CROWN HEIGHTS — Why is this improv night different from all other improv nights?
If you ask curator Rabbi Yitzchok Moully what separates the ever-expanding roster of events at his Crown Heights Hasidic arts festival Creative Soul from any other arts festival in Brooklyn, his answer is likely to be not terribly much — and that's the point.
"It surprises people to find out there really is a tremendous amount of creativity in the Hasidic community," said Moully, who has run the fall pop-up gallery and arts festival in the neighborhood for the past three years. "Asher Lev says [art and religion] are two different worlds, but really they’re one in the same."
Of course, there are physical separations — several of the weeks' events, which continue until Oct. 10, have been designated women only, while mixed-gender events feature a partition to maintain separate seating. But when it comes to a separation between creativity and strict religious observance, Moully said he doesn't see it.
"God had a deep desire to create the world — the desire to create was deep within Himself," the rabbi explained. "Because men are made in the image of God, the desire to create is also in us."
This year, Moully, a painter, invited other creative Hasidim from the neighborhood to weigh in on that topic at a lecture series called Chabadx after the popular TEDx talks. (Like TED, Chabad is actually a three-letter acronym in Hebrew, whose components stand for wisdom, understanding and knowledge.)
"It's different Chabad Hasidim who have some connection to the arts talking about their passion within Judaism," said Chabadx participant Yocheved Sidof, who runs Crown Heights' Lamplighters Yeshivah. "Some of us may wear black and white, but the actual life in our rich world is not black and white — it’s colorful."
While the community has largely embraced the event, Moully said he still gets funny looks from older, more tradition-bound residents.
"We get the occasional older generation scratching their heads, saying, what is it?" Moully said. "But that’s fine. That’s absolutely cool. We're here to blow people’s minds."