Out in the Open

Two years ago, at the age of fifty-six, Gitl Braun graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Within a year, one of her works – described by the Times of London as “enormously moving” – was being shown as part of a British Library exhibition. No small feat for someone who has spent her entire adult life in London’s cloistered ultra-Orthodox community. Born in 1950 in Israel to two Hungarian Holocaust survivors, Braun grew up in poverty; her parents’ failing health obliged them to send her to an orphanage as a toddler. At eighteen she joined Marton Braun, a rabbinical scholar (and later advertising executive), in an arranged marriage. The couple moved to London in 1973, where they ultimately raised eight children in the Hasidic enclave of Stamford Hill. In 2001, after attending an art class with her daughter Elky, now a painter, Braun enrolled at Central Saint Martins.