Finding Wholeness

Creative Judaism: How I Healed Through Art

Leer en español: Judaísmo Creativo: Cómo Sané Mediante el Arte

I come from generations of fiber artists. For as long as I can remember, the women in my family have found solace and joy in creating heirlooms to be passed down to future generations as a way of demonstrating love and enveloping children in the most blessed of wishes.

I first started crocheting after I had my wisdom teeth removed. I found myself in bed with a desperate need to create; it wasn’t about keeping my hands busy, but more as a need to redirect the discomfort from the procedure into something tangible that transformed the pain to joy.

It was from that day forward that I began my journey. First, I started teaching myself how to create more intricate things, finding peace in the challenge of learning a new skill. When my first son was born, I fell into a deep postpartum depression. The pain and deep confusion of how the miracle of bringing my child into this world could cause such pain and sadness was deafening, and I found myself staring at walls trying to find meaning to all these feelings, lost in the thoughts of loneliness.

It was then when my mother encouraged me to pick my crochet hook back up and begin creating. Slowly, I started finding meaning by creating pieces such as hats, scarves, or even small stuffed animals for others, and soaking in the joy that I would get when I would see my own son’s eyes as they beheld the small creations in awe. The ability to create different objects for others was a gentle reminder that there was drive left in me to crawl out of the darkness and find the light.

When the pandemic started in 2020, like many other parents, I stocked up on crafting supplies in an attempt to keep both my children and myself busy during the lockdown. It was during this time that I also reconnected with my Judaism, engaging in different online communities that enriched my soul through text study and Jewish learning. At this same time, I discovered the joys of painting. At first, I practiced with samples I would find on the internet.

As the years went, and we started to slowly re-enter society, my passion for Jewish text and art only grew, and I found acrylic pouring, which is a painting technique that involves thinning paint and pouring it through different methods to create abstract pieces. During the last year, I have embarked on a self-discovery journey by combining acrylic pouring and Jewish themes, combining them and creating pieces that have helped me gain a deeper understanding of my own Jewish journey through creative expression.

When I created my very first Jewish-themed piece, I felt a deep sense of fulfillment; it felt as if adding my Jewish journey to an art piece completed it both as a canvas and emotionally for me. This particular piece included the “Sh’ma” text — one of the most sacred Jewish prayers, during which we affirm our connection to G-d as the Jewish people. Eventually, I embarked in an academic journey and recently became certified as a Trauma-Informed Creative Arts Therapist.

If I had to look back, I have no doubt that creative expression has become an integral part to my wellness journey. I am someone who often struggles with the ability to comprehend Jewish text at its core by simply reading it. While I have always appreciated the lessons, my brain seeks to create in order to grow. Everyone’s journey is so different, and Judaism is so filled with rituals and lessons that are so relevant to the lives we live today. The ability to create and engage our brains, hearts, and souls in healing from trauma, whether it be something as small as dental work, or dealing with our mental health, gives us all an opportunity to translate feelings into action when words fail us. It allows us the opportunity to express our deepest thoughts and engage more meaningfully within our spaces, as well as enhance our own rituals to their highest potential.

Nowadays, I have gotten into the practice of carving time out of my day to create. I have gotten into the practice of living my life with enough intention that it allows me to take the important lessons, whether big or small, and translate them into art. In doing so, I am taking agency in rewriting my story from trauma into tangible joy.

In sharing my story, I hope that you too are able to find the outlet that connects you to your story. Whether it be through writing, meditation, or pouring paint into a blank canvas, may you be able to find a way to tell your truth and find the happiness that lives within all of us. Even if you feel lost, connect to your inner-self (and silence your inner critic!) and find your own voice through your creative expression. Forget perfection, forget your skill level; create!

At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.


The Shema, My Jewish Learning

Art by Pam Alcala,

Creative Judaism: How I Healed Through Art
Pam Alcala
Pam Alcala

Pam Alcala (she/her/ella) is an aspiring artist and hopeless idealist, ready to take At The Well globally by supporting and strengthening our Spanish and JOC Programming. Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, Pam has spent the last 20 years living in Long Island, NY.

During the last 6 years, Pam has held various roles where she uses her skills as a Social Worker and Jewish Educator to build relationships and strengthen leadership skills, as well as promote Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work. She is currently a Fellow for the NGF Leadership Seminar as well as completing a certification in Trauma-Informed Creative Arts Therapy. She is currently serving as the Family Educator and Artist-in-Residence at Temple Sinai of Roslyn in Long Island, NY. Pam received a B.A. in Anthropology and Criminal Justice, and a Masters in Social Work from Adelphi University in Garden City, NY.  She also has two wonderful children and spends whatever free time she finds crafting by either painting or crocheting!

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