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Tobi Kahn’s art in CCAR’s new Passover Haggadah

Tobi Kahn was commissioned to create all of the artwork for CCAR’s new Passover Haggadah, Mishkan Haseder, edited by Rabbi Hara E. Person and Jessica Greenbaum.

Read more about it here

Excerpt: What was the process like of working with Tobi Kahn, this Haggadah’s artist?

Person: It was great to work with Tobi. He is a very well-known and well-respected artist, and I was so pleased he agreed to be part of this project. I loved sitting in his studio and talking about the overall feel of the book, its themes, and how those might be reflected in his art. We had a lot of fun working together and putting the art together with the text.

Greenbaum: There is a tremendous amount of power and beauty in Tobi’s abstract art, especially how it connects to the Jewish way of “seeing” God. Judaism forbids graven images of God because they identify a single vision instead of allowing each of us to have our own. Similarly, Tobi’s abstractions invite us to see them through imaginative reflection of self and of emotion through color and form.

Article about the project:

An artist’s journey from slavery to redemption

Tobi Kahn’s abstract images illuminate the Reform movement’s new haggadah

Statement by Tobi Kahn

Memory is close to dreaming, to imagining. My work is not meant to portray what is remembered but to evoke it. All my art is an invitation, for you to bring yourself, your history, your brimming life—and, yes, your sorrows—to what you are looking at now. You may see allusions to a road, a body, a pathway, a river, a landscape, biomorphic, or botanical shapes—faithful not to their appearance in reality, but to the way they are embedded in your memory and the meaning you bring to them.

We are the people of memory. And the seder is the reenactment of our greatest collective story, which God enjoins us to remember.

Although we associate Jews with text, with words, when we remember a transformative event, it appears before our inner eye not in syllables but in images. The images in this Haggadah were chosen to accompany you on a visual journey that corresponds to the story we tell one another aloud in an annual paradox: the same sentences, a different night; the same sentences, differently inflected, because we are different people this year from last; and the same images, but renewed each year by all that we newly bring to looking at them.
For me, being an artist is a religious act. To create art is natural, in the image of the Creator who fashioned our world. My reverence as an artist is no different from my reverence as a Jew: We praise and protect the gift while acting to repair its brokenness.

I think in images and wanted these paintings to be a way of experiencing the Seder in its underlying beauty and significance. To think visually is a capacity not only for artists; it is essential for everyone.

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