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Faith & Values

Jewish cartoonist Jordan B. Gorfinkel explains how to create a cartoon panel to students at Columbus Torah Academy.

Artist combines love of comics, Judaism

Academy students get lesson on faith, creating own strips

By Meredith Heagney

Friday, October 19, 2007

The story of the Tower of Babel is a familiar one: Noah's descendants started to build a great tower that would reach heaven to show their might. God didn't approve, so he made the builders speak different languages.

In the surprise ending of a comic-strip version of the story by 11-year-olds Vlad Karlov and Micah King, some builders meowed like cats. Some woofed like dogs.

Jordan B. Gorfinkel visited the Columbus Torah Academy last week to lead comic-strip workshops for students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. The Cleveland-area artist is the creator of a weekly strip called Everything's Relative, which runs in about a dozen Jewish newspapers.

The strip focuses on Jewish themes and a group of city-dwellers in their 20s and their elderly landlords, who are Holocaust survivors.

He was in Columbus to show the students how to create a four-panel comic strip with a Jewish theme. The finished strips will be edited by Gorfinkel and displayed somewhere in central Ohio, though the school hasn't determined where.

Gorfinkel wants to show young Jews that their faith is always relevant, he said.

Drawing a comic strip "can help them relate to their religion because you're using a medium that is inherently youthful and exciting. And they get to use their own voice."

Gorfinkel easily commanded the attention of 23 sixth-graders, telling them he's a comic-book artist who worked with the Batman franchise.

"I wanted to combine my love of Yehadut (Judaism) with my love of comics and tell the story of all of us," he told the class.

The students received a crash course in how to draw a comic strip. The first three panels should set up the gag, and the fourth should be the punch line. Write the dialogue in upper case, and put the person who speaks first on the left. Draw big enough heads, and you don't really have to draw arms.

They had two choices: Tell the story of the Tower of Babel with a twist (thus the dog and cat noises), or tell a story from real life of a time when there was a misunderstanding. Some students did neither, and that was OK, too. "You might not be able to draw, but you can tell a story," Gorfinkel told them.

Gorfinkel circled the room, looking over shoulders, offering suggestions and encouragement: "Love it. Do it."

One pair of boys chose to tell the story of a man who didn't believe a flood was coming when Noah was building his ark. A morbid laugh comes in panel four, when the naysayer is underwater and blowing bubbles, saying he still doesn't believe Noah.

Two girls showed a modern misunderstanding with the tale of a young girl who pretended not to hear her mother's request to walk the dog. In another strip, two children planned separate parties on the same day, then decided to celebrate together.

Micah already knew the story of the Tower of Babel from school but thought his comic strip would imprint it on his mind for good.

"It's a lot easier to remember things that are funny," he said.


Copyright © 2007, The Columbus Dispatch

This article originally appeared on the The Columbus Dispatch website at http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/faith_values/stories/2007/10/19/comic.ART_ART_10-19-07_B4_RB86VK3.html.


READ THE CARTOONS AND LEARN MORE: www.JewishCartoon.com.