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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘dancing’

Jerusalem Court Releases Jewish Activists Charged with Surveilling IDF to House Arrest

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The Jerusalem District Court ordered five Jewish activists to house arrest, two days after being indicted for tracking the IDF in Judea and Samaria in an attempt to foil the evacuation and demolition of outposts.

Attorneys from Hanenu, an NGO that provides legal representation to the activists, said that the individuals were involved in a legitimate protest and that no justification existed to incarcerate them. The presiding judge agreed, writing that “the defendants’ actions do not present a high level of danger . . . The indictment shows that the majority of their activities, beyond intelligence collection, centered around non-violent protests in areas patrolled by the military, including singing songs, dancing, and telling soldiers the actions they must take.”

The Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office plans to appeal the decision before the Supreme Court.

Jewish Press Staff

Echoing Vishniak: Ahron Weiner’s Photographic Pilgrimages to Uman

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Next Year in Uman: A Journey to the Ukraine


Photographs by Ahron D. Weiner


Through August 15, 2011


The Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Congregation Rodeph Shalom


615 North Broad Street, Philadelphia



 

 


At first glance, the chassid in Ahron Weiner’s “In Memorial” looks like he may be wearing an earring on his right ear, which is framed by his dark brown side curl. Further inspection reveals the ear is in silhouette, and the “earring” is indeed white light cast by one of the many memorial candles he contemplates – tributes to the tens of thousands of Jews of Uman murdered in the 18th century and nearly two centuries later by the Nazis.

 

The ear of the chassidic man with the white knitted kippa is not literally pierced, but it might as well be. The photograph is one of 29 by Hewlett, N.Y.-based artist Weiner, who first visited Uman, the central Ukrainian city and burial place of chasidic master Rabi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), with his father in 2004. Weiner, who was raised modern orthodox and “borderline yeshivish,” says he was a teenager when his father took an interest in Rabi Nachman’s teachings and traveled to Uman twice in the 1990s.

 

            

 


In Memorial. Ahron Weiner. Courtesy of the artist.

 

 

        A lover of travel and curious to see what the Umani scene was like, Weiner agreed to accompany his father in 2004. “The experience was nice,” he says. “I didn’t think I was planning to go back until I developed my film and saw images that echoed what Vishniak shot in his travels across pre-war Eastern Europe.” He returned for Rosh Hashanah pilgrimages for the next five years and documented his trips. Weiner’s gallery titled “Next Year in Uman: A Journey to the Ukraine” on his website contains 129 photographs.

 

Weiner has described the pilgrimage experience as “”Mount Sinai meets Woodstock,” and his photographs corroborate that characterization.

 

           “Overhead” shows about 75 people packed into the picture frame like sardines. Umani pilgrimages, it would seem, are not for the claustrophobic. But they are for just about any other type of person, as Weiner explained to Ezra Glinter and Nate Lavey of the Forward. In the picture, Weiner said, all sorts of Jews can be found, from those wearing black hats to baseball caps to those with bare heads. (One has to take his word for it; everyone in the photograph seems to have at least some kind of head covering.)

 

 

 


Overhead. Ahron Weiner. Courtesy of the artist.

 

 

Weiner’s perspective, quite literally and figuratively, is laden with religious meaning. Some of his bird’s-eye-perspective photographs were taken from an enclosure meant to keep Kohanim safely away from tombstones. Weiner and his camera were peering out from a space reserved to keep priests holy into places of death and sad memories. Talk about echoing the works of Roman Vishniac!

 

He also framed the project with a quote from Rabi Nachman, said to have been delivered on his deathbed. “Whoever comes to my gravesite [in Uman], recites the 10 Psalms and gives even as little as a penny to charity,” he translated the chasidic sage, “then, no matter how serious his sins may be, I will do everything in my power – spanning the length and breadth of creation – to cleanse and protect him. By his very payos [sidelocks], I will pull him out of hell!”

 

 


Pastoral. Ahron Weiner. Courtesy of the artist.

