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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Crown Heights’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/19/08

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Dear Readers,

Several weeks ago, this column ran a letter from a woman who had slipped on the sidewalk of a main avenue in Brooklyn’s Boro Park in daylight hours. The author wrote of her pain from the wound inflicted by the fact that no one had stopped to offer assistance or to see if she was capable of continuing on her way.

The following are some of your reactions to “Unbelievable but true”

(Chronicles 9-26).

Letter 1

Dear Rachel,

Unfortunately, I cannot counter the woman’s complaint about falling on 13th Avenue and no one helping. I had a similar experience in Crown Heights about 20 years ago. I was nine months pregnant, walking on an icy day. I was passing by a yeshiva dorm, fell, and went sliding on the ice on my back. Swarms of young men were walking around me, and I was totally ignored. I got up myself and walked away, shocked, never to forget that experience.

No longer shocked

Letter 2

Dear Rachel,

I would like to respond to the woman who fell on 13th Avenue. Unfortunately, this incident does not surprise me in the slightest. In fact, is goes right along with the new character of Boro Park.

I grew up in Boro Park, and when I got married I moved out (thank goodness). I am a young mother, just like many of the people walking the streets of Boro Park in the afternoon. I do come back from time to time to visit family and to do some shopping.

I find most of the people I encounter to be rude and completely self-absorbed. I can come back to my car and find fresh dents or nicks with not even a note of apology.

I once asked a woman to please move her stroller because it was blocking the steps inside a store, and she looked at me like I had three heads.

I am only 33 years old, but the young people today were not raised with any sort of manners in dealing with other people. I have found that the frumer the person, the greater their “holier than thou” attitude, and there is no way they would stoop to a lower level to help a stranger.

It is horrible that no one would come to her aid, but this is what Boro Park has become, and I know many people who feel this way. If you even mention Boro Park or Brooklyn as a whole, for that matter, people that I have spoken to immediately have something negative to say about the frum people.

This is the reputation Boro Park has from the outside looking in. I still live in New York, and I can only imagine what real out-of-towners must think.

I could go on and on, but I know your column has only so much space.

Disgusted, but not surprised

Letter 3

Dear Rachel,

The letter from “Unbelievable but True” is truly unbelievable. I am slightly disabled, which makes me prone to falling, which I’ve done several times on the sidewalks of Boro Park where I live. In every case, at least one person stopped to help me up and sometimes even accompanied me to my destination. These people have been men, women, and even teenagers.

Once a chassidishe man lifted me up from the sidewalk when there was no woman around to do it.

So, as I said, it truly is unbelievable. The only thing I can think of is that “Unbelievable” must have come across as someone totally capable and totally in control of the situation, not as someone who required help. It would be highly unfair to brand Boro Park people as being insensitive to, and uncaring about another’s plight.

Please sign me as

Feeling cared about in Boro Park

Dear Readers,

Your reactions have certainly been varied. To the woman from Crown Heights who had no one stop to help her when she fell on the ice: Some young men are under the erroneous belief that they are not supposed to help a female for this would necessitate physical interaction which they are taught is a no-no.

As our third letter-writer demonstrates in her reply (when she cites her chassidishe rescuer), it is perfectly permissible and, in fact, a requirement to assist a person in obvious need of a helping hand.

Speaking of “obvious,” the same writer suggests that the subject of our discussion may have come across as “totally capable and in control of the situation.” Indeed, she seemed to have gathered her wits about her quickly (as inferred in her letter) and even managed to “clean up” after herself. However, this would still not excuse any person who actually witnessed our pizza-toter losing her balance. Anyone in the vicinity should have immediately seized the moment and offered to help.

Regretfully, our second letter-writer seems to harbor a slanted view and undue resentment of “frum” people. (The Yiddish word “frum” denotes devoutness and piety reflective of a Torah-observant lifestyle.) While objectionable behavior is especially repugnant when displayed by a supposedly frum person, rudeness, disrespect and disregard for others are mannerisms of individuals, not of ethnic groups. To think otherwise is naïve, at best … and let’s leave it at that.

