What Can Graphic Novels do for Jewish Literacy? With Your Help, a LOT!

$2,335   raised
GOAL: $3,500

70 days to go

47

 Donors

Support this cause and make a difference

This campaign receives the funds directly as soon as the funds are processed.

Who I Am

Hi. I am an artist, illustrator, and author and I love making and writing about contemporary Jewish Art. But before that, I made conceptual art with electrical wires. How did I go from wires to Jewish art? It started with a memory.

Rialto Bridge, illustration, Ben Schachter

In 2002, I studied abroad in Venice Italy. The streets wound their way over bridges and under buildings. The Venetians threaded these streets everyday! Flash forward to 2007, I came across a map of Venice that included the outline of its eruv. An eruv is a symbolic Jewish enclosure that embraces an entire neighborhood. For Orthodox and traditional Jewish communities the boundary declares the space within as one communal home, which allows people to carry objects on the Sabbath. In my imagination, I saw the eruv threading its way through the city like the Venetians.

Up until that point, I had very little experience with eruv maps and so I did a little reading. I was captivated by all the rules described in the Talmud. Why? Like electrical wiring, the eruv had to be a loop and the wires could not cross. For the next ten years, I made eruv map paintings with acrylic and thread on paper. They were very well received! Here is one article about my work.

Venice Eruv 2007, Ben Schachter

But as time passed, and I read more Talmud, I realized that my conceptual artwork didn’t capture something else that started to become more and more interesting – the lives of the sages.

What Is Akhnai Pizza About?

Akhnai Pizza is my first attempt to develop a series of visual stories that explore how sages treated each other in Jewish literature and why that might be important to us today. Akhnai Pizza is my retelling of the famous debate between Rabbi Eliezer and others – The Oven of Akhnai. Their disagreement focuses on an oven that is cut into coils like a snake. Eliezer says that the oven can never be ritually soiled. To prove it, he calls on a tree, a river, the walls of a building, and Heaven. Indeed! Heaven agrees with Rabbi Eliezer.

What was the sages response? Did they accept Heaven’s decree? No. They famously say, “The Law is not in Heaven!” This is understood to mean that since Jewish Law had already been given to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai, it is the people – and the sages – who interpret it. Sometimes, people stop reading the story at this point. But there is more! Rabbi Eliezer is excommunicated and and it only gets worse from there!

Akhnai Pizza is my contemporary retelling of this tale. The characters argue over the best pizza in the city. Instead of a tree getting up and walking away, one of Pittsburgh’s famous bridges steps off its moorings. Throughout, I focus on the characters, what they are feeling, what they want, and how a friendly argument descends into mistrust.

Want to know what happens next? Preorder your copy of Akhnai Pizza.

But even more important than that, be part of the story.

Help bring Jewish texts and modern storytelling together.

Why is Akhnai Pizza Important?

Akhnai Pizza is important for two reasons. First, it is written for readers who like graphic novels and comic books who might not know much about Jewish texts – yet! My stories are not just another illustration of Jewish literature. My stories reinterpret them for new readers. In Akhnai Pizza friends discuss the best pizza in the city, they argue over sports – just like the rest of us. But the story also explores human nature, why we lose friendships, and maybe what we can do about it. A comic book is the ideal form to tell that story. And it all starts with an innocent question, “What makes Akhnai Pizza the best?”

And that brings me to the second reason Akhnai Pizza is important. Comic books and Graphic novels do not lack for Jewish content. From Maus to recent visual editions of Anne Frank’s Diary, the Jewish imagination is thriving. Akhnai Pizza contributes to our collective imagination in another way. It makes direct connections to our written and spoken traditions and our lived experience using a popular form – visual story telling.

Support Akhnai Pizza and visual story telling, today.

Why I Need Your Help

I need you to help me complete this project. I have been working on the illustrations for over a year. But I need you for the last part, publishing and distributing Akhnai Pizza. I hope that it will be widely read and that it will be the first of many!

Support this cause and make a difference

This campaign receives the funds directly as soon as the funds are processed.

