Last summer, Zalman Glauber, a forty-six-year-old ḥasidic businessman-turned-sculptor, created something new under the sun: an art gallery, called Shtetl, for ḥaredi artists to display their work. Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt writes:
In the Judaica shops of Monsey and Brooklyn . . . you’ll find that classic Orthodox art is uniform—rabbis, Ḥasidim dancing, Jerusalem landscapes, Western Walls, Torah scrolls, violins. Women are rarely portrayed. . . . Most people who try to create freethinking art end up leaving the Orthodox community, seeking spaces outside—the sort of struggle epitomized by Chaim Potok’s 1972 novel, My Name Is Asher Lev. An Orthodox Jew delivering a nonconformist message by way of a paintbrush, or a sculptor’s chisel, is unusual.
Glauber was drawn to sculpture—a medium that, in the Orthodox community, is traditionally viewed as idolatrous. . . . Glauber went to his rabbi, asking for permission to sculpt. The rabbi allowed it, on one condition: the sculptures could not be complete depictions of human beings; they must be missing parts. The resulting art is striking—a man kissing his phylacteries, a look of ecstasy on his face, with his upper arms missing. Another piece depicts a veker, the traditional town crier who wakes the devoted at dawn for morning penance, holding a lantern at a window, also with no arms.
“Art is now where wine was twenty years ago,” [said the gallery’s director], Meyer Kohn. “We as a community have to learn to appreciate art. We have to educate people. We are starting to realize that art is a language. Artists are more connected to God.”