Having served as a haven for the observant Jew from way back, Boro Park has of late attracted a massive influx of orthodox Jewry from other burgeoning communities. Those with the wherewithal to escape to quieter and calmer regions should be grateful for their lot and exercise patience and tolerance for fellow Yidden who continue to reside (for whatever their reason) in an overcrowded hustle-bustle environment. Above all, it is incumbent on us to give one another the benefit of the doubt and to teach (by example) rather than condemn.

In the final analysis, nothing that befalls us is happenstance; we are meant to derive a lesson from every occurrence − for our own benefit. Thank you, dear readers, for enabling us to highlight these lessons.

Razag Hall, Crown Heights

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Question: Should rabbis insist on premarital counseling prior to officiating at weddings?

 

 


Yes. This allows couples to sit down with a professional and work out any issues they may have before getting married. It may not be suitable for everyone, however, and it has the potential for creating problems where there were none to begin with.


- Sara Leibowitz, student



 

 



No. Enforcement never solves anything. Couples should attend sessions of their own volition – otherwise the whole point is meaningless. If couples feel obligated or forced to attend premarital classes, the sessions will not be productive.


- Joel Silver, Law/Judicial

 



Yes. I think many couples, especially young ones, have a false perception of what marriage is really like. Many engaged couples compare their relationship with others and don’t realize how much work must go into maintaining a healthy marriage.


-Yehudis Gold, advertising

 




Yes. Unfortunately, today we have some young couples who are too immature to get married. Attending premarital counseling classes will hopefully better prepare them for marriage. Psychologists are good mediators, and they can teach couples how to interact with their partners and not be selfish.


-Ricky Carlson, designer

Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Question: Six years after 9/11, do you still fear another catastrophic attack here?

 

 


I see the same signs that this might happen again, though they won’t try the same methods. I would hope we’ve learned from 9/11 and that we’re better trained and prepared to spot the warning signs of another possible terrorist attack.


- Sara Diament, shlichus

 

 

 


It could happen again. Al Qaeda is always planning attacks on U.S. soil and abroad. We have to fear another attack because the terrorists will never give up. I’m sure the CIA and FBI know more than we do about imminent attacks but don’t reveal it to the public. Another attack is definitely possible.


- Oriya Klein, customer service

 

 

 

 


I fear it can happen again. I wonder if our government is taking the threat seriously. It is so easy to sneak weapons into airports and especially subways, which is why I don’t understand why people complain about heightened security. You never know when terror can strike; we have to always be on alert.


- Lea Beck, secretary

 

 

 

 



I’m not worried about a possible attack. Yes, it could happen again, and I hope we’ve learned from six years ago, but I feel you have to put all your faith in Hashem that He will take care of us. There is no sense in worrying; whatever Hashem wants to happen, will happen. We all need bitachon.


- Esther Mizrahi, homemaker

Farbrengen: A Gathering Of Images: Photographs Of Jerry Dantzic

Friday, May 9th, 2003

Farbrengen: Photographs by Jerry Dantzic

Chassidic Art Institute. 375 Kingston Avenue

Brooklyn, New York 11213

718-774-9149

Zev Markowitz, director.

noon – 7 p.m.; Sunday – Thursday until April 27, 2003
Jerry Dantzic Archives; contact Grayson Dantzic; 212-260-7081

 

 

A farbrengen is a gathering of Hasidim in the presence of their holy Rebbe to learn Torah and hear his words of wisdom. This exhibition is such a gathering. The hitherto unseen photographs by the photographer Jerry Dantzic present the collective fabric and texture of the Lubavitch community. The Torah life of a hasid is seen in a joyous wedding dance, tender moments at the bedeckening and under the chupah, a l’chaim to the Rebbe, and rapt attention at leining on Purim morning.

What can these photographs teach us? The similar subjects framed by an empathetic point of view and paradoxically, a certain distance, begin to shape a working definition of the photojournalist. That definition is accepted with pride by Jerry Dantzic, whose photographs
from 1972-1973, Farbrengen, are currently at the Chassidic Art Institute until April 27, 2003.

