Yael Medresh of Emunah V’Omanut won first prize for her drawing entitled “The Lord Will Bare His Holy Arm in the Sight of All." She is pictured here with Ari Solomont, director of the S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program.

Feb 6, 2009 — The emerging artistic talents of young Jewish women from around the world were evident at the Yeshiva University campus in Jerusalem, when 28 post-high school students displayed their paintings, drawings, sculptures and other works as part of the second S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program Art Competition.

The dessert reception and exhibition drew an audience of 150, who viewed the artistic submissions from students at nine seminaries. The submissions included a menorah, collages and a work crafted from fabric and beads in addition to paintings and drawings. Students had been required to submit works on the themes of Ahavat Yisrael [love for Israel], Torah Umadda [synthesis of Toarh and secular knowledge], Jerusalem, Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel], or Geulah [redemption], and to include a written explanation of the meaning of their work.

The Yeshiva University-sponsored competition provided a much-needed venue for creativity for the entrants.

“The competition is for students who are artistically inclined and want an opportunity to express themselves in a way that they wouldn’t always be able to do in a year of such intense Torah learning,” Elana Kohn, a YU Israel advisor, said. “It’s designed to enhance their year. They can engage their creativity within the framework of a Torah-oriented program.”

In addressing the artists and their friends, Dr. Hillel Davis, vice president of university life, said that just as human beings continue the process of Creation through technology and construction, so too artists bring more beauty to the world. “I’m incredibly impressed by the talent of many of the individuals in this room,” he said. “In a profound way, the beauty you have created is borne from the Torah you have studied this year, and you are using Hashem’s Torah, the blueprint of the world, to add to its splendor.”

Photographs of the entries were e-mailed to Stern College Professors of Art Traci Tullius and Susan Gardner, who judged each piece in advance of the gallery reception. Tullius and Gardner also made themselves available to the students via e-mail for constructive criticism during the creative process.

“The program is a bridge between the students and Stern,” said Stephanie Strauss, assistant director of the S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program, who conceived the idea of the art competition last year. “Especially for those who will continue to study art and are already developing a relationship with the professors.”

Emunah V’Omanut student Aviva Bloom concurred. “This year is the most incredible fusion of art and Torah I’ve ever had,” she said. “This is really cool of YU to do. It gives me hope about continuing in art when I go to Stern.”

Three prominent Israeli artists–Daniel Azoulay, Penny Harow ’92ST and Jordana Klein ’86ST–attended the exhibit to judge the works and express support for the students.

The first-place prize of $500, supported by the Sofie Freeman Art Enrichment Fund in the office of Dr. Karen Bacon, The Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean of Stern, was awarded to Yael Medresh of Emunah V’Omanut, whose drawing entitled “The Lord Will Bare His Holy Arm in the Sight of All” was both emotionally intense and technically advanced.

“The intersection of Torah and art is what I’m searching for. They are two integral parts of my life,” said Medresh, a native of Mexico who plans to attend the joint program between Stern and the Fashion Institute of Technology next year.

Medresh’s mother, Anette Pier, is also an artist. Coincidentally, an exhibition of Pier’s work will open at the Yeshiva University Museum on Feb. 26. Medresh said that she planned to use her award money to fly to New York to see her mother’s paintings.

Second-place honors went to Eliana Kohanchi of Midreshet Harova for her “Mama Rachel,” an interpretation of the Tomb of Rachel created from paint, mosaics and sand; and to Erica Langer of Tiferet for her drawing, entitled “From out of the Depths,” of one hand, symbolizing the Holocaust, reaching for another hand encircled with tefillin [phylacteries].

“Rachel Imeinu [our mother] has always been one of my role models,” Kohanchi said. “I’m so happy for this opportunity. I never knew I had talent.”

Three students tied for third place: Rami Diamond of Emunah V’Omanut for her drawing depicting a fading “photo” of Holocaust survivors; Daniela Rosenthal of Michlalah for her painting entitled “Sheyirbu Zechuyotainu K’Rimon” (May our Merits Increase Like the Seeds of a Pomegranate); and Leora Niderberg of Migdal Oz, for the advanced painting techniques displayed in her landscape portrait of Nachal Arad. All of the winning entries will be displayed in the fall at the Beren Campus.

The consensus among the entrants was that, win or lose, the competition had been exciting and welcome. “I’m really happy with my piece, with the way the composition turned out,” said Tehilla student Miriam Weiss, who plans to attend Stern next year and minor in art. Her painting, “B’tzelem Elokim,” included a man in intense prayer and symbols of the holiday of Sukkot. “To create it, I had to go back to the textual sources and study a lot of texts. I’ve been developing my work in Judaica lately. I learn Torah to paint, and I paint to learn.”