Israel, his Wives, & the 12 Tribes, 2012. Oil on wood panel, 30×40 in.
Then: Israel was the name given to Jacob after he spent an entire night wrestling with an angel, and the name was used from then on to refer to the Jewish people as a whole. His 12 sons, each becoming a tribe as they themselves fathered families, grew to be known as B’nei Yisroel, the children of Israel. Each tribe was given a specific blessing at Jacob’s deathbed, and they carried flags that flew a symbol related to their defining attributes.
Now: East meets west as the figures from Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait are updated with African patterning, a Hindu representation of the multiple wives, and a Japanese composite of the symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel. The two central figures each have a hand with the traditional priestly blessing formation. The faces are inspired by Mizrachi Jews of Yemen who have the most historically unchanged customs in Judaism today. In the center-left there is a string of letters from the ancient Paleo-Hebrew characters that spell out “B’nai Yisroel” or “Children of Israel” in a graffiti style. The letter yud from the end of B’nai and beginning of Yisroel is shared to show there is no separation between the original Israel and the descendants.
Deborah Rises in Judgement, 2012. Oil on canvas, 30×40 in.
Kylie Lefkowitz as Deborah
Then: Deborah was a prophetess and judge, an important leadership position prior to the Israelite monarchy. She was known for conducting her business beneath a palm tree. Along with Yael, she is recognized for being a strong, independent woman who was crucial in the Jewish victory against the Canaanite army under the command of Sisera.
Now: Kylie Lefkowitz is a modern Jew and her sense of religious identity stems from a free Birthright trip to Israel. The candy striped background is reflective of her energetic and creative energy, complimenting her colorful dreadlocks.
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