, and be as honest and open as I can, aware of the incongruities.


You teach a Torah class; have your struggles impacted your students?
Does it impact their opinion of you in relationship to you leading the study?

I teach Tanach, (The Bible) and some more traditional Halacha shirim (Jewish law) to adults, I like to investigate how Halacha has evolved to contemporary practice. I sometimes tutor bat-mitzvah girls.
I see my role as a Jewish educator to open up the text to the students in order for them to have their own relationship with Torah. I try not to impose my questions onto the students, but encourage them to ask their questions and discover their answers. Obviously it is impossible for the teacher to totally remove oneself, but I’m not there to tell people what to do or how to think. They are adults and it is up to them how to, or whether to, translate what they are learning into their life and thinking.
I just want the students to be thoughtful and engaged and to have informed opinions.

When I am doing that type of teaching I don’t bring in my artwork, (although I often bring in other artists) and very possibly most of the students have no idea what type of art I actually do. The ones who do, appreciate that I am not going to give ‘easy’ answers, or ban any type of questioning, but be intellectually honest and not shy away from problematic texts.

Your work is very raw, it is personal and real; how does it feel to put yourself out through your work?

When I am making my work it is a way for me to grapple with certain ideas, and emotions. To make something and then be able to say ‘yes, that is how it is.’ it’s a cathartic process and it is very personal. After it is made I do worry about it going public and feels horribly exposing. But I have noticed, especially with the more deeply personal pieces that they resonate with whoever is viewing them, and it then becomes about what has stirred up in them. My personal narratives that inspired such pieces are not always relevant for the viewer to know, just that they recognize that the art comes from an emotionally authentic place.

What body of work do you think had the biggest impact on others?

The paper-cuts have had a lot of attention. But the one piece that I think speaks to many people is a small, quiet piece, called ‘maybe this month.’ It is a fabric piece, with that phrase embroidered in white on 15 white cotton bedikah cloths that are sewn together in red thread. It is about infertility and my experience of building hope when preparing to go to the mikveh. It took a long time before I was ready for that piece to be seen by others. It was featured in Zeek on-line, and from there several blogs and other websites linked to it. Although it has only once been exhibited publicly, I often meet women, and men, who say that they have seen that piece and they recognize and it emotionally resonates with them.

How has your work impacted or enhanced the dialogue?

One male rabbi who writes on-line about infertility and Halacha (Jewish law) linked to the ‘maybe this month’ piece with a humble recognition that he does not and cannot know how the niddah (menstrual) cycle can impact on women.
The paper-cuts also encourage debate and recognition that a women’s perspective on these texts, and how they impact real women’s lives, has been missing in the conversation. For too long women in Judaism have been objects.

Your descriptions accompanying your work are as compelling as the work itself. Does the work always follow the concept or does it change?

I start off each piece with an idea, which develops as I make the piece. There is something about the way our minds work when hands are busy, especially when making meticulous detailed work. And the initial concept is deepened and developed in the process of making.

You use many different mediums to convey your message, which do you find conveys your ideas best?

I tend to change the medium depending on the particular project I am doing. The black and white contrast and act of cutting fitted what I was trying to do with the misogynist texts in the ladies guild collection. I am currently working on a series of multi-layered embroideries about women in the Talmud. I like the ambiguity that you can achieve with these layers of transparent fabric and lace-like embroidery that echo the experience of engaging with Talmudic text. It’s playing with mesechet meaning tractate of Talmud, but also Mesechet means a woven web.

Describe your recent project; gather the broken.

This year I am counting the omer (counting the days in the build up to Shaviot; Holiday of the giving of the Torah) by doing a daily drawing that is interpreted/commentated on by my friend and Rebbi, Amichai Lau-Lavie. Going from Pesach to Shavuot by acknowledging each day and what is broken in our daily lives.
Perfection is fairly sterile, creativity and new life begins with engaging with the flaws. not in a rush to fix, but to see the beauty and meaning in how life really is – flawed, broken, and imperfect.
Inspired by the daily drawings I am embarking on a much more ambitious project. I will be starting a new project on August 3 called draw Yomi. It is following the seven and a half year daf yomi cycle, – that begins again this August – (learning one page of Talmud a day) I aim to learn and draw from the daf every day, yes, lets see how disciplined I can be.

What are you currently working on?

I have a solo show at the JCC Manhattan, coming up in September; I will be exhibiting all my recent projects including my latest; Ghosts & Shadows: the women who haunt the Talmud, a series of embroideries inspired by various anonymous women in the Talmud, and I will also be exhibiting the Gather the Broken Omer drawings, and the Kittel Collection.


