Instead of joining glee club or taking studio art, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester’s middle school girls would rather spend their elective period studying Midrash, the textual interpretation of the Torah, or Jewish bible.
Perhaps it’s because Rabbi Yael Buechler, an educator at the New York-based Jewish day school, incorporates nail art into her 45-minute sessions. During “Midrash Manicures,” as she calls it, she teaches students how to handpaint designs on their nails — anything from dreidels to stars of David — inspired by the weekly Torah portion.
Although the course has only been offered since 2011, for Rabbi Buechler, Midrash Manicures started 15 years ago. “I’ve been doing nail art since before it was a fad,” she says. It has been a significant part of her religious and spiritual growth, as she changes her manicure weekly to connect to the current Torah readings.
“I thought about getting licensed to become a manicurist,” says Rabbi Buechler, “But I always knew I wanted to be a rabbi that incorporates her passions into her profession.”
After a class discussion, Rabbi Buechler talks technique. Over the course of the year her students learn basic nail prep, such as cleaning the nail bed, pushing back the cuticles, and applying base coat. The nail art itself sits on two thin coats of polish, and the trick to Rabbi Buechler’s week-long manicure lifespan is making sure polish never overlaps with skin. She uses a flat wooden toothpick to create the design.
Last year, Sally Hansen donated a year’s worth of its Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear polish and other manicure supplies to Rabbi Buechler’s class. She also partnered with American Decal Company to produce a line of Jewish nail decals under her label “Midrash Manicures.” Each pack comes with an educational quiz and two decal sets in different sizes.
Just in time for the Jewish New Year, which begins the night of Sept. 16, Midrash Manicures released Rosh Hashanah-themed decals.
“Midrash Manicures is innovative religious expression, and the key is there’s always some component of learning associated with the program,” says Rabbi Buechler.
Rabbi Buechler’s favorite polish color is OPI’s discontinued “Life Is a Cabernet,” and one day hopes to create a line of polish with witty biblical themed names.
Visit the website to purchase nail decals, view Rabbi Buechler’s nail art gallery, or learn more about Midrash Manicures curriculum.