When a camera crew stopped in to film the exhibition of hasidic art he organized in Brooklyn during Sukkot last year, Rabbi Yitzchok Moully was pleased. When they mentioned that they were working with Oprah Winfrey on her documentary about hasidic life, he was, he said, intrigued — but not particularly excited.
“It was cool that they were interested. I don’t think the art fitted the mold they were expecting, and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t make it on the air,” he said, speaking this past Tuesday — the day after the Feb. 13 broadcast of the second episode of the show where, in fact, he and his exhibition were featured.
Moully, in addition to being an artist in his own right, is the program director and b’nei mitzva coach at the Chabad Jewish Center in Basking Ridge. He isn’t one to blow his own horn. He prefers to talk about God’s role in such events and the potential for art to expand people’s experience of Judaism and the world.
But the Oprah exposure has been fun, he admitted, with people from all over calling, e-mailing, and sending him messages on Facebook. He mentioned the filming on his blog at Moullyart.com, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that he found out for himself that the clip would be included in the documentary.
“They sent it to me so that we could get permission from the artists whose work could be seen in the video,” he explained.
The two-part episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter appeared on her OWN cable network. It offered a peek into the hasidic lifestyle, including how its practitioners view other religions and a discussion of the sex lives of hasidic women.
Moully, 33, comes from Australia, and though his friends and family there haven’t been able to see the show yet, they were just as thrilled to hear about it. He acknowledged that publicity like this is hard to come by — and very welcome when it does. “These things are in God’s control,” he said.
It’s not surprising that he and his show caught the filmmakers’ attention. Amid the black suits and muted colors customary in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, Moully’s pink yarmulke and bright pop art paintings definitely have stood out. The exhibition included 29 artists in all, ages 13 to 80, with enthusiastic Sukkot crowds pouring in to see them until four in the morning.
His goal, he said, was “to help foster and showcase the incredible creativity within the observant community.” When the clip from the show has been digitalized and posted on-line, he said, he hopes to spread that awareness even further.