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SO SOCAL: The Best...The Beautiful...and the Bizarre

Made-to-Order Mezua

May 09, 1999|Judy Raphael

Mordechai Hazan is a rather unorthodox Orthodox Jew. At his North Hollywood studio, Jewish Art, the spirited Israeli native dances visitors around a porcelain palace of "Santa Fe"-themed Sabbath cups, Noah's Ark holiday dreidels replete with 3-D giraffes and tigers, kaleidoscope-colored Seder plates with hand-sculpted roses and butterflies, and whimsical, handmade $100 mezuzas. These are not your bubbie's blue-and-white tchotchkes.

"There's religious links to my art. But when I create, it's with a lot of freedom," admits Hazan, 38, a onetime painter who, since 1988, has earned a reputation selling his "usable Jewish collectibles" at his store and locally to the Museum of Tolerance and Skirball Cultural Center. Hazan is part of a renaissance in Jewish ceremonial art that has its roots in the '70s. "It's a fabulous phenomenon which is still thriving," says Skirball curator Grace Cohen Grossman. Indeed. But sacred mezuza cases adorned with brass instruments (special order for Herb Alpert) or an electric guitar (Neil Diamond)?

"Some people think it's not Jewish enough to put a baseball or a golf bag on a mezuza," says Hazan. "But this is not forbidden under Jewish law or I wouldn't do it. You just need courage and an open mind."

Which he's hoping President Bill Clinton has when he sends the White House his newest creation--a mezuza with a tiny sculpted saxophone.

A First Fan? "So why not?" says Hazan with a smile.

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Jewish Art by Mordechai Hazan, (818) 980-9026.

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