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Chabad’s Youth Rabbi Reaches Out with Artwork

Warren Patch

Rabbi Yitzchok Moully, youth rabbi at the Chabad Jewish Center in Basking Ridge, wears many hats there: his responsibilities include the center’s Hebrew School, Bar and Bat Mitzvah training, and running the teen group.

After a full day at the center one would expect Moully, father of four, to relax a bit after getting the kids to sleep, but his form of relaxation takes on a different form. Moully is the creator of “Jewish Pop Art” as he calls it: bright and bold colors depicting Jewish scenes and objects. Self taught, Moully has displayed his work in galleries in New York, Philadelphia, Denver, Melbourne and around New Jersey.

For the second year in a row, Moully has planned Chabad’s Jewish and Music Art Festival, set for noon to 7 p.m. at the Chabad Jewish Center, at 3048 Valley Road, July 10. The festival is open to all in the community. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to the JMAFest website.

What is a rabbi doing spending his time painting? Moully said he uses his work painting to complement and even extend his rabbinical work.

“As a Rabbi, one’s reach goes only so far; people have to be open to the idea and welcome engagement,” he said. “Art, on the other hand, has a wider draw; there is no heaviness. It is accessible for everyone to relate and engage.”

Moully sees his art as a meaningful way to show people the joy and life found in Judaism, and how it is accessible to all.

Sitting with members of the community Moully said got the idea of fusing his two passions, by bringing people together to enjoy a day of Jewish culture — in the form of live music and art — on the Center’s property. By celebrating Jewish creativity in such a setting the festival aims to bring everyone, even people who have never stepped foot into a Synagogue, to the Chabad center, so they can experience Judaism’s openness.

The festival’s goal is to make Judaism relevant in the form of four live bands whose sound is not traditionally Jewish, and with
contemporary Jewish artists who each interpret and engage in a dialogue of what Judaism means to them.

There is a little running joke between the center’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Mendy Herson, and Moully as to who can attract a bigger crowd: Rabbi Herson on the High Holidays or Moully with the festival. The Chabad Center gets 500-plus at High Holiday Services, and Rabbi Moully expects to far outpace that this year.

The festival is expecting 1,500 or more to come enjoy and engage their Judaism in a fun and enjoyable manner, he predicts.

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