Meet 10 Anglo Israeli women making new Judaica

Meet 10 Anglo women whose creative expression is breathing new life into the world of Judaic art. 

 RONNIT BARZEL’S ‘Blessings for the Shabbat Candles’ (photo credit: Ronnit Barzel)
RONNIT BARZEL’S ‘Blessings for the Shabbat Candles’
(photo credit: Ronnit Barzel)

Does it ever seem to you that Judaica shops throughout Israel are all selling the exact same merchandise, much of it manufactured in China? 

Don’t despair!

Scattered all over Israel, from Jerusalem to Safed, Katzrin to Efrat, we found women Judaica artists who are breaking new ground – creating fresh Judaic art. Meet 10 Anglo women whose creative expression is breathing new life into the world of Judaic art. 

Ronnit Barzel of Art with Neshama

RONNIT BARZEL of Art with Neshama (artwithneshama.com) describes her work “as its name suggests – with ‘neshama,’ meaning that it has soul, and its purpose is to evoke meaningfulness, whether on a Jewish or general spiritual level. Visually, most of my art is very vibrant, which in itself is to capture the eye and heart, but I do also cater to more conservative design tastes,” she explained.

 Nicole Friedman (credit: NICOLE FRIEDMAN) Nicole Friedman (credit: NICOLE FRIEDMAN)

Based in Givat Shmuel, Barzel creates and sells Jewish blessings, texts from the Torah, Jewish sources and quotes from Jewish figures in Hebrew and English. She also creates Seder plates, dreidels and housewares with Jewish and Israeli motifs.

“My inspiration comes from my personal experiences of looking for Jewish and Israeli gifts to take to my family and friends overseas. I found that I had gifted enough pomegranate and hamsa-decorated items and started designing my own gifts to take back to Australia. I have always had a soft spot for gift-giving, but specifically for items of the most personalized kind that would really resonate with the recipients and would be cherished.

“One of my signature styles is offering the service of customized gifts with personalized texts, and even photos, which make a great impact gift-wise. I currently design on a variety of materials ranging from slate stone, glass, wood, textile to aluminum and stainless steel.”

Barzel continued, “My creative process is animated by my desire to make products that will spark heartfelt emotions, whether it be smiles of joy or tears of sadness, by connecting to a poignant text on my creations.”

“My creative process is animated by my desire to make products that will spark heartfelt emotions, whether it be smiles of joy or tears of sadness, by connecting to a poignant text on my creations.”

Ronit Barzel

Her customers range from “the average Israeli to [haredim from outside of Israel]. I have a lot of English-speaking customers. I also have gentile customers who are interested in Israeli or Jewish art. Even though a lot of my work seems to be catering to religious audiences, the fact is that I have a lot [of customers] who aren’t at all religious.”

Her dream is “to be able to continue to design for customers worldwide on a more extensive level, as well as ignite a spark of neshama in more souls across the globe.”

Rayzel Broyde of Dolev Prints

DIGITAL ART and custom ketubot are the work of Rayzel Broyde of Dolev Prints (dolevprints.com) in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Broyde, who is a trained graphic designer and art director, creates decorative works that feature Jewish prayers or verses from the Torah. “Many of my pieces have raised gold or silver foil and come framed and customized for the customers’ needs. Most of my inspiration comes from my clients, when they tell me what they are looking for. I love having a part in bringing Judaism and Judaica to people’s homes at an affordable price. 

It is a real honor for me,” she shared.

Broyde is still working full time outside her Judaica business but hopes to grow Dolev Prints into her full-time career. She describes her typical customers as “Religious people [who] would like to give a meaningful gift to someone, either a birkat habyit (Blessing for the Home) for a new couple or a pasuk print (illuminated Torah verse) for a bat mitzvah girl.” Her work also appeals to “moms [who buy] my artwork to decorate their kids’ rooms.” 

Nicole Friedman of Nicole Friedman Studio

NICOLE FRIEDMAN runs the eponymous Nicole Friedman Studio. From her home in Ramat Beit Shemesh, she sells on etsy (etsy.com/shop/nicolefriedmanstudio) and curates @nicolefriedmanstudio on her active social media accounts.

Her soulful art practice is a combination of fine art painting and resin art, including mezuzot, challah boards, Shabbat candle trays and more. Formerly a high school math teacher who “always loved crafts as a child,” the largely self-taught “through YouTube tutorials and much trial-and-error” Friedman offers workshops in resin art for both beginners and advanced students.

After making aliyah in 2021, the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry recognized her as one of Israel’s Outstanding Artists. “I now am an artist full time and tutor math part time,” she stated.

Friedman’s most popular pieces include personalized door name plates and candle lighting trays. Most of her workshop participants are English-speaking. 

“Both in my paintings and resin work, I love to play with lights and darks and the way they interact with one another to make colors pop. I enjoy creating bold strokes and bright colors, depicting scenes from Israel or the Torah, or crafting pieces of resin that can be used on Shabbat,” she reflected.

Friedman credits her creative inspiration to “the One Above. I am so blessed to live in Israel, where I’m surrounded by a landscape of inspiration at every turn.” In the process of building a new studio, she dreams “of having my own gallery one day in the heart of Jerusalem.” 

