Sara Erenthal grew up in a Neturei Karta community in Borough Park but split with her family after her parents returned to Israel. Her latest works draw on the life she left behind.
Sara Erenthal, who split from her ultra-Orthodox Jewish family as a teen, draws on the painful life she left behind in a series of intimate artworks on display in a Prospect Heights gallery.
“This is nice way to tell my story in a very minimal way,” the 33-year-old artist said.
Erenthal was born in Israel and spent much of her childhood in a small Neturei Karta community in Borough Park.
Her family returned to Israel when she was a teen, but she ran away to escape an arranged marriage, she said.
Erenthal had never really believed in the community’s strict teachings, which called for unwavering modesty for women and an end to the state of Israel.
“It’s not really about being good people,” Erenthal said. “It’s more about being afraid of God.”
Now estranged from her father, Erenthal reimagines her childhood in her show at the SoapBox Gallery on Dean St.
A small bed sits near the entrance with a nightstand drawer open to real family photos from the artist’s life.
Ceremonial clothes hang on the wall next to portraits partially made of burlap, like the sacks Neturei Karta members wear to protests.
Video of Erenthal — naked and bound in holy tefillin straps — plays on television near a massive paper mache head adorned with braids made of rope, meant to show the hairstyle Erenthal was limited to as a child.
The show is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday through Sept. 13.
It’s common for people who leave ultra-Orthodox communities to use art as therapy, but few make the jump to professional, said Rachel Berger, director of community engagement at Footsteps, a nonprofit service provider that has supported Erenthal’s work.
“She’s really chosen to make a life from her art and to live in the art world, and that’s an incredibly tough choice,” Berger said. “She has a real gift and a vision and a determination to put that gift out into the world.”
Erenthal sought out different paths after she left her family, serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and backpacking through India, before finally returning to New York and establishing herself as an artist, she said.
She has found a new community of friends and artists, who have supported her work and helped her get shows.
“They’re the ones that make my future possible,” she said.