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July 30, 2016 / 24 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘dance’

Chassidic Surfers And Psychedelic Judaism: Daniel Weinstein’s Art

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Daniel Weinstein: Surfboards & Psalms
July 17 − September 1, 2008
J Klaynberg Gallery
121 West 19th Street, New York
http://www.jklaynberg.com/

 

Viewers who read Daniel Weinstein’s list of artistic influences on his website will get the impression they are dealing with an unusual sort of Judaica, even before they see the art. The “menagerie of sights and sounds” in Weinstein’s work draws upon the sacred and the secular: Hallel, Tehillim (Psalms), Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), the Israeli city Tsfat (Safed), South Beach, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the Breslov singer Yosef Karduner, Rastafarian reggae musician Bob Marley, American rock band Alice in Chains, Chassidut, Dr. Seuss, Israel-based Lubavitcher painter Baruch Nachshon, the 1998 comedy “The Big Lebowski,” and Weinstein’s wife Leah Malka and son Aron.


On his site, Weinstein explains his seemingly incongruous inspirations with a quote from Psalm 100: “Serve Hashem with gladness, come before him with joyous song.” In an interview, he elaborated. “The concept of living daily life from a Torah perspective means that you don’t need to separate from society,” Weinstein wrote in an e-mail. “On the contrary, we need to bring a piece of G-d down here to our everyday lives. We are all influenced by many different things. The key is to channel it all into a worthwhile direction.”


To make this channeling work, Weinstein added, artists must not be afraid of separating art and life, even Torah-based life. “If I wake up one morning and decide Metallica’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ would make a great soundtrack for a five-minute animation of Matan Torah, I’m going to roll with that idea and not worry about whether it is appropriate or not,” he said, “because in the end, those five minutes of guitars, flames, and lightning bolts will find its audience and open somebody’s mind to the intensity and awesomeness of that moment.”

 

 


Seventh Hakafa.

Image by and courtesy of Daniel Weinstein

 

By now it should be clear that Weinstein’s Jewish art is quite a different blend from Chagall’s or Moritz Oppenheim’s works. For one thing, Weinstein’s works are not paintings in the strict sense of the word. They are Gicleé prints (“spray” in French and pronounced Zhee-Clay), which use ink-jet printers, pixels, and archival ink instead of canvas, gesso, and turpentine.

They also use a very different palette from historical Jewish art. Take “Psychedelic Simchat Torah,” which shows 16 Chassidic men − each wearing a shtreimel (fur hat), prayer shawl, and sunglasses and carrying a Torah − flying through the air over a couple dozen skyscrapers colored in “highlighter” shades of purple, orange, yellow, red, pink, and blue.

 

 


Psychedelic Simchat Torah.

Image by and courtesy of Daniel Weinstein

 

Simchat Torah is surely a holiday of intense joy in celebration of the revelation and receiving of the Torah at Sinai, but psychedelics usually evokes the counterculture of the 1960s and its drug-induced rock music. What place can this have in the context of a sacred celebration of the receiving of the Law? 

Weinstein points to British writer Aldous Huxley, author of the Utopian novel and psychedelic drugs-influenced Brave New World and The Doors of Perception, to respond to the charge that his works are contradictory. “The Torah has so many twists and turns and can be understood on myriad levels,” he said. “Each door you open opens another door.”


Weinstein’s art then, is about “stripping away” layers of the mundane and getting to the truth, which exists in a different reality. “I strive to use Judaism as a vehicle to find an altered and more beautiful state of reality and translate that onto canvas,” he said. In the case of “Psychedelic Simchat Torah,” Weinstein’s flying men draw upon a saying of a wise Rebbe: “A true Chassid must have his head in the clouds, but keep his feet on the ground.”

 

 


Yirmiah 5:22.

Image by and courtesy of Daniel Weinstein

 

“Yirmiah 5:22” draws upon the biblical text, which tells of one of the many times Jeremiah is tasked by G-d to bear bad news to the Jews, though he is assured that they will ignore his accusations and predictions of the Temple’s imminent destruction. In chapter five, G-d sends the prophet to the house of Jacob and Judah to reproach the “nation of fools,” which has no heart and is blind and deaf despite its seemingly functional eyes and ears. “‘Do you not fear me?’ so says the Lord,” quotes Jeremiah in verse 22. “‘Will you not shake in front of my face; I placed the sand as a border to the sea, an eternal order which it cannot pass, and the waves throw themselves without lasting, and they cannot cross it.'”