Dantzic has worked as a professional photographer based in his Brooklyn studio since 1954. The recently published Jerry Dantzic’s New York: The Fifties in Focus (Edition Stemmle, 2002) reveals the astonishing scope of his work, covering almost every aspect of New York neighborhoods and street life. He has photographed Chinatown, Little Italy, Coney Island, Manhattan jazz spots and nightclubs, CBS recording studios, New Years Eve Times Square, digging the Lincoln Tunnel and opening night at the Metropolitan Opera. His lifetime of work as a commercial photographer is paralleled by a passionate love affair with New York and America. His son, Grayson Dantzic, has devoted the last four years to publicizing and publishing his father’s vibrant images of his beloved city. This exhibition presents previously
unprinted work documenting Crown Heights.

Wedding Dancers (1973) captures the joy and exuberance a simcha brings to our hearts. The intensely physical gestures of the two men clad in white shirts against a sea of black jackets sweeps through the image at a breakneck pace fueling the rhythmic clapping of the onlookers who are about to join in. The man in the foreground clapping becomes the visual surrogate for the viewer, drawing us into the action.

Dantzic’s ability to be simultaneously involved with his subjects and yet an objective observer is precisely the quality that allows him to become invisible in the midst of the intensely private world of the Lubavitch Hasidim. In late 1972, he began working on a documentary on the “White Ethnics of America.” He had lived in Crown Heights from 1962 until 1968 and was somewhat familiar with the community. Through a friend, he managed to obtain permission from the Lubavitch to openly photograph the community over the period of the next two
years. They were very taken with his warm personality and he responded in kind. He was given complete access.

At a Farbrengen in 1973, one joins the rapt audience that fills the room to overflowing, seeming to ascend the very walls themselves. This image is the result of dozens of shots he took at that event, shooting away, frequently four or five a minute, until he had captured the
crystallizing moment that would condense the experience into one or two potent images.

Dantzic’s desire to capture and bring together disparate visual phenomena led him to pursue an entirely different kind of photography at about the same time. In 1972, he became interested in an antique panoramic camera – the Cirkut camera that had been developed at the turn of the century. He began working with the dramatic new equipment that allowed him to photograph in color and exacting detail a panoramic scene extending over 360 degrees. The prints are as much as six feet long. Finally, in 1977, he obtained a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and traveled through 30 states for over 100 days of shooting to document America’s cities, historic sites and landscapes. The result was a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1978. Effectively, he was creating his own visual record of the country, “my own legend of America” in which the radical extension of vision brings the element of time into the process. A distinct sense of past and future combined in one paradoxically static image
emerges in the gathering of views taken in a fifteen second shot.

Not all of his images attempt to gather in the disparate. President Zalman Shazar Of Israel Toasting the Rebbe (1973) narrows the focus to the joy and satisfaction of Torah giants viewing the meeting of religious and political worlds. The composition is delicately balanced, resting on the fulcrum of a white triangular napkin. The l’chaim cup activates the entire image as everything from the Rebbe, the President and the sages behind them is captured in its blessing.

The photojournalism of Jerry Dantzic is distinct from art photography. Ben Lifson, in his forward to The Fifties in Focus captures Dantzic’s genius. “The task is not to perfect these lyrical moments, but to capture their familiar excellence; not conspicuously to transfigure characters in life as figures in art, but to keep them embedded in life.” Gathering images together so that they can communicate the essence of the people of New York has been the life work of Jerry Dantzic.

The World Outside (1953) was photographed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It seems to simultaneously sum up the role of the photojournalist and the religious Jew in New York. The man behind the window compassionately looks out as if to say, “And what do you think you are doing? Do you think your camera will capture me?” This photograph locates its subject embedded in his life inside, and by the reflection in the window, the life outside in the neighborhood. Closeness and distance are depicted as the photographer and his subject both bear witness to the experience that unfolds between them.

The notion of bearing witness becomes the most powerful dynamic in the exhibition. If nothing else, the photojournalist provides a record of what has occurred and in many cases, by implication, what will occur in the future. Life in Crown Heights today looks remarkably similar to the glimpses we see from 30 years ago. The gentle interchange between Father and Son (1973), with the exception of the style of his hat, defies time and defines parenting well into the future.

Jerry Dantzic’s photojournalism frequently implies a narrative that is interrupted. Much like his Cirkut Camera panoramas that attempt to collect in one long print disparate views of one place and time in America, so too the narrative that proceeded and continues after his
images of Crown Heights implies a life that continues on, sure in its faith and devotion. This exhibition, a gathering of images, affirms a life of holiness that he found in Crown Heights 30 years ago and is still vibrant today.

