Brooklyn’s Hasidic Art Scene Expands with New Gallery

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hasidic art at The Betzalel Gallery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Hasidic art at The Betzalel Gallery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The Brooklyn art scene is getting another retro infusion — this time from Crown Heights.

The throwback references here depict a simpler time, when families were large and lived in the Old World shtetls of Eastern Europe. It’s not quite Soho, but on Empire Blvd. and Kingston Ave., situated next to a laundromat, The Betzalel Gallery is expected to officially open on Thursday.

“There is a tremendous love of art over here,” said Shumel Pultman, the director and curator of the gallery, which caters to Hasidic Jewish and Judaica art.

Pultman said the Jewish themes -- rabbis, Talmudic scholars and scenes from Israel -- make the art “Judaic.” The paintings can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There is some debate in the Jewish art world about what exactly constitutes Judaica art.

“Rembrandt wasn’t Jewish … and I believe what he painted, when it was Jewish-themed, was a Judaica painting,” Pultman said.

Others say the art must be created by Jews.

Pultman recently moved his gallery from Borough Park to Crown Heights, because that is where more of his clients live.

Shumuel Pultman, director and curator of The Betzalel Gallery (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Zev Markowitz has run the Chassidic Art Institute in Crown Heights since 1977 and said The Betzalel Gallery is the first of its kind to open in his neighborhood. He was skeptical that it marks any increase in Jewish art sales, but admitted, “more is better.”

The Betzalel Gallery will open with an exhibit of art by Itshak Holtz, whose work ranges from felt pen drawings of shtetls, to a bucolic lighthouse, to a lovingly rendered old man reading a newspaper.

“You can find many specimens of Judaica silver, but art that is two-dimensional paintings and drawings is not a very old art form. Maybe the reason is because they were always on the move. To carry a painting around is not a simple thing,” Pultman said.

Flatbush resident Yossi Segel passed the gallery a week ago and stopped in to buy a painting, even though the gallery wasn’t officially open.

“The fact that it’s my culture makes me like it that much more,” Segal said.

Paintings by Itshak Holtz on display at The Betzalel Gallery (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The Betzalel Gallery is located at 567 Empire Blvd. The exhibition, Itshak Holtz: A Personal Vision Drawings and Watercolors, opens on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and runs through June 10.


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Comments [6]


I too, have a small Tully Filmus piece. Pencil drawing, 3 Chasidim. Let me know if you are interested. Thank you.

Dec. 29 2013 12:34 AM
eduard gurevich from israel

Can I sell you my picture?!/photo.php?fbid=420746781341346&set=a.221650051251021.52885.100002180844414&type=1&theater

Feb. 20 2013 12:26 PM
phoebe shochat from Florida

I received a call from Markowitz but can't find phone number to return his call. I want to sell a Tully Filmus signed lithograph. Please respond again or email me. Thank-you. Phoebe Shochat

Dec. 20 2012 05:02 PM
eduard gurevich

You could sell my paintings?


Jun. 17 2012 01:30 PM

ArtTzaddikim is a blog created by a Chasidic woman, based on her tracings over or from photos of Tzadiks, Gedohlim, Rebbeim. She has suffered so much trying to raise funds to help her terminally ill husband, now locked up for incompetence in Miami, on verge of deportation to Paris. The woman, is from NYC, where she lives near Kew Garden Hills. Take a peak, or

May. 31 2012 10:01 PM
sam from NY

There has been a relevantly recent explosion of creative spirit in the Chassidic community.
See the work of Dov Lederberg
Yitzchok Moully -
Michael Mordechai Cohen
Just to name a few.
There is deep respect for creativity in the Chassidic community, this lecture is a great example:

May. 17 2012 01:51 AM

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