 

 

“This promise has since echoed throughout the generations, compelling tens of thousands of Jewish men from every continent except Antarctica to leave their wives and children and undertake a costly, difficult, annual pilgrimage to Uman,” he writes.


If “Pastoral” is any indication, those men encounter stunning scenery. But as the men and boys lounge on the riverbank and glide in a rowboat, there is an ominous reminder that the Jewish presence in Uman has not always been a joyous one. A young boy on the far left holds a toy gun, and faux weapons can be found in other photographs in the series.

 

Weiner explains that it’s a Breslov custom for fathers to bring their young sons. “The Ukrainians sell lots of plastic toy guns, so yes, there are lots and lots of kids running around with plastic replica guns, shooting plastic BBs at each other,” he says. “All in good fun.”

 

“Dance” is certainly an image that is all fun, however intense the dancers’ gaze is. Four men lock hands and dance, though it’s worth noting the asymmetry of their dance. One dancer holds a prayer book in his hand, which sets the tone for the other dancers – more of a single file chain than a circle. The fourth man might not even be dancing.

 

 


Dance. Ahron Weiner. Courtesy of the artist.

 

 

Though the dancers’ movements are blurred, the shadows they cast are clear. One gets the sense that what Weiner is after – and perhaps all the pilgrims too – lies in shadows rather than solid form.

 

William Rimmer’s gorgeous and troubling painting, Flight and Pursuit (1872), which is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, shows a man with a cloak and dagger running through what the MFA website describes as “shadowy and mysterious labyrinth of a chimerical Near Eastern temple or palace.” Although it initially appears as if the man is fleeing his reflection (which appears in the middle of the canvas), there is a large and ominous shadow cast by a form outside the picture frame. One shadow is chasing a second shadow which is chasing a man.

 

The same formula might work for Weiner’s Uman. The shadows in “Dance” are sharper than the dancing figures, and the same is true of other photographs in the series. For the period of high holidays, tens of thousands of Jews descend on a land of shadows. Like Vishniac, Weiner has done a masterful job of negotiating the boundary where the shadows end and the people begin. Often, it seems, the shadows are cast by such monumental sources that they seem to take on a life of their own, and promise to outlive those who cast them.

 

 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Menachem Wecker

The Blessing In The Candles

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

It was erev Simchas Torah and I had just lit my Yom Tov candles. I was rushing to go to hakafos (dancing with the Torah) at my local shul.

Suddenly, there was a loud knock. Opening the door, I found a young friend, his wife, and several children waiting to be invited in. As they entered, I realized that there was only one dim light in the house emanating from a small lamp in the kitchen. Conditions were certainly not optimum for company. Moreover, I did not want to be late for shul.

I mumbled embarrassedly that I was on the way out, and they understood and turned to leave. That is, all except their oldest daughter, an adorable 18-year-old tzadeikes. She stood still, staring pensively at the candles burning brightly in the dining room.

She and I stood together for a few moments, staring quietly at the flickering flames. Then, she turned to leave and softly said, “Your candles are so beautiful.”

As she descended the front steps, she met her friend on her way to shul. That shul was in the opposite direction of the shul her family was heading towards. The friend convinced her to join her.

At the friend’s shul, a young man noticed the young woman and inquired about her. He discovered that their families knew each other from the Yeshiva world.

This lovely couple announced their engagement on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan!

The candles we light on Shabbos, Yom Tov and Chanukah shed a miraculous light into a world of chaos, confusion and darkness. The glow of these candles impacts every life.

I am looking forward to this wedding with special excitement because there is something miraculous about this couple’s meeting. If this young lady had left my house immediately with her family and had not stopped to gaze at the holy candles, she would not have met the friend who guided her to her chassan.

Of course Hashem orchestrated the meeting. May He always guide us and light our paths with success, happiness, good health, and parnassa, as we continue to light our candles of blessings.

Alice Gorenstein

A Spiritual Night In Hebron

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Israel is a magical country, but to experience one of its greatest wonders you have to travel out to what the world calls the West Bank and the Bible calls Judea and Samaria.
 
There, its crown jewel is the city of Hebron, first capital city of the Jewish people and where its patriarchs and matriarchs are buried.
 

