How this project came to be

Click here to read Hanan Harchol’s essay in Reform Judaism Magazine that describes Harchol’s personal journey that led to this project.

This series of animations represents my personal journey in a complicated relationship with Judaism. I spent my life gravitating towards, and making, narrative art that explores the human condition from a psychological, philosophical, and existential perspective. While Judaism offers thousands of years of wisdom on the human condition, I avoided it as a source, because of what I perceived to be a preachy and sometimes judgmental tone.

Then, in 2009, I was commissioned to create a short artistic animation that interpreted the eating of bitter herbs during Passover. As part of the project, I was mandated to participate in a monthly Jewish study group and, to my surprise, I discovered that the human themes we were discussing and wrestling with in the study group were precisely the kind I had always been exploring in my personal artmaking. Even the process itself of sitting around a table, debating and wrestling with these human concepts (a process I did regularly with my friends and in my artmaking) proved to be a fundamental part of the Jewish study and learning process.

I became filled with questions about how much my Jewish heritage had influenced how I was raised, how I behaved, how I thought, and even who I was as a person and an artist. What I discovered was a wealth of wisdom that was just sitting, waiting to be mined. Within the Jewish texts were crucial teachings and lessons that applied as much to our contemporary lives as they did when they were written. By avoiding the Jewish writings because of their religious nature and tone, I was missing out on thousands of years of deep thought and study on the human condition itself. I had thrown the baby out with the bath water, for lack of a better analogy.

This led me to my current project: combining thousands of years of Jewish wisdom on topics such as apology, forgiveness, gratitude, love, fear, humility, and others, with my artmaking (i.e. animations of my Israeli nuclear physicist father and me, having arguments). The goal of this series of animated shorts is to distill these relevant and very human Jewish teachings in a vehicle that is accessible, entertaining, funny, and fresh.


Hanan Harchol

Hanan Harchol is a multimedia artist, born in Israel, who moved to the US as a child. Harchol creates paintings, drawings, animations, videos, and multimedia installations that explore the human condition through family narratives.

Harchol earned a Master of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Highest Honors from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. Harchol received a 1998 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship, and The Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Ronnie Heyman Prize in 2004. Harchol was awarded a 2011 Covenant Foundation Signature Grant. Harchol’s work has been published in the book “Jewish Art In America: An Introduction”, by Prof. Baigell, and reviewed in ARTnews, The Chicago Tribune, and The Jewish Week.

Harchol has exhibited extensively in museums and galleries across the country, and his films and animations have been broadcast on Channel 13 (WNET), Jewish Life Television, Shalom TV, and in nearly 100 film festivals worldwide. Harchol will have a catalogued, solo museum exhibition at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, New York Museum. The exhibition will run from September, 2013 through June, 2014 and will subsequently travel across the country. Harchol is also a professional classical guitarist with nine CD releases.

Click here to read Hanan Harchol’s essay in Reform Judaism Magazine that describes Harchol’s personal journey that led to this project. http://reformjudaismmag.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=3242

Rabbi Leora Kaye

Leora Kaye’s experience spans across the spectrum of the “Jewish World” including education, programming, and filmmaking. As a rabbi she has focused on seeking new ways to expand people’s understanding of Judaism – encouraging them to approach Judaism on their own terms, through teaching and offering opportunities in sophisticated and innovative ways, while infusing them with knowledge of Jewish tradition.

While in rabbinical school she worked as a production associate on the award-winning documentary Blue Vinyl, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001 and subsequently aired on HBO in 2002. Since then she has combined her interest in media and religion by producing videos for NFTY, Matan, and other Jewish organizations. Leora acted as a rabbinic consultant for the new Shalom Sesame project which launched in November of 2010 and has also acted in an advisory position for various documentaries and television shows.

As the Program Director for Congregation Rodeph Sholom since 2004, she creates and organizes inventive programs including a film festival, inviting dynamic speakers and fostering intimate discussions and study opportunities for the congregation and greater New York City community.

Leora coordinates the synagogue’s conversion program, and under her stewardship the program has grown to include more students than at any time in the synagogue’s recent history.

She is the former youth director of Temple Israel in Boston and also worked as the Associate Director of Programming for Synagogue 2000.

She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2002. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her daughter Galit and husband Doug Gordon, a writer and television producer.