Naama Goldberg of Ben Zion Fine Arts

LIKE ANDY WARHOL did with Campbell’s soup cans in the 1960s, Naama Goldberg of Ramat Beit Shemesh takes a familiar image and turns it into her own distinctive form of art.

Her Ben Zion Fine Arts (benzionfinearts.com) studio produces “a modern, minimalistic rendering of the classic Jewish value of rabbi pictures that are hung in religious Jewish homes. The artworks are laser cut from stainless steel and placed on a background of black acrylic in order for the face of the portraits to come out. 

“My artwork is distinctive in that I represent traditional Jewish values and portray them as a modern minimalistic artwork. This medium and technique of laser cut stainless steel on acrylic had never been used for this purpose.” Goldberg, the artist, worked with her husband, the engineer, “to brainstorm this idea and to perfect its execution,” she explained.

“Our customers are varied – the family who wants portraits of their [influential rabbi] on the wall of their living room; the professional who has a photo of their rabbi in their office; or the nonprofit looking for a unique way to say thank you to a major donor. What they all have in common, though, is a love for fresh, modern art and a desire to display their religious role models in their lives,” Goldberg explained. 

“Our customers are varied – the family who wants portraits of their [influential rabbi] on the wall of their living room; the professional who has a photo of their rabbi in their office; or the nonprofit looking for a unique way to say thank you to a major donor. What they all have in common, though, is a love for fresh, modern art and a desire to display their religious role models in their lives,”

Naama Goldberg

“My art was driven by a need to hang pictures of rabbis in my home in a beautiful way that not only enhances my home with their Jewish message of who and what we should emulate but also contributes and integrates into the modern design of my home’s interior. 

“I could not find what I sought in the stores, so I set out on a mission to create it for my home. I wanted the values of my heritage to be integrated into my home for myself and my family in a distinguished, beautiful way in line with the modern minimalistic trends of home design today,” she elaborated.

Elisheva Horowitz of Back2brushes

WORKING FROM her home in Katzrin in the Golan Heights, Elisheva Horowitz (back2brushes.com) specializes in drawings and paintings based on stories from the Hebrew Bible, as well as landscapes and daily life in Israel. Among her most popular pieces is Shuk Mahaneh Yehuda, a packed scene of shoppers and fruit and vegetable sellers in Jerusalem’s most famous market.

Horowitz defines her work as “expressionist, maternal, figurative and introspective. Being an artist and mother living in Israel, in uncertain times, is reflected in my work. My worldview is one which combines a heightened visual awareness with maternal anxiety – and often a healthy dose of optimism and humor.”

According to Horowitz, motherhood challenges women artists. “I think it’s very difficult for women to balance motherhood and a career in art for a variety of reasons, ranging from the emotional to the technical. A guy can tell his wife, ‘Hey, honey, gotta finish that series I was working on. I’ll be in the studio. See you in three weeks...’”

Another of her popular pieces is The Rape of Tamar, which depicts the biblical daughter of King David, distraught after being raped by her half-brother. “I’m frequently challenged by difficult and uncomfortable subject matter and often inspired by the challenge to express the inexpressible,” Horowitz reflected.

Miriam Leibowitz

JERUSALEM ARTIST Miriam Leibowitz (miriamleib.wixsite.com/artsite) uses her artistic gifts specifically to highlight Jewish women. “I’m passionate about sharing my experience as a Jewish woman, but not necessarily as Jewish women in art have been classically depicted [e.g., lighting Shabbat candles]. I feel my art is a testimony to the power there is in the Jewish woman’s experience.

“My inspiration comes from my own wonderful experiences living the life of a Jewish woman in the heart of the holy city. I feel we are living in such an amazing time when a Jewish woman can live an especially fulfilling life of inspiration and devotion. I’m blessed to be part of a community where I feel my soul is nurtured and my spirit soars, and I try to express that in my artwork,” she elaborated.

Leibowitz, who also works as a parenting coach and illuminates ketubot, identified “a pastel drawing depicting a mother and daughter holding the Torah together, with bright winglike colors surrounding them” as her most popular piece. 

She is currently preparing for a one-woman exhibition and is dreaming of selling “special Shabbat bags for women with prints of my art.” All her art is “intuitive and emotive.” She also hopes to “print a deck of emotive art cards,” as well as reaching more of her core customers who are “people who have seen my art online and feel moved by my work and passionately want to have a print or original to hang on their wall.”

Sefira Lightstone of Sefira Creative

IN HER Sefira Creative (SefiraCreative.com) business, Efrat’s Sefira Lightstone creates and sells digital art, posters and illustrated accessories such as stickers, sweaters and notebooks.

“My art is defined by the experience of breaking stereotypes and to be a voice for those who don’t know how to express themselves. It is bright, impactful and carries feelings with a punch. 

“The idea is to grab someone’s attention within two seconds. My art is a window into the world of Judaism, Jewish women, and Israel. I portray our world in color, painted with nuance and beauty,” she noted.