More Ways to Learn About this Cause

No new updates
2020-07-03
Anonymous donor
2020-07-02
Barry Faigen & Debby Eisner
$36
"Great stuff! innovative as well as unique and creative. looking forward to more of your work."
2020-07-01
Anonymous donor
"very much looking forward to reading and sharing this"
2020-06-27
Anonymous donor
$250
2020-06-25
Elhassid Family
$18
"We can't wait for the book!"
2020-06-24
Anonymous donor
2020-06-24
Dustin Atlas
$18
2020-06-23
Anonymous donor
$18
2020-06-23
Rachel Steinberg
2020-06-23
Stefanie Small
$18
2020-06-23
Jordan Rosenblum
2020-06-23
Dr Victor Majzner
$18
"Jewish art rocks"
2020-06-22
Kate Palley
$18
2020-06-22
Heather & Michael Vidmar-McEwen
2020-06-22
Anonymous donor
2020-06-22
Julie and Rob Paris
$36
"We are so excited about this project and can't wait to read your comic with our kids! Yasher Koach!"
2020-06-22
Ron Wohlgemuth
$18
"Messages through art will bring positivity to a struggling world--fantastic job, Ben!!!..."
2020-06-21
Anonymous donor
2020-06-21
Laura Levitt
$18
"Good luck, this looks great!"
2020-06-21
Donna Moran
"Congratulations!"
2020-06-19
Yona Verwer
"Congratulations Ben Schachter. You are a Renaissance man!"
2020-06-19
Anonymous donor
"Wonderful project worthy of support."
2020-06-19
Behrmann Cohen Plaut
2020-06-18
Oren Dobzinski
$36
"It looks awesome! Yishar Koach, Ben!"
2020-06-18
Jacob Wisse
2020-06-17
Rabbi Fredric Pomerantz
$36
2020-06-17
Anonymous donor
2020-06-17
Anonymous donor
"I love the concept -- the rich, layered meanings of the original tale; the visual form; retelling the story in a contemporary setting; introducing a whole new set of folk to Jewish thought and practice. Beautiful and brilliant. All the strands weaving tog"
2020-06-17
Jennie and Richard Schachter
2020-06-16
Anonymous donor
$250
"Very excited about this book!"
2020-06-16
Avram Avishai
$18
"Congratulations on making it this far!"
2020-06-16
Anonymous donor
2020-06-16
Samantha Baskind
$18
2020-06-16
Anonymous donor
2020-06-16
Joel Silverstein
$18
"Good luck, Ben!!!"
2020-06-15
Rabbi Mordechai Rackover
"Looking forward to seeing it!"
2020-06-15
Aaron Ziff
$36
2020-06-15
Kim Ramirez
$36
2020-06-15
Charles McWade
$100
2020-06-15
Michael Prywes
"Mazal tov, Ben! Can’t wait to read!"
2020-06-15
Billy Wisse
$150
"Happy to help bring Ben's talents and unique vision to more of the kehilla and world!"
2020-06-15
Zack Block
$36
"I'm so excited to read this! Mazal Tov Ben!"
2020-06-15
Anonymous donor
2020-06-15
Anonymous donor
2020-06-13
Anonymous donor
$8
2020-06-13
Anonymous donor
2020-06-11
Anonymous donor
$36

What Can Graphic Novels do for Jewish Literacy? With Your Help, a LOT!

$2,335   raised
GOAL: $3,500

70 days to go

47

 Donors

Campaign organizer profile img
Campaign by
Ben Schachter
PA, USA

Hi! I am an artist, illustrator, and author. I bring Jewish texts and ideas into my work. My artwork has been exhibited at the Jewish Museum in New York, the Jewish Museum in Berlin, The Westmoreland Museum in PA, and throughout the United States. I was also invited to participate in the Jerusalem Biennale in 2017. My illustrations can be found on 929.com, a website that publishes daily interpretations of Tanakh. Also, take a look for my book, "Image, Action, and Idea in Contemporary Jewish Art." I live in Pittsburgh with my wife and four children.

  • One Slice To-Go
    21 claimed

    One Slice To Go orders will receive a printed copy of Akhnai Pizza.

  • Combo
    8 claimed

    Combo orders will receive a digital copy and printed copy of Akhnai Pizza.

  • Whole Pie
    4 claimed

    A Whole Pie includes a digital copy, 2 printed copies, and 1 printed SIGNED copy of Akhnai Pizza

  • Dinner Deluxe
    3 claimed

    Dinner Deluxe orders will receive a digital copy, 2 printed copies, 1 printed SIGNED copy, PLUS Dinner Deluxe orders will be thanked by name in the acknowledgements.

  • Ultimate Pizza Supreme
    0 claimed

    Each Ultimate Pizza Guy will receive a full package of 20 copies of Akhnai Pizza, a link to a digital copy, PLUS 1 additional printed SIGNED copy. Their names will be listed in the Acknowledgements. Pizza Guys can also schedule a 1 hour virtual call with Ben Schachter who will talk to a class, community group, or congregation. Ben will discuss his creative process. How does he turn Jewish texts into pictures? And they will already have copies of Akhnai Pizza to share with their members before the call! (Live appearances can be discussed but are not guaranteed or promised with this pledge level.)

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