Chari Pere doesn’t draw for herself; she’s drawing for you. "I’m an artist for people’s sake," said the 23-year-old Modern Orthodox cartoonist from Staten Island. "I love making people laugh and smile. I love making them think."
Her epiphany came at age 11, when she began reading Calvin and Hobbs comics. "That’s when I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist," Pere said. The summer art lessons since age 6 didn’t hurt either.
Her work helps inform as well as bridge the gap between generations, from her coloring book for children with diabetes; to her comic strip "Of Biblical Proportions," which gives modern twists to the weekly parashah and was picked up by the Orthodox Union in November; to her holiday cards and calendars.
She’s also the winner of the 2008 Jerusalem Post New Cartoonist Contest. "In today’s Internet world, it’s hard for generations to connect," she says. "All ages — little kids and big kids, very big kids — love my work." She offers an explanation: "I bring the warmth I love about the Shabbos table, animals and Judaism to all my work... Whether you’re practicing or not, atheist or Orthodox, I try to make my work accessible to everyone."
Pere’s comics blur the lines between life and art."I like to think I’m revitalizing Jewish humor," Pere says. "I’m putting a positive spin on Judaism in a Mel Brooksian way."
She finds inspiration in the everyday, from conversations at the Shabbat table with her family and memories of her late dog, Randi, who appears in her comics occasionally with a halo and wings.
Her comics aren’t all light-hearted and cheerful; some explore very serious subjects. "Unmasked," a comic she worked on with Inbal Freund-Novick to highlight the plight of agunot, was commissioned as part of ROI 120’s National Agunot Day last year. She’s also working on a comic book for the Happiness Project to help kids handle bullying. It is based in part on her junior-year thesis project for the School of Visual Arts, from which she graduated in 2007 as valedictorian.
Favorite food: "My grandma’s macaroni and cheese. She adds her grandma goodness to it." Sports run in the family: "I’m a fourth generation Yankee fan. My dad is the fastest Orthodox runner; he’s completed 16 marathons. I was on the Yeshivah of Flatbush basketball team for seven years, captain for three years. I’m also a big Knicks fan."
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