“I use my art for activism online. My mission through art is to speak to the world about our experience as Jewish people, Israelis, and to empower Jewish people. My art is defined by the experience of breaking stereotypes and to be a voice for those who don’t know how to express themselves.

“Finding my own unique style and voice in art has been a long process tied to my personal journey. As my identity has shifted and grown, so too has my art. In the early days when I started creating, my focus was creating Judaica art for the home. Today, my creative voice has turned into online activism through illustration, and this is what sets me apart from other artists,” Lightstone elaborated.

In addition to the political side of her work, Lightstone is a full-time illustrator for Chabad.org and also creates “art affirmations tied to mental health.” She recently collaborated “with The Layers Project with their new initiative, The Layers Collection, and turned my affirmation illustrations into prints, pillows, and other products.”

Yael Harris Resnick

YAEL HARRIS RESNICK (YaelHarrisResnick.com) of Karnei Shomron lives and breathes art that is “vibrantly colorful, inspiring people to connect to their Judaism and spirituality.”

One of her specialties is “functional art that can serve more than one purpose.” Perhaps best known for her ArtTrivet heat-resistant artistic table runners, Resnick also creates fine art canvases, personalized challah covers and Jewish-themed comics.

“I am an educator, so every aspect of my art comes with research and attention to accuracy,” she explained. Beyond the vibrant colors, her work exudes “universal connection to Torah ideas, Israel, geula (redemption), female biblical figures and also art with multiple explanations or ways for people to connect.”

Resnick is particularly animated about using her art as way to literally paint women back into the canvas of Jewish life. “I feel very passionately about the inclusion of women in art. We are living in a time where women’s faces are being blurred and erased, and it’s a tragedy and danger to society. Art not only captures an account of history, but it also sends messages about what is valued and important. 

“I feel it’s my obligation as an artist to provide all people, and especially children, with positive images portraying females. Females performing mitzvot of all kinds, solving problems, females in the biblical narrative and as part of bringing the geula. I’m not against rebbe portraits or dancing hassidim, but I do believe there is a big gap that needs to be filled when it comes to the representation of women in Jewish art that can exist without overriding the laws of modesty and dignity.

“Along with my feelings about women in Jewish art, I do think there is a leaning toward Ashkenazi, white-skinned people in our modern depictions of biblical figures or characters in Jewish publications. I have even seen children’s art that borders on racism. People of all colors, ages, body types etc. should feel represented and that they belong in Judaism. I try my best to practice this in my artwork as much as I can,” Resnick revealed.

Jodi Sugar of Sugarpix Photography & Israel Photo Art

BEST KNOWN for her annual calendar with striking images of the Land of Israel, Safed-based Jodi Sugar of Sugarpix Photography & Israel Photo Art (JodiSugar.com) wants “to spread the beauty of Eretz Yisrael, one photograph at a time. One of the ways I do this is by making an annual calendar. 

“I’ve also been doing a lot of family portraits when tourists come to Safed, and I love taking them around the back alleys of Safed so they go home with a unique family portrait and memories of their time in our artistic, holy mountaintop village.

“I like to find off-the-beaten-path places to photograph. I notice things that other people don’t see or pay attention to. [It’s] one of the benefits of having ADHD. And I like vibrant colors. I do a lot of editing to make it look like an art piece and not just a photograph.

“Every year, I go to new places [in Israel] to photograph for the annual calendar. A lot of people think of Israel as a desert. I like to show them how our little country has everything. [Making] the calendar is a project that takes the whole year. In the winter, after the rains, the flowers start coming out, and I go on hikes all over the North in search of new vistas. After Passover, the calendar goes into production mode. The rest of the year involves sales, with about 50% [of sales] on Amazon.”

In addition to photography, Sugar runs a tzimmer in Safed, and more recently she “started a mosaic art workshop (tzfatworkshops.com) using old calendars. People create a word that inspires them, and they go home with a piece of art they created [including] images of Israel. It’s a win-win combination – art and Israel,” Sugar noted.

Moshkie Uliel of Gates of Gold – Jerusalem Art

MUSHKIE ULIEL of Gates of Gold – Jerusalem Art (gatesofgoldjlm.com) creates “original artwork and accessories inspired by Jerusalem’s entryways. My art is a physical manifestation of my journey and growth in this city, and I know that others can connect to this as well. 

“When I walk down the street and breathe in the air, I am inspired by the energy here. The idea for this project started one day when I was walking to work. I was passing doors and gates, each one so different and unique. And I started thinking about the history of these doors, some of them so old. Imagining what these doors have seen. I was inspired and wanted to capture it.”

All her work, including her popular Window to Home key chain, was designed for customers “who love Jerusalem’s beauty and want to share that inspiration with others.”

Uliel employs the digital tools she uses in her work as a graphic designer to create “a modern expression of Jerusalem’s beauty. I use the computer to digitally create the artwork and concepts and then send them to production.”

Gates of Gold is Uliel’s side hustle that combines with her work as a graphic designer. 

In 2023, Uliel is planning to add a jewelry line and custom calligraphy and other elements to her art prints. Like many other Judaica artists we spoke with, she hopes it will one day grow to be her full-time business.  