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Its name is not Asher Lev
A new chassidic art gallery grows in Brooklyn and is already bucking stereotypes. Can it survive, and what does it suggest about contemporary Orthodox life?
Growing up as a Chassidic Jew in Brooklyn, Zalmen Glauber, who has dyslexia, had difficulty even reading the Talmud. He used to follow Yiddish translations on the bottom of the pages, and he read narratives from the Prophets. He quickly fell in love with those stories and imagined himself in King David’s palace. “I literally felt like a member in the court—not a member, like a little mouse running around and seeing everyone,” Glauber, 48, a sculptor and founder of Shtetl gallery in Brooklyn, told me in an interview last year.
The art gallery that he runs with his wife Leah, 47—the subject of my new Mosaic magazine review “Its Name Is Not Asher Lev”—has been attracting attention in both Jewish media and in secular culture and arts publication. It is poised, I suggest, to both pitch the value of art to Chassidim and to better explain Chassidic life and values to those who are not very familiar with the community.
The gallery is small and located in the basement of a hotel, but Mt. Sinai too was a diminutive site that punched above its weight in a neighborhood of giants. The gallery will meet some viewers’ expectations, in that there are no nudes and several of the works depict praying Jews or those engaged in religious study. But there are also gutsy abstract pieces and works that engage with evolution and comparative religion, which will come as a surprise to many.
And, refreshingly, the Glaubers see their gallery as a place to show and to share beauty, which should not be a proposition that is subjected to as much derision as it is in today’s art world. Here again is my Mosaic essay and a few more photos.