Karin Holzer menorah
By Rochelle Miller

Chanukah is a festival proclaiming miracles and deliverance, light and happy endings. Recently, Karin Holtzer experienced a Chanukah miracle of her own that brought light and unity to Am Yisrael and the world.

It all began when the gifted Judaica artist entered “The Next Original Artist” competition two months ago.

Launched on November 7 by the Kessler Collection, a portfolio of passionately created and artistically inspired boutique hotels, the five-week competition was held with the objective of finding the next great artist.

Heralding the launch with a prominent billboard in Times Square, the contest invited up-and-coming artists to submit original artwork, including paintings, sculptures, photography, mixed media, fiber, printmaking, and other media.

After reviewing more than 5,000 original pieces of art, Richard Kessler, chairman and CEO of Kessler Enterprise, Inc., and his panel of judges identified the finalists.

A known art aficionado, Kessler wanted to find a way to support emerging artists and help them get exposure for their artwork. The idea for “The Next Original” competition was initially sparked when Kessler was presented with a special opportunity.

The Kessler Collection was offered a large electronic billboard in Times Square and decided to accept it. “And then we thought about how we could use our interest in art and our interest in emerging artists … to promote the artists and their art as part of our culture and DNA in the Kessler group. So the next step was putting together a contest to bring out these emerging artists.”

On Friday, December 16, the ten finalists were invited to the private judging ceremony in the Amethyst Ballroom at JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District where Richard Kessler announced the grand-prize winners.

The grand prize included having the winning work featured on the electronic billboard on Times Square near the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. Additionally, the art will be showcased in the Kessler Collection’s newest properties. It is a coveted prize that compelled many artists to enter the competition.

One such talent is Karin Holtzer, a gifted Judaica artist who participates in international exhibits and is represented in the Tel Aviv Opera Arts Building. Born in Sefad and raised in Kiryat Shmona, Karin lives in Woodmere with her husband and their two sons and is an integral part of the fabric of our Five Towns community. An architect by profession, Karin discovered her passion for painting at a tender age and acquired her initial knowledge from her mother, a celebrated artist.

Raised in a world of art, Karin mastered a keen observation and philosophy that perceives art dominating everything that surrounds us. She grew up in the Pearl of the North, amidst spectacular mountain views alongside many magnificent waterfalls. Surrounded by the splendor of Hashem’s creations imbued Karin with a love for nature. “I loved to ski on Mount Hermon and hike near the Banias and the Jordan River,” she says.

“About two months ago, I chanced upon a national art competition sponsored by the Kessler Collection seeking the Next Original Artist in the United States. The Kessler Collection is a prestigious art curator and owner of luxury hotels in the American southeast. I submitted three pieces of my artwork, two of which were paintings of water lilies and one a unique three-dimensional painting of a Menorah. Four weeks ago, they called to inform me that I was chosen as one of the ten finalists from among 5,000 artists from all over the United States. My family and I were flown to Savannah, Georgia, for the Winners Ceremony. The excitement was electrifying as we waited in anticipation to learn who would win the grand prize. Whose work would be displayed on a huge billboard in Times Square and viewed by the millions of celebrants gathered there on New Year’s Eve to welcome 2023? In addition, which artist would receive a huge contract with Kessler Collection to have their work represented in all their galleries throughout the United States?”

Devout in her Torah observance and determined to succeed, Karin has always been undeterred by any challenges she has encountered. Indeed, she advocates the maxim, “Be true to yourself.” To illustrate her point, she cited an experience at the recent competition.

“A Kessler representative called to inform me that Mr. Kessler had requested that I bring one of my Water Lilies paintings for the final judging. (Editor’s Note: Karin’s acclaimed Water Lilies series had captured Richard Kessler’s attention and he expressed his wish for one of these exquisite works to be Karin’s final entry. Karen, however, favored a different painting and respectfully informed the representative of her choice.)

“I told her that I was bringing my Menorah,” Karin recalls.

Not sure that she had accurately heard Karin’s response, the representative asked, “What are you bringing?”

“My Menorah,” repeated the artist.

All of the representative’s attempts to convince Karin to acquiesce to Richard Kessler’s request proved futile; Karin clung tenaciously to her decision to submit “her Menorah” as her final entry. Even her husband, who is Karin’s most ardent supporter, had doubts as to whether she had made the right decision.

Imagine, then, the couple’s elation at their personal nes as Karin’s beloved Menorah won the Grand Prize and she was declared “The Next Original” as we lit the first Chanukah candle.

Karin asserts, “Believe in yourself, in what you can accomplish, no matter what people tell you. You have to remain true to yourself, to your agenda. Despite the challenge I faced of being pressured to change my entry to Mr. Kessler’s request, I remained true to myself and I’m convinced that, b’ezrat Hashem, I won because of the miracle of the Menorah.”

All of the finalists had their artwork displayed in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, and they will be exhibited at Kessler properties throughout the United States. Kessler plans to hold more competitions in the future to give emerging artists across the country a platform to showcase their work.

“I felt that this was a huge miracle—not just for me, but for all of Am Yisrael,” Karin shared. “I was so excited to see my Menorah painting, the symbol of the menorah, that at this very moment was lit at the Western Wall. This is truly a miracle beyond nature.”

Karin added, “I am full of hope that we will all look at the light of the menorah that is now also in the golah that is presented on the Times Square billboard and that we will know that there is hope for the people of Israel. In spite of the wave of anti-Semitism, I’m optimistic for unity and peace in the entire world. When I landed in New York after the competition with my Menorah painting in my hand, it was precisely the time to light the first Chanukah candle. What timing for such a competition! How Hashem set up this painting to participate in an unknown destination and to win precisely during our days of miracles. Miracles don’t just happen ba’yamim ha’heim—a miracle just happened ba’zeman ha’zeh! 

Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer, and educator, and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com. Read more of Rochelle Miller’s articles at 5TJT.com.


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