   Many Jewish and Christian tourists to Israel skip Hebron, declaring it too dangerous, and indeed four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, were killed there just a few weeks ago with another two shot last week. But terrorists dare not determine whether my children and I make pilgrimages to Judaism’s holiest sites; besides, terrorists incidents have declined dramatically and the city, comparatively speaking, is safe.

The first thing you discover about the residents of Hebron, whom the world derisively describes as settlers – as if Jews living in their own ancient capital are newcomers – is their warmth, friendliness, and hospitality. I arrived with twenty guests and our host, a wise and dedicated communal activist named Yigal, prepared a feast fit for a king. We ate in his sukkah surrounded by a tranquility and quiet that I, in my busy life, rarely experience. The night air was cool and enervating.

All around us children were playing, utterly carefree, on pristine playgrounds. So many Jews in Hebron have been killed in terror attacks over the years. Yet the residents in general, and the children in particular, live unafraid. They are also liberated from hatred. When their friends die they mourn them, bury them, commemorate them, and get on with their lives.

For nearly a thousand years, the Islamic rulers of the Holy Land forbade Jews from entering the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, allowing them to climb only seven steps into the tomb but beating them mercilessly if they rose any higher. When Israel liberated it in 1967, Jewish pilgrims came to Hebron swearing never again to be separated from their origin. Even amid the worst terror attacks, property values in Hebron and Kiryat Arba never decline. There are no fluctuations in the commitment to pray by the graves of those who gave the world monotheism.

Yet these residents have been demonized by the entire world. They face daily character assassination in the media by those who would decry their simple desire to walk in the footsteps of Abraham. World leaders regularly engage in extreme defamation of families whose only wish it is to raise their children in the Judean hills of King David. President Obama rises at the United Nations and calls for a further moratorium on building in the settlements, as if it’s a crime for peaceful people to have children and add rooms to warm and hospitable homes that welcome innumerable guests.

Worse, my Israeli friends in Tel Aviv tell me they hate the “settlers” because their children are forced to “defend a bunch of fanatics who live surrounded by 100,000 Arabs.”

I quickly remind them that, first, the residents of Hebron themselves serve in elite combat units of the Israeli military; second, if a nation can’t hold fast to the tomb of its ancestors (and remember that the tomb in its present form was constructed by King Herod 2,000 years ago from the very same stone as the Kotel) then it scarcely deserves to call itself a people; third, I know many Jews, particularly in Britain, who wonder why they should have to defend and raise money for the six million Jews who have “settled” in Israel proper, surrounded as they are by half a billion Arabs; and, finally, if we give up Hebron, as we discovered with Gush Katif and Sderot, we bring hostile forces to bear directly on Jerusalem.

It is not the deeply spiritual residents of Hebron who threaten peace but the death-groupies of Hizbullah and Hamas, who seek to make all Israel Judenrein.

   Just a few yards from the spot where Shalhevet Pass, a ten-month-old Israeli infant, was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper while sitting in her stroller in March, 2001, I danced with my children to celebrate the festival of Sukkot.

The streets of Hebron were alive with joyous residents dancing to the music of a mystical band whose flowing locks and mesmerizing music set my soul alight. I was electrified to be dancing in a city that in 1929 saw the massacre of 67 Jews and the destruction of nearly all synagogues and Jewish buildings.

We American Jews live with so many infantile worries, like our fear of not being able to keep up with the Joneses or suffering a decline in our standard of living during this recession. But dancing in Hebron I felt liberated, free of fear, and deeply grateful to the residents who live without material extravagance and who taught me that even in a place of stress and danger one can find inner tranquility and peace.

 

 

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the bestselling author of 23 books (his latest is “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life”) and founder of This World: The Values Network.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 10/02/09

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Dear Rachel,

My story is different than most (since I am not writing to complain about something or someone), but the moral may be worth sharing with your readers nonetheless.

I live in a bustling, large yet tight-knit chassidic community where, Baruch Hashem, multiple smachos are celebrated on just about every night of the week.

Needless to say, it would be impossible