For one author, Pirkei Avot is both a sefer and a coloring book

The Ethics of the Fathers gets a new colorful look as a graphic novel.

May 1, 2019 05:23
1 minute read.
 Jessica Tamar Deutsch’s “Illustrated Pirkei Avot: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Ethics

Jessica Tamar Deutsch’s “Illustrated Pirkei Avot: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Ethics. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Paneled pages are making a huge comeback in the form of graphic novels, and one Jewish scholar and artist has found a way to merge ancient Jewish text with this modern form of art.

A graphic novel is a book made up of comics content, but Jessica Tamar Deutsch’s “Illustrated Pirkei Avot: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Ethics” is anything but funny. The work includes the full text in English translation and Hebrew of Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”), one of Judaism’s oldest compilations of rabbinic ethical teachings. The 128-page work features comic-like paneling alongside serious commentary.
It’s a sefer and a coloring book at the same time.

The Orthodox Deutsch studied at Midreshet HaRova Beit Midrash in Jerusalem and at the Parsons School of Design in New York. In her hand-written introduction, she describes how making the book - which according to interviews took around four years - “just seemed like it would be a really fun challenge for me.”

Pictures - and some can double as a coloring pages - include all 120 men of the Great Assembly, anthropomorphized hills and clouds and even a leather-strapped, motorcycle-riding Rabbi Alisha of Avuya.

In an interview with Tablet, Deutsch said one of the goals of her book is to get Jews to start thinking more about their own traditions.

“I’m hoping that this will inspire people both inside and outside of Judaism to invite their heritage and their religion into their artwork and realize  that it can exist in all forms and spaces,” she said.

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