The Paintings Of Lynn Russell – A Matter Of Subject

Friday, June 28th, 2002

Chassidic Art Institute

375 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11213;

(718) 774 9149.

Zev Markowitz, director

Noon – 7 p.m.; Sunday – Thursday until June 20, 2002.

 

Some people may believe Jewish Art is a simple endeavor. All you need is a Jew who makes art and




voila, Jewish Art! I say to these cultural determinists, not so fast. You think Jewishness flows in the blood like chicken soup. Too often, we have seen Jews produce politics, literature and art that are far removed from Jewish values or, even worse, outright anti-Semitic and dangerous. As with anything else of importance, we must examine exactly what constitutes a work of art and what meaning is transmitted. Simply stated, Jewish Art must start with Jewish subject matter and must express Jewish content.

Lynn Russell’s 22 paintings currently on view at the Chassidic Art Institute in Crown Heights are the embodiment of Jewish subject matter and content in ways that may not be as obvious as they first seem. More than half of these unusual oil paintings are specific to Jewish life in Boro Park, Crown Heights and Israel.

In Bar Mitzvah, Crown Heights, a Bar Mitzvah Boy seated at the table of honor is framed by two figures. On the left is his uncle, sporting a crumpled hat and staring back at the viewer with a gaze fully conscious of the importance of this event in the boy’s life. In the center, the beaming lad is absorbed in the moment of greeting guests and accepting congratulations. Finally, the right side is dominated by a shadowy figure towering over the uncle and the Bar Mitzvah Boy. Who or what is this presence? Perhaps it is the unknowable future of opportunities and dangers. Upon closer examination, we notice that the painting seems to look like a photograph. Many of the features are sharp and detailed while other objects blur out of focus. In fact, most of these paintings began as photographs taken by the artist. Adding color and contrast in oil paint, Russell works over the photograph changing details or entire figures until she has transformed these mechanical images into paintings now fashioned by her own hands.





The tension between the photographic origin and the final painting produces a central meaning that runs through each work. The artist has pushed and shaped what was originally an ordinary slice-oflife snapshot into a significant event that, through careful composition and selection, attains a larger meaning. This technique has parallels in Gerhard Richter’s photo paintings (much larger in scale) in the massive retrospective currently at the Museum of Modern Art. Russell’s methodology remains transparent as the contrast between focus and blur, now charged or exaggerated, makes us continually aware of the changes in memory and perception that all events undergo over time.

Using the same technique, Chupah, Williamsburg started as a snapshot of a chasan escorted to the chupah. Now it has become a stark study in black and white. The abstract shape of the chasan’s kittel is framed between the glaring candle on the left and the equally abstract shape of florescent light that runs across the top and behind the man in the streimel at the right. The extreme tensions of black and white and contrasts of hats and styles of dress highlight the jarring transition all young grooms must face in shedding youth and assuming the responsibilities of adulthood.

An entirely different type of transition is occurring in Still Life, Hachnasas Sefer Torah, Boro Park. Here the painting is pinched and squeezed by the close cropped figures in a precarious procession of a new sefer Torah. The donor, supported by the synagogue president on one side and the partial figure of the rabbi on the other, is metaphorically transporting the holy Torah from its supernal origins, suggested at the upper right above the rabbi, to a congregational hand awaiting it on the lower left. Again, the selective blurring and editing of the photograph achieves immediacy and focus. The background fades away as immaterial while the Torah fuses in color and shape with the donor. This Torah, dedicated to his wife and his parents, will forever be referred to as his Sefer Torah.





 

Russell moves from the personal to the communal in Crown Heights Matzah Bakery. The Matzah baker strides purposefully as he drives the pole deep into the fiery oven. A second, unused pole becomes part of the diagonal rhythm and choreography of the baking process. The artist sees the dynamic, stop-action photographic image as a metaphor for our people’s vitality; still resolute, still baking Matzah, and still being Jews all these 3114 years.