Scavenging the text for visual elements to appropriate, a classical artist might show the prophet with a white beard, dressed in a biblical tunic, screaming at a chaotic mass of irreverent bystanders who turn their backs on him, mock him, and maybe even throw things at him. Perhaps a few believers in the crowd cover their faces in fear, or fall to the ground weeping.


But Daniel Weinstein’s “Yirmiah 5:22” shows a very different scene, which does not even include Jeremiah. In the print, three bearded Chassidim, wearing big white kippot over their flowing side curls, run not to synagogue but along the beach. They wear sunglasses and carry surfboards decorated with logos that evoke “Hot Wheels”.


Weinstein often includes poems or other texts alongside his works, and the text accompanying Yirmiah derives from the final scene of the 1991 movie Point Break (about surfers and bank robbers), in which the character Bodhi says, “Time to dance with the universe.” Over e-mail, he added, “The scene here is depicting how at times we live on the edge, almost challenging G-d. We were just assured another flood will never come. So here we are, ready to catch the next wave with no worries.”

 


Waiting for the Sun.

Image by and courtesy of Daniel Weinstein

 

In “Waiting for the Sun,” the Chassidim (this time donning tallitot and tefillin) wait for the sun to rise to begin the Morning Prayer. The figure in the foreground plays an electric guitar, whose headstock seems to lift up the rising sun. “Wake up the dawn! Fury is the night. Glory is the morn,” explains Weinstein’s poem. “Instead of snoring can you hum me a bar? Three… two… one nicotine caffeine MODEH ANI.” On a metaphorical level, the work also illustrates Psalm 97, in which the “upright in heart” await the Holy Light, which is “sown for the righteous.”

Daniel Weinstein’s prints are certainly an acquired taste, and some viewers will no doubt examine them quickly and decide that they are too mesmerizing and hypnotizing, too colorful and too funky. But the form and the content come together in “Seventh Hakafa,” wherein hundreds of Chassidim (who appear somewhat abstracted and inhuman) dance around in circles in a spiral that descends to the center of the painting. “‘On Simchat Torah,’ goes the Chassidic saying, ‘we rejoice in the Torah, and the Torah rejoices in us; the Torah, too, wants to dance, so we become the Torah’s dancing feet,'” writes Weinstein in the accompanying poem. “The choreographic style of traditional Hakafot − Revolutions − reminds us there is no beginning and no end.”


Indeed there is an eternal and dizzying aspect to the Jewish tradition and its holidays. Perhaps classical paintings, with their muted colors and naturalistic treatment, cannot arrive at the sort of Jewish experience Weinstein captures. If Hakafot are supposed to be passionate circular dances, why shouldn’t they be depicted as psychedelic?


MENACHEM WECKER welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, DC.


For more information on Daniel Weinstein’s art, see his site: http://www.danweinsteinsart.com/.

Menachem Wecker

Rachel Factor’s ‘Not Even Normal’

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

        When Rachel Factor was searching for a title for her new show, the words “not even normal” kept popping into her head. It’s a phrase she heard used frequently by the young seminary students who were guests in her home. If the girls thought the food was especially delicious or they found something indescribably good they enthusiastically proclaimed, “It’s not even normal!” These words resonated deeply within her.


 

         “All my life I didn’t want normal and so I was always searching,” she explained, and therefore it seemed like the perfect description for her extraordinary journey. But unlike her first one-woman show, “JAP”, which toured the U.S. and Canada for four months, this show will be limited to a two-week engagement because Rachel Factor now has a four-year-old son who attends cheder. When I asked the former Radio City Music Hall Rockette, Broadway actress and television performer if she ever thought she would have a child in cheder she answered with genuine wonder, “Did I ever think I would even know what the word cheder meant?”

 

         It definitely wasn’t part of her vocabulary when she was growing up in Hawaii and dreamt of becoming a star. The daughter of Japanese-Americans, she told the inspiring story of her storybook marriage to Todd Factor, her conversion to Orthodox Judaism and aliyah to Israel, in her critically acclaimed show, “JAP.” Less than two years after her successful fundraising tour, Rachel has fulfilled another dream, to build a center in Jerusalem that offers classes for women in the theater arts in accordance with Torah values.