The Kittel Collection is an on-going series of clothing pieces that explore the different ways clothing is used as a vehicle for meaning and identity within our tradition and literature. The kittel is a simple, white, garment used as a burial shroud. There are customs for men to wear a kittel on Seder night; on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I am using the leitmotif of a kittel, playing with it, as it is clothing in its essence, as a basic form on which to project these different ideas of clothing.


How would you define Jewish art?

Jewish art is not just an expression of Jewish experience, for me it has to have an intellectual and emotional engagement with the ideas, or else it is just illustration, which is nice but why make it?

What are you adding to the conversation? What is this piece of art revealing to you that can only be said in this art piece by you? With all your life experiences, torah insights and your unique combination of abilities?

Jacqueline’s work can be seen on her website www.jacquelinenicholls.com and on display at a solo show at the JCC Manhattan, beginning September 1st.

Creative Soul’s first meeting

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

So it happened; after almost a year following the very successful ‘Chassidim of Color’ art show, and the almost constant thought that we really need to do something with the creative energy in the Chassidic/Orthodox community (for the lack of a better description – (please let me know if you have a better one)) we got a few artists together for our meeting.

It is a modest start, 10 artists who were in NY for the summer and available last Tuesday came out to Hadas gallery, the wonderful space that is home to Chahad of Pratt.

We discussed the desire to connect with likeminded people, the idea that Jewish art, even religious Jewish art is on the cusp of something big, that we are a new generation moving something forward. We discussed what exactly an artist is, or how an artist sees, and we disagreed, and shared opinions.
So for all intensive purposes we had a successful meeting. The idea of sharing the meeting via Ustream on the web didn’t quite go as planned, but those who logged on saw something, I think.

Now what are the ideas and goals of our new group?

Here are my thoughts…

The Creative Soul was conceived to fulfill three main goals:

  1. Create a space/ movement for artists in the above mentioned – not so well named – community. To be able to share ideas, inspiration, frustrations, to have other artists to critique and give feedback, and to be part of a creative community, with all its opportunities.
  2. Educate the Chassidic/Orthodox community on the value of creativity in all its forms. Too often Jewish illustration is defined as art; our goal is to share the need and the incredible value of creativity to young growing minds – and adults.
    With that in mind we want to eventually create a physical space where we can teach art and hold events and shows.
  3. Educate the wider community on the value and beauty of art created within the Chassidic/Orthodox community. An art that (hopefully) reflects the deep love and passion for Torah and Judaism. To challenge the accepted idea that art from the Chassidic/Orthodox community is a reflection of a time gone by, and to inspire an interest or even a passion for the relevance of the torah to today’s way of life.

How we go about making those goals a reality?; well, we have our whole lives for that, but for now we are hoping to schedule another meeting before Rosh Hashana and to create a follow up to the successful group show that got this all rolling.
To find out more or to get involved, email creativesoul.org@gmail.com or just like our page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/TheCreativeSoul.org the website is on its way (let me know if you would like to help put with this one).
Thanks for reading


Moully Art Featured in New A&P Jewish Calendar

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

I am honored to share the new A&P Calendar for the New Jewish Year 5773 featuring my art!

Pick up your Free copy at any A&P, Food Basics, The Food Emporium, Path Mark, Super Fresh and Waldbaums.

Sukkot Group Show Submission Opportunity

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Sukkot Group Show Submission Opportunity

The Creative Soul is excited to announce the first group show, titled
“Black and White in Color,” taking place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
during the Sukkot holiday.
The Art Show is a follow up event based on the success and interest of
a similar show titled “Chassidim of Color,” created by one of the
Creative Soul founders, Yitzchok Moully.

The Creative Soul is excited to announce the first group show, titled
“Black and White in Color,” taking place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
during the Sukkot holiday.
The Art Show is a follow up event based on the success and interest of
a similar show titled “Chassidim of Color,” created by one of the
Creative Soul founders, Yitzchok Moully.

The show will take place from October 3-14 in a vacant store front at
425 Kingston Ave. in the heart of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, one block
from the night long music & dancing in celebration of the Sukkot

The show is a reflection of the creativity and artistic talent within
the Orthodox-Chassidic community.

Submission process:

The show is open to all artists in the Orthodox-Chassidic community
world wide and is curated by artists, Moshe Campin and Shoshana

Submissions are limited to two dimensional work, no larger than 30×36
inches each.

