Photography and Video Exhibit in the Wexner Gallery: Hasidic Exhibit at Israel Museum In Jerusalem
Worth visiting the Israel Museum—Wexner Gallery as a Hasidic Exhibit at the Israel Museum
It was an exhibit of photographs, videos and objects from Hasidic Jews, yes, Orthodox Jewish people, mostly in Israel , a few Brooklyn, Montreal and yesteryear in Europe .
I came out a bit bombarded by the large walls full of video images of clapping and hopping Hasidic men at the tisch (table) of the Hasidic Rebbes. The hopping men were at weddings, Purim celebrations and Tu B’Shvat celebrations or during prayer. At the celebrations there were those metal collapsible stadiums they climbed on to fill up the large halls. The Rebbe, whether Bobover,Lelover, or other, was presiding over the many grey bearded men, young men and young boys—again a lot of clapping and no big sessions with learning for hours over a gemarra. (Is that what the men in my town only do?? I recall they work and learn Torah and pray for hours and live in private homes with their wives and children.)
So I was reminded of the Roman Vishniak book of photos of yesteryear. A load of public occasion, street occasions, nothing interpersonal like the three and a half thousand years of family life and yeshiva studies, nothing like the private father and son learning. My friend Miriam’s husband learned each night for one decade for one hour plus with their son, rain or sunshine. And then he dedicated the same hours to the second son, some years overlapping for a whopping two plus hours nightly. That meant years of family time in Torah between father and son on a person to person basis. (Personally I got the Roman V. book about 25 years ago and after awhile hid it on a top closet shelf—then looked at it over and over and then hid it again, naseous from the poverty and bitter faces—then a few years later just threw out the book, when no one was looking. Shhhh, you know my secret.)
Many dozens of friends of mine have husbands doing the same learning with their sons, one had eight sons. So that was not captured. There are some of those Rebbes in the photos, who I vouch for them, they learn 8 to 12 hours a day for sometimes twenty to fifty years —really, reading gemarra and other holy books morning to night and in the midnight hours,too. I know this on a personal level, not mythical. That was not captured at all. Those holy rabbis are singing and you view them in the videos—they are connected wih the God of Moses, steeped in spiritual reverie based on study—not touchy feely stuff like the original Baal Shem Tov theme of loving God without scholarship—these Rebbes are scholars with memories that can rattle off Tanya or Gemarra or Mishnayos or Chumash or Rashi or Rambam—word for word dozens of pages all by heart and in the heart! That was not written up. Too bad. But AT LEAST no nasty Roman V. poverty stuff—hurray for that, Ms. Ester!!!!
My hundreds of hours doing Torah homework with my sons and daughters for 29 years and, bli ayin hora, about eleven hours per week for thirty five years ( so far) preparing the Sabbath and holiday meals, that was not in any photos. Baking challas, cooking chicken soup, corned beed, chicken, making matzoh balls, cakes, fruit platters, vegetable dishes, yada yada yada. Teaching my children and Neve seminary students ‘how to’ make a Shabos meal is another thing I do, not in the exhibit. Written up was how women help other women when the other families have illness or a need, that was stated—but no photos of the ten thousand meals given to famlies via Tomchei Shaobs weekly around the world for the Sabbath for the needy.
The public photos were great, no poverty like Roman V. A load of happy Hasidim—that was splendid!!!! No criticism for that, just proud to be a Jew like those happy people in the videos and photos. (But there is MUCH more fun and holiness and positive meaning capturable that was missed—next time, okay?)
Let’s talk about some of the spectacular photography!!! The artistic photos by Zion Ozeri of Mt. Zion gravesite took my breath away! woow, and Andrey Gorb photographed Bratslav Hasidim in Uman, Ukraine, at tashlich, what a scene by the lake—worth an award for its artistic grasp of the moment , then the Bobover Rebbe with a bride at a Mitzvah Dance by photographer Yuval Nadel—enhanced by an accomanying video of of few weddings—really spirituality was captured, just gorgeous, plus all the Menachem Kahana photos like the Wheat Harvest for Shemura Matzoh—Much of the drama that I have felt during the above celebrations and tasks that I have participated in were/was absorbed in the above photographers renditions. Bravo and God bless them all. Now all Jews should try to experience first hand such joyous and holy events!!!! Don’t just look at these photos, guys. Come in person. (reach me by commenting in beyondarecipe.com and I can hook you up for the revolution of Jewish tasks and celebrations.)
Kudos to the curators five years of superb research: good for you, Ester Muchawsky-Schnapper!
Again the home life is the critical corner that holds the foundation of Jewry. That was missed. But Ms. Ester, God willing, will reach me and I can enhance the future exhibit, free of charge.
Meanwhile, I am just refreshed/relieved that the exhibit did not leave me with a bitter taste of any nasty anti-semitism. What a relief. Kudos and bravos to Ms. Esther and to the Israel Museum . One photo of a boy with toy gun on Purim says he depicts the Other—that means as a boy in a paratrooper costume, he is the Other—Other is a gentle name for the Satan. A bit overstated—my son is a paratrooper and I take offense—that was one slur—but Ms. Ester, do remove that, although it is also in print in all the books already selling at your museum book store.—at least remove it from the caption on the museum wall, would you?
Blessings for success and for giving viewers inspiration to try experiencing Judaism first hand in Montreal, New York and especially in Israel by Kiryat Sanz and Jerusalem and Beitar and Beit Shemesh. We are hear to share our Orthodox (ultra-) Judaism with you, fellow Jews—wander in. You,too, Esther! We aint just in exhibits, thank God.. Pulsing and breathing—not a VANISHED world.
Now to see the personal and the nonpublic face?
The artistry and the fanfare and the music were festive and professional and Judaism was not smeared—thank God! Worth visiting until the exhibit ends December 1, 2012.
Beyondarecipe.com review exclusive here