Hillel Smith

Jewish-gay pride mural

I have wanted to paint in the Melrose Alleys—a stretch of alleys on either side of Melrose Ave. between Fairfax and La Brea, famous for its street art—since I was twelve years old. Two decades later, I finally had the chance. For the latest addition to my collection of Hebrew murals, I partnered with JQ International to paint a mural dedicated to gay and Jewish pride. Included in the morning liturgy is a blessing originally written to be said by women that reads, "Blessed are you, God ... for making me as intended," in Hebrew, "she'asani kirtzono." This bold statement that God created each of us intentionally in these myriad bodies and forms has distinct echoes of #bornthisway, though a millennium older than hashtags. As a result, this controversial blessing has become a succinct and powerful articulation of gay pride in a Jewish context.

The mural features the blessing in Hebrew—שֶׁעָשַֽׂנִי כִּרְצוֹנוֹ—and the rough translation "I was made as intended" on a vibrant rainbow background. The rainbow flag was designed in California, adding a layer of connection between this piece and its location. It is likely that this mural, at 90 feet long and 8.5 feet tall, is the second largest Jewish mural in Los Angeles, and LA's largest extant queer mural.

In addition to its art, the area around Melrose happens to be a crossroads of historic Jewish neighborhoods and gay neighborhoods, making the placement of the mural meaningful to multiple constituencies. I hope this mural brings people together and breaks down the barriers between those who might otherwise not interact. It was a lovely surprise that within days of finishing the mural, people were already posting photos on Instagram reflecting on the blessing and its message. It helps that the colors are irresistible! You can donate to JQ in support of this mural at jqinternational.org/PrideMural.

Jewish gay pride mural gay Jewish pride Hebrew mural I was made as intended rainbow pride mural

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Jewish blessing: "she'asani kirtzono." "Blessed are you, God ... who made me as intended" #hillelsmithmutal #jqinternational #melrose #pride🌈 📸:@mynameisneo

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