 

Build It And They Will Come


 


         Located in the Bell Tower on King George Street, she named the center HaMachol Shel Bnos Miriam “in honor of the women who sang praises to Hashem when they crossed the Yam Suf.” Rachel is convinced, “There is a desire inside all of us to express ourselves in song and dance, and we should have the opportunity to express this desire in a way that is holy.”

 

         Bnos Miriam offers women and girls of all ages a dizzying schedule of classes, including ballet, drama, jazz, groove, vocal, strength, pre-natal and cardio. “We wanted to give women a place to take care of their bodies and their minds.” In order to achieve this, the center also provides young mothers with daycare. The feedback coming from kollel men whose wives come to class has been extremely positive because it has given the women an opportunity to reconnect with themselves and others.

 

         Another remarkable aspect of the center has been the positive message girls receive from their teachers. When the students meet women like former rock star Moran Rotman, who turned down a record deal which she had pursued most of her life, and professional ballerina, Leah Faigel Hyman, they can’t help but be inspired. “These Ba’alot Teshuvah, who made a conscious choice to give up a successful secular lifestyle because they found a life of Yiddishkeit and Torah more rewarding, provide very positive role models for our students.”

 

         Rachel also experienced the daunting challenge of giving up her career, but she sensed that “Hashem wanted something from me, and I knew that if I just committed to it fully then he would take care of me.” Today she feels blessed because “Now I dance every day and use what I know to help other people through movement and song.”

 

Not Even Normal, The Sequel


 


         Rachel’s new show takes up where “JAP” left off and was written from what she describes as a much more spiritual place. “I’ve really searched for guidance in doing the second show, and so I read it for Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller who gave it a high recommendation and gave me new inspiration to go forward with it.” Her goal in this show was “not only to provide kosher entertainment for women but also to leave them with a message so that they would walk away having gained something in their lives.” The show also features “two extraordinary performers, Aharona Gans and Raquella Siegel, who dance and play characters in the show.”

 

         Rachel has written all of the songs herself and is especially proud of the song about her son, Ariel, whom she credits with bringing her to Israel. “We feel a strong sense of purpose and meaning living here and it’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown.”

 

         Rachel’s husband Tovia, who attends Midrash Shmuel, will be accompanying her on the tour along with sons Ariel and Shalom and the newest member of the family, eight-week-old Avigail.

 

         For show locations, dates and times and to order tickets go to www.Rachelfactor.com or call 646-201-9636.

Helen Zegerman Schwimmer

Bringing Up The Next Generation To Care

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006


Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. We tell our children how to behave. We talk to them about midos (good character) and try to inspire them with stories of everyday heroes. We hope inspiration to act appropriately will come from examples of the behavior of our gedolim, as we surround our house with their pictures and fill our bookshelves with their teachings. All of this does have a profound impact on our children. But it is very important to remember whose example will influence our children more than any other and how that influence works.


 


Nonverbal communication (what we do instead of what we say) seems to have a much more powerful influence on those around us than verbal communication. This is not to negate anything mentioned above. Our children need many influences, verbal and nonverbal, from many sources. But it is vital to remember that a parent is perhaps the biggest influence in a child’s life at any age, and, parents’ behavior carries tremendous power. What they see us do influences them to a much greater degree than what we say.


 


This poem arrived on my computer from a friend. Once again, it was by that famous author, “Anonymous” whose works are so often sent from one computer to another. It so reflected what I feel, that I framed it and have it hanging in my kitchen and in my children’s homes.


 


When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw my first painting on the refrigerator and I wanted to paint another one.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat and I thought it was good to be kind.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make my favorite cake, just for me, and I knew that little things are special things.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a prayer and I believed in a G-d I could always talk to.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I felt you kiss me goodnight and I felt loved.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw a tear come to your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s alright to cry.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I wanted to be.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked…and I wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.


 


     I’d like to change the poem to perhaps make some points about what, unfortunately, is common when raising children in our communities and what they are teaching our children.


 


Things That Would Horrify Us, If We Only Realized Their Effect


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you keep the change that was too much instead of returning it and I knew it was all right to keep what wasn’t yours.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you tell the man asking for tzedakah that you had no money, and I knew it was all right to lie and not give charity.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you ask the carpenter what price it would be if you paid him cash, and I knew it was all right to cheat the government.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you buy a TV at the store so we could see the World Series and then return it right after and I knew it was all right to “rent at Walmart.”


