Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Paper Midrash in Lafayette (no, not the one from Hamilton)

Just wanted to quickly post a few photos from our Paper Midrash residency at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California. Rabbi Shawna and I gave a visual sermon on "People of the Comic Book" and we used our "Paper T'filah Visual T'filah" for Friday night services, had an oneg Shabbat scavenger hunt with some of my work, led an adult papercutting workshop, and even had the religious school get into the fun with our exclusive "Fold-and-Cut Torah" lesson plan!

"Paper T'filah Visual T'filah" in Erev Shabbat services

Oneg Shabbat Scavenger Hunt

Making Paper Midrash with Rabbi Shawna

Rabbi Nicki Greninger made Paper Midrash in our workshop

We had a great group in our adult papercutting workshop

Paper Midrash made by Karen, a workshop participant

Paper Midrash made by Nathan, workshop participant

Paper Midrash made by Rabbi Greninger

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Men of Steel and Women of Valor

This fall I opened a new exhibition at The Temple Museum of Jewish Art, Religion, and Culture in Cleveland called "Men of Steel and Women of Valor," and I've been keeping you posted here (and on Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram) but as the exhibition comes to a close it seemed appropriate to put everything up in one place – right here on my blog. (You can also read about it in The Forward or the Cleveland Jewish News.)
Standing in the gallery – in my Superboy shirt, of course.

At the heart of the exhibition is a series of large portraits made of cut-up comic books featuring Superman and Lois Lane, Daredevil and Elektra, the Fantastic Four — transformed into the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs, as well as modern figures. These portraits are a nod to the Jewish custom of inviting guests into one’s sukkah during the fall festival of Sukkot, since we opened the exhibition just before Sukkot. In fact, Rabbi Shawna and I went to The Temple-Tifereth Israel for a Paper Midrash weekend to coincide with the exhibition, praying and teaching and creating all weekend with the community.

Rabbi Shawna and I led a bunch of papercutting workshops during our Paper Midrash weekend

We led a number of projects to create new art for the walls of the TTTI sukkah

Teaching in "the birthplace of Superman"

The exhibition focused heavily on Superman, created in Cleveland in the 1930s by two Jews, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — portraits of whom are included in the show, made of cut-up Superman comics from the past 90 years. You can see the whole show online in this PDF catalog, or check out the pix below.
"Abraham: Ignition" is made with cut-up Fantastic Four comics featuring patriarch Reed Richards

"Sarah: Forward" is made with cut-up Fantastic Four comics featuring matriarch Sue Storm Richards

"Isaac: Hurt" is made of comics featuring blind vigilant super hero Daredevil

"Rebekah: Someone" is made of comics featuring ninja badass Elektra

"Jacob:Disguise" is made of Clark Kent comics (and a little bit of Loki)

"Leah: Suppress" is made of comics featuring Lois Lane (and so is her sister)

"Rachel: Answers" is made of comics featuring Lois Lane (and so is her sister)
It also included portraits of Golda Meir, Israel’s first female prime minister, and Sally Priesand, America’s first female rabbi. The portraits share the walls with landscapes of Jerusalem, stories of fire and water and cloud, and explorations of the Mishnah — all made out of cut-up comic books.

“Siegel: Chutzpah” is a portrait of Jerry Siegel, the writer who co-created Superman. Siegel is represented with cut-up comics featuring some of my favorite Superman writers from the past 90 years.

“Shuster: Action” is a portrait of Joe Shuster, the artist who co-created Superman, Shuster is represented with cut-up comics featuring some of my favorite Superman artists from the past 90 years.

“Priesand: My Turn” is a portrait of the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi in the United States, Sally Priesand.

“Meir: Fight” is a portrait of Golda Meir, the first woman to serve as Prime Minister of Israel.

You can see the whole show online in this PDF catalog. For more information on our residencies and workshops, visit

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Deep Space Shiviti

“Deep Space Shiviti” is a papercut I created for Rabbi Paul Kipnes in December 2019, commissioned as a birthday present by his family. It is modeled on the traditional Jewish shiviti, a meditative artwork inspired by words from Psalms 16:8: “I have always placed the Eternal before me,” intended to inspire an appropriate frame of mind for prayer and contemplation. The shiviti traditionally incorporates a seven-branched menorah, words drawn from Jewish texts, kabbalah, and other mystical sources; this one also features cut-up comic books.

“Deep Space Shiviti” is a contemporary and personal interpretation of this traditional form, built around a vision from the fourth chapter of the book of Zechariah, which describes a lampstand of gold, feeding into and being fed by two olive trees, one on either side. It is a vision of replenishment and renewal, of resilience and rededication. Surrounded on both sides by the twelve gems of Aaron’s priestly breastplate (an allusion to Rabbi Kipnes’ Hebrew name), the menorah stands in front of the Kotel in Jerusalem, reinvented as a place where everyone stands together for inspiration and connection.

The words and imagery in “Deep Space Shiviti” are drawn from comic books — two kinds in particular: Star Trek comics and comics featuring Jewish super heroes. The name “Deep Space Shiviti” is itself a reference to Rabbi Kipnes’ guest appearance on an episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

There are allusions to Rabbi Kipnes’ family and community; to places close to his heart; to his roles as husband, father, rabbi... and as a man true to himself. The papercut contains camp cabins, maps of wondrous places, and images of light and inspiration.

There is the Bat Signal, another lighted symbol of hope; Yggdrasill, the “world tree” whose roots and branches support and connect the fabled Nine Realms; and Deep Space Nine, a home to a diverse group of people with different backgrounds who are united in a common cause (and also of special meaning to Rabbi Kipnes). The papercut also features multiple Jewish super heroes, including Kitty Pryde and Benjamin “The Thing” Grimm — the former with her “Hold Fast” tattoo and the latter holding his Star of David necklace; Black Canary, whose commitment to heroism is matched by her commitment to handing down her super heroic beliefs and practices to the next generation; and Spider-Man, who reminds us that with great power must also come great responsibility.

The papercut includes:
All-New X-Men #13 (Aug 2013)
Astonishing X-Men #36 (Apr 2011)
Batwoman #3 (Jan 2012), #16 (Mar 2013)
Booster Gold #19 (Jun 2009)
The Life of Captain Marvel #1 (Oct 2018)
Dazzler #38 (Jul 1985) – “Light”, #1 (Aug 2018)
Excalibur #66 (Jun 1993)
Fantastic Four #56 (Aug 2002)
The Legion of Super-Heroes #503 (Sep 1983)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #352 (Oct 1987)
Lumberjanes: A Bird’s Eye View (Dec 2017
Marauders #2 (Jan 2020)
Noble Causes: Distant Relatives #2 (Sep 2003)
The Ray #1 (May 1994)
Scarlet #8 (May 2016)
Star Trek Movie Special: Star Trek III (1984)
Star Trek: The Next Generation #24 (Oct 1991)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #1 (Aug 1993)
Star Trek: Year Five #1 (Apr 2019)