Photo Credit: Daniel Coleman

The small shul that I grew up in was among the largest and most vibrant of its day in the first half of the 20th Century when it was located in London’s East End. Between 1916 and 1919, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok Kook became the mara d’asra. (He had been in Germany at the outbreak of the First World War and managed to escape to London where he was invited to become Rabbi. My wife’s grandparents had the zechus of being married by him during that period.) He wasa visionary in many respects. The publication of “A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace,” depicts a progression, guided by Torah and halacha, towards a vegetarian society. His vision was 100 years ahead of its time and as health concerns have led me to eliminate red meat from my diet in recent years, I often find myself at kiddushim and events wondering what Rav Kook would make of our consumption habits.

Rav Kook is perhaps best known as someone that saw the Divine spark in everyone and everything. He once wrote, “I visited the National Gallery (in London)… When I first saw the paintings by Rembrandt, they reminded me of the words of our Sages about the Creation of Light: When G-d created the light, it was so strong and bright, that one could see from one end of the world to the other end. But G-d was apprehensive that evil people will take advantage of it, so what did G-d do? He kept that light hidden for the righteous ones in the world to come. But once in a while there are great people that G-d blesses them in seeing the hidden light. I think Rembrandt was one of them, and the light in his paintings is the light that G-d created during the days of Creation.”



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In this spirit, before I take a break from writing over the summer, I wanted to reflect on an underrated perk of working at YU. I spend half of each work-week on our midtown (Beren) campus working with both our undergraduate women and our Katz School of Science and Health graduate students (in programs ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity to OT and PA). On the 8th floor, above our classrooms and my office, is a beautifully renovated and light-filled art studio. This crown jewel is often overlooked, a hidden light within YU, like many of the artists themselves.

I imagine it would be the first place that Rav Kook would want to visit on a tour of the campus. For me, whenever I step into this space it provides a meditative timeout to my day. I imagine and hope that for our students too it provides an antidote to the frenetic pace of their lives, and I’m sorry that there is no similar space on the men’s campus. Looking at the paintings and sculptures at various stages of formation is a reminder that we are all works in progress and, like some of those pieces at the end of the year, some of us will forever remain in an unfinished state. And that’s ok.

While I can only feature here a fraction of the art from the wonderfully curated end of year Art Salon, I hope you’ll take a moment to view the entire catalog ( and join me in appreciating our gifted students and the diversity of their talent. I pray that each of our students and each of us in our own unique way find and express our true gifts, adding light, color and beauty to Hashem’s world.

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Rabbi Daniel Coleman, MBA, is sought after for his creative and strategic approach to career preparedness, transitions, and success. In addition to presenting to high school groups on career/financial preparedness, Daniel coaches college-bound students on navigating the admission process and crafting an excellent application. He is a popular scholar in residence in communities across America and beyond. Connect with him at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.