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you transfer the macaroni with the hechsher we didn’t use into a package with the hechsher Daddy likes, and I knew it was all right to fool around with kashrus and lie to your spouse.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you talking badly about our neighbor and I knew it was all right to speak lashon harah and gossip.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you pass by the blind man at the corner without offering to help and I knew that it was all right to ignore those that need us.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you ignore the needs of our sick neighbor and I knew bikur cholim (helping the sick) wasn’t important.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you didn’t dance with Yanky, my friend whose father was in a wheelchair and couldn’t dance with him, on Simchat Torah and I knew not to be sensitive to another’s needs.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you not help Bubby and Zaidy on Yom Tov when we visited and I knew how to treat you when you get old.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw our neighbor sitting alone every Shabbos and Yom Tov and I knew that inviting guests was only for whom we like and not who needed the invitation.


 


     We teach mostly by example. Our young children copy everything from how we walk, sigh and even cough, to how we speak to another (words, tone and all). If we want to raise children who care, we must show them by our example of caring for others to teach how it is done. Otherwise it’s just “do as I say and not how I do”. In that case, it may never get done.


 


You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com or by snail mail c/o the Jewish Press.

Ann Novick

Evelyn’s Story

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Last week I relayed Evelyn’s story. She is a well spouse who was making a simcha. She chose not to invite people who hadn’t visited or called her husband since he became a resident in a nursing home. Included in her invitation boycott was anyone who hadn’t called her or invited her for a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal or even a cup of tea during the same period. Evelyn related to me how some people realized exactly why they were excluded from the simcha and even apologized or tried to make up for their neglect. But what of the people who chose not to “get it” – the people who just got angry and felt slighted? I asked Evelyn how she felt now, months after the simcha. Was she sorry she hadn’t invited everyone in her community as she had in the past?

Evelyn told me that not only was she still comfortable with her decision, but she felt it was the most freeing decision she had made in a long, long time. The people she had invited to her simcha were people who had stood by her during the past two years, and though she understood that no one intended to deliberately hurt her, that is exactly what had happened. She told me she meant no ill will toward anyone, but simchas make us all vulnerable and filled with emotion.

She felt that having people present at her simcha who had ignored them through their crises of these past years would have made the day uncomfortable for her and her husband. She knew she would have to fight the negative feelings that would rise within her heart when she saw them.

This way, she felt surrounded by people she wanted there – people whose actions mirrored their sentiments. She felt that at the simcha, the room was full of warmth and caring, and that was what she wanted. She told me she had no regrets for having shortened her guest list to almost half. And anyone who chose to remain angry with her and not even bother to ask aloud (or in their heart, for that matter) why they were excluded could just stay excluded. No, she had no regrets.

Evelyn concluded our interview by telling me that the best part of the shortened guest list was the feeling it gave her when (maybe for the first time in her life) she refused to respond to what others expected her to do. Instead, she felt that she had taken control of her life and did what was right for her, and it was a wonderful feeling.

Bracha had always gone to, helped out and supported community functions. Since she didn’t live in a large Jewish community, she always felt it was important to support all the Jewish functions and help whenever she could. This year, however, had been a year filled with crisis after crisis for Bracha and her chronically ill husband. She too had had the misfortune of having to juggle a simcha and a crisis all at the same time.

Since then, she found herself feeling alone and depressed much of the time. She feared for the future as her husband’s condition worsened. Her physical and mental energy were sapped.

As Chanukah approached, Bracha thought about the annual dinner she always attended. She thought about all the children running around and the tumult she used to love. She knew that this year it would take all her energy to be there. She would have to field questions about her husband over and over again. She anticipated walking away more depressed than she was now, if that was possible. Yet the desire to support the event made her unsure of whether or not she’d attend.

While debating what to do, the chairperson of the event called Bracha to ask if she was coming. Bracha felt immediately better. How nice that there was concern about her being alone. She felt the support that comes when someone thinks of you. She thanked the caller for her thoughtfulness and concern and said she just wasn’t sure if she’d attend this year given all she was dealing with. She was sure they’d have an extra “latke” or two should she decide to come without a reservation.

The chairperson responded, without even a hint of embarrassment, that she was really calling because they needed more help and was hoping that Bracha could take a cooking, serving and/or clean up shift.