There are at least five different kinds of Jewish subject matter. All of the paintings above belong to the category of communal subject matter that depicts life events of the Jewish people. Subject matter of ritual objects include all types of Judaica such as Kiddush cups, Torah shields, and spice boxes. Jewish texts are a major source of subject matter that includes not only Torah narratives themselves but also the Mishnah, Talmud and all manner of commentaries and works influenced by Jewish texts. They are an enormously important subject matter for Jewish as well as non-Jewish artists. Jewish history, ancient and contemporary, which subsumes the Holocaust and even Jewish landscapes, is yet another one. Finally there is a kind of subject matter that is much closer to the heart; one that is intimate and familial. Domestic subject matter, depicting the Jewish home, the Shabbos table, the seder and the Jewish woman, is one of the most common and, because of the temptations of sentimentality and nostalgia, perhaps one of the most difficult to render.





Shabbos Lights, Pesach Table operates at first as a conventional still life until we notice tensions and visual inconsistencies. The details of the objects, the tablecloth and the background have a preliminary clarity that blurs in a Vermeer-like optical deception when you approach the canvas up close. What seemed sharp becomes elusive. The composition is simple and yet disarmingly unbalanced. The two short candles seem to cower under one tall candle while the other tall candle stands aloof stretching from top to bottom of the canvas. The differences between brass candlesticks and the crystal counterparts, tall verses short candles and the light and dark background begin to disturb the peace that Shabbos is supposed to bring until you notice the flames themselves. Each flame radiates a hot light as the slashes of orange oil paint vibrate against the complementary purple background. The simple slabs of yellow flame and orange afterglow unify the painting in a progression from top to middle as a holy glow descends on the Shabbos table. Each of us, represented by a singular candle, is a different individual, and yet, can be united by the flame of Shabbos holiness.





There is of course more to art than Jewish subject matter. In this exhibition Lynn Russell also shows beautiful floral paintings, landscapes and ‘house portraits.’ Additionally, she has an extensive career as a portrait painter. All her work could handsomely grace many a Jewish home. But for me, it is the Jewish subjects of communal and domestic life, with her perceptive insights, that move me. And for her too, this Jewish world is a new and compelling subject. We all stand to benefit from her fresh and vibrant explorations into the world of Jewish Art.


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. He is active in the American Guild of Judaic Art (jewishart.org) and the Young Israel of Fifth Avenue. Please feel free to email him with comments at mcbee@escape.com.

Crown Heights And The Revising Of History

Saturday, September 22nd, 2001

We are certainly gratified by the apparent meeting of the minds between the Jewish and Black communities in Crown Heights. Although we are not as sanguine as some as to how far along the process is, anything that will serve to heal the terrible breach that was revealed in the pogroms there in 1991 against Jews by rampaging blacks is to the good. The apparent rapproachment between the families of Yankel Rosenbaum and Gavin Cato is certainly a good start. But we were dismayed at the take of some in the media.

The initial story in The New York Post on the Crown Heights developments began with “The families of the two innocent victims in the Crown Heights riots plan to meet for the first time today in a powerful gesture of peace 10 years after the bloody melee tore apart the city.” Gavin Cato was the victim of a tragic accident not the Crown Heights riots. Yankel Rosenbaum was the victim of the riots that followed the accident. These were riots that exposed a vicious hatred in the black community for things Jewish. Gavin Cato did not die because someone hated him and wanted to kill him!

The word accident does not even appear in the Post story until the 15th paragraph!

As for The New York Times?:

For two days … and nights hundreds of black teenagers rampaged unchecked, burning police cars, looting, hurling bottles and beating people. Blacks and Jews clashed as the police stood by.”

Blacks and Jews clashed? No. Roving mobs targeted Jews for attack because they were Jews.

Incredibly, The Times illustrated its story with one picture of a sole black teenager being subdued by a phalanx of police officers with the caption “A man was taken into custody … after the first night of disturbances.” Another picture was of dozens of Hasidic looking men being restrained by police carrying the caption, “On August 20, 1991, the police tried to restrain residents of Crown Heights from clashing with a nearby group of black residents.”

The 1991 Crown Heights story was of a single black being subdued and the police restraining a mob of Jews?

But, you know, what else is new?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/crown-heights-and-the-revising-of-history/2001/09/22/

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