Each artist may submit up to 5 pieces of work of which three will be chosen.
To submit work for the show please email high resolution .jpg’s to
Please title the images by the name and size of the work, in the email
include the title, dimensions, medium and price for each piece.

Artists will receive a email response one or two days after submission.

There is a $50 fee to be included in the show, which goes to cover
costs of the show.

Works for sale need to include a 30% commission to the Creative Soul.

Artists are responsible for insuring the art, if so desired.

All submitted work must be ready to hang.

Artists are responsible to get the artwork to and from the show.

The storefront will be open on Sunday September 30 Erev Sukkos to drop
off work, as well and the first night of Chol Hamoed. The show will be
hung on the first might of Chol Hamoed.

All artists and the community are invited to the Opening on Wednesday,
October 3 at 8pm.

For updates check out www.facebook.com/TheCreativeSoul.org

For any questions please email Yitzchok Moully at ymoully@gmail.com

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Creative Soul Partners with Chabad.org with New Blog “Art for the Soul”

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Creative Soul Partners with Chabad.org with New Blog “Art for the Soul”

We are proud to share that the Creative Soul has partnerd with Chabad.org to create a new blog.
The goal is to post one piece of art a day together with an inspirational artist statement about the art.
This is a great opportunity to get exposure, chabad.org is excited and want to push this blog to all shluchim affiliate sites and emails.

the blog can be viewed here:


if you would like to submit work for the blog please fill out the form in the link below


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new painting: “Overflowing Blessings”

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

new painting: “Overflowing Blessings”

I forgot to share on my blog – Facebook seems to be the place for my updates…

In honor of Passover i would like to share a recent painting titled
“Overflowing Blessings”
Acrylic and ink on canvas 30x30in
‘My Cup Runneth Over’ is a familiar expression quoted from Torah. And indeed it is true – at least for my life. All we need to do is look around and count our blessings, to see all the wonderful things G-D has provided of us and the great opportunities we have. Lift your cup and raise a toast- L’chaim to G-D.

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The Birth of Chassidic Art by Professor Rabbi Naftali Loewenthal

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

An absolute MUST for anyone interested in the relationship of Torah/Chassidus and creativity.
Please share your thoughts

Click here for video

I’m loving the lecture and have listened to it a few times. Rabbi Naftali Loewenthal is well read and makes a compelling case.
Enjoy and feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.


New Mishpacha Magazine article.

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

New Mishpacha Magazine article.

A big thanks to Barbra Bensoussan and Mishpacha magazine for a great job of their article on my work and life.
This was the first time i was in front of a camera during the photo shoot for the article , and i definitely prefer my place behind the camera. None the less, a special thanks goes to photographer Meir Haltovsky for the great accompanying images

The promo can be found here on the Mishpacha site

The full article can be found here, thanks to ColLive

New Art Group “The Creative Soul” for Artists in the Orthodox- Chassidic community

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

New Art Group “The Creative Soul” for Artists in the Orthodox- Chassidic community

It is my honor to share a new venture I am embarking on!
the creation of “The Creative Soul”
A artist run group to dialogue, share and promote art and creativity with a vision of fusing contemporary art with Torah for the soul.

The Creative Soul is a multicultural Orthodox – Chassidic Jewish art movement created to promote emerging artists within the Orthodox – Chassidic community and share their unique voice and vision with the world.This is a vision of fusing contemporary art with Torah for the spiritual elevation of the human soul.

Our initial goal is to form a core group of artists and gather monthly to share, encourage and discuss all aspects of Jewish art. We are planning on creating group exhibits both in NY and in select cities in North America.

We do not have a website up yet, but we do have a facebook page –


Our first meeting, open to all artists in the Orthodox – Chassidic community will be held on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at
Hadas Gallery 541 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11205. RSVP on facebook here
The group was created by Devorah Liliath and myself. and we are full of energy and great ideas.
We are very excited and hope to share and meet lots of new artists.

Shabbat Shalom
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Full Episodes of Oprah’s Next Chapter – Including 60 Seconds of The Pop Art Rabbi

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Full Episodes of Oprah’s Next Chapter – Including 60 Seconds of The Pop Art Rabbi

Yes it did happen a while ago, but I was never able to get the full episodes available on line.

Well as the internet goes, I stumbled on it and i would like to share it with you.

I found the two part series; Opra’s Next Chapter, about the Chassidic community. You can find me and our ‘Chassidim of Color’ Jewish Art gallery in part 2 of the show at 16:30 minutes in.


pat 1:

part 2: