When you first meet Chaya Fayga Rave, you might think you’re looking at a run-of- the-mill “kollel wife,” a modest and soft-spoken woman with a gentle smile. You would probably never guess that she was considered one of the greatest rising stars in the world of art in the Soviet Union, where she grew up; nor that she had the honor of displaying her first solo exhibition at the tender age of twelve. Like her paintings, Chaya Fayga’s life has contained a dizzying array of colors, layers, and textures that one might not notice at first glance.
The story of how Chaya Fayga came to study art is straight out of a fairy tale. She was born in Berdychiv, Ukraine, and as a girl she enjoyed drawing, but never showed her drawings to anyone or thought of art as something she would like to pursue. One day, a friend of hers asked her if she would like to tag along to the entrance exam for a famous art school in the area. Chaya Fayga accompanied her friend to the centuries-old palace where the school was located. Her friend went into the exam room and Chaya Fayga sat outside in the corridor, carefully studying the beautiful engravings in the stone. After a while, a friendly teacher approached her and invited her to come take the exam as well, just to pass the time, since it would be a long wait. Chaya Fayga followed her inside, and began drawing according to the instructions for the exam. She became absorbed in her work and didn’t notice the teacher over her shoulder. Suddenly, the teacher called the whole room to a halt, held up Chaya Fayga’s work, and declared that she would not be able to let talent like this pass her by. Chaya Fayga was offered a place in the top class on the spot.
“The classes I took in Ukraine were consistent with the country’s character: uncompromising professionalism,” she recalls. “For example, I wasn’t allowed to use any tools to sketch a picture or scene other than my eyes and hands. We crafted the paintbrushes ourselves, hair by hair. They demanded absolute precision, down to the millimeter. We never used black or white paints. Paintings of nature scenes were only done out in nature. We learned how to perceive the many hues reflected in every color in nature, to identify the hundreds of shades that compose what appears to be one solid color.”
Her solo exhibition went on display while she studied in that school, and she was described in a local paper as “a star born in the Ukrainian skies.” But her promising career in Ukraine came to a halt with the fall of the Soviet Union. “Well-off people lost everything in an instant. My father passed away, and my mother and I decided to leave the country. I dreamed of going to Israel; I was active in the Jewish Agency and enjoyed Jewish studies. I felt that the Holy Land was waiting for me to paint it! I especially longed to see its holy cities. Tzfat, the city of my dreams, stretches across more than a few of my paintings, even though I had never really seen it. But,” she says, “Hashem wanted otherwise, and we went to Berlin, where I became acquainted with the illustrious charedi community of Lauder. I studied in a seminary, and displayed my paintings in a few galleries there. It was there that my aspiration to build a house of Torah, in all its purity, took hold.”
Eventually, Chaya Fayga was able to make aliyah. In Tzfat, the city of her dreams, she discovered a whole world of Jewish art and began developing her own unique style and techniques. “Parchment is used a great deal in Judaica—for example, the scroll of Esther or ketubot [marriage contracts] for a bride and groom. So working with parchment makes it possible to emphasize an authentic Jewish feel and to convey messages more effectively than with paper. With God’s help, I have recently developed a new technique for etching and pyrography on leather. Leather is more sensitive than parchment; on parchment, you can change your plan, take a line you’ve already drawn and turn it into something different. Leather is a ‘one-way street.’ There’s a lesson to be learned here in life as well.”
Chaya Fayga also earned a degree in industrial design, and applied her knowledge and skills to invent WonderTisch, an innovative desk designed specifically to meet the needs of Jewish scribes. She also enjoys designing other products for organizations and communities, like Holy Arks to store Torah Scrolls. She taught art and design for a time at Shen- kar University.
Today, Chaya Fayga offers private art classes for both beginners and advanced students. She works primarily as a coach than as a teacher: analyzing each student’s unique talents and inclinations, she guides them accordingly, selecting the techniques and methods that will help the student grow artistically in their own unique way.
And, most importantly, while juggling her studies, teaching, and business, she was blessed to fulfill her most cherished dream: she met her husband, Yaakov, and together, they are raising a family in a house infused with Torah.
Chaya Fayga’s work is characterized by its vitality and diversity. Some of her paintings are bright, with brilliant colors portraying lush landscapes; some are more understated, with more subtle and muted colors, but all of them have a uniquely spiritual character. “My choice of style and technique is very deliberate,” says Chaya Fayga.”I carefully think about what my client has asked for and try to connect not only to the image, but to the feeling they are seeking. As a rule, the main task of an artist is to ‘sketch’ the atmosphere, to convey exactly what is happening down to the finest detail. But in my case, that’s not all. I connect to the spiritual essence of the painting.”
To book an appointment:
053 312 1293