The call helped Bracha decide. She knew that this year she needed to, and should look after, her own needs. She decided to follow her heart, care for herself, and not go to the community event. Instead, she called a close, supportive friend and asked her to accompany her to a restaurant for dinner.

She knew that her absence at the shul would be noticed and felt that maybe that was a good thing. If anyone asked why she hadn’t attended, she’d tell the truth. She’d say that she just wasn’t up to it this year because she was depressed and hoped that by changing her routine, her “dance,” perhaps what she was dealing with might be noticed.

If not, at least, she, like Evelyn, spent the evening in the way she wanted, and not doing what was routine and expected. She had recharged her batteries, placed herself in a positive situation, and had no regrets about changing the “dance.”

Ann Novick

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Friday, October 1st, 2004

(Names and situations have been changed)

How we see ourselves and what we think we are capable of doing are very powerful forces. If we feel we can accomplish something, we are motivated to pursue it. Motivation can move mountains. Motivation has been known to reverse negative medical predictions and enable people to do what was thought impossible.

How a person perceives his abilities and disabilities strongly influences how a person acts, what he participates in, and what he accomplishes. How a person thinks he is seen as opposed to how we actually see him can make all the difference in what he strives for. His perception of himself has a strong influence on his future.

Simon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Before this diagnosis, he swam, cycled in a seniors’ cycling group and loved to hike. He had noticed that he had slowed down, began to gravitate to the back of the hikers’ group, and often found that he could no longer keep up at the front of the cyclists. Still, he saw himself as capable of participating. He felt part of the group, and this was part of his identity before the diagnosis.

One day, a member of the hiking group who had not been there for months returned. When he saw Simon and noticed his deterioration he yelled, “What happened to you? Did you have a stroke while I was gone?” Simon was not only embarrassed, but suddenly realized that people
were seeing him in a very different light than he thought they were. That day, he went home and asked his wife if he looked as if he had a stroke? Was he as disabled as the fellow had indicated?

At that moment, Simon saw himself differently. He saw himself as a sick man who could no longer enjoy the activities he had enjoyed until the moment of the comment. He stopped participating in these groups. With his withdrawal came a loss of social interaction and physical participation. He decided that the disease would not let him be the man he had been before. At that moment, Simon lost his motivation to do anything and decided he was just a sick man. At that moment the disease won.

Louis liked to dance. He may not have been the best dancer, but he could certainly hold his own on the dance floor at weddings. He too had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. While adjusting to the diagnosis, he decided not to share the bad news with anyone just yet. At a recent wedding, while he thought he was dancing up a storm, a friend yelled across the room, “Hey Louis, can’t you dance anymore? Pick up the pace man!”

At that moment, Louis stopped dancing, walked off the dance floor, began questioning his abilities, and started taking stock of his losses. At that moment, Louis began to see himself differently. He now saw himself as a person who can’t as opposed to a person who can. At that moment, the disease won and Louis’ life changed forever.

Marvin’s chronic illness had taken him on a sudden downhill spiral. He had been confined to bed for months, and as a result his muscles had weakened from inactivity. Because of the long hospital stay and the nature of the illness, Marvin received notice that his driver’s license was revoked pending passing a driving test.

The doctor’s told Marvin’s wife that the chances of his regaining his muscle strength was highly unlikely. Marvin’s wife asked the doctors not to share this news with Marvin. She felt that he was very suggestible and that the information would devastate him and force him to lose his motivation to get better. She constantly agreed with Marvin about his recovery, encouraging him to exercise and do whatever he could for himself. Today, Marvin is driving once again.

Bella was told she should get her affairs in order as she had little time left on this earth. When pressed by Bella, the doctors told her she had three months to live. Bella died exactly three months later.

Morris was told he had three months to live. Marvin had a fighting personality. He told the doctors they were fools and that he had no intention of passing away in three months. Ten years later, Morris is still alive, and the doctors don’t understand it.

Your perception of yourself defines the boundaries you live with. How you see yourself is influenced by many factors. Not the least of these factors is how others perceive you and the message they give you about yourself. More importantly, though, is what we choose to tell ourselves, what we choose to believe about ourselves, and what we challenge. Motivation and a realistic belief in ourselves and our abilities have been known to move mountains. Letting someone outside yourself define your limitations moves nothing, least of all yourself.

Ann Novick

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/mirror-mirror-on-the-wall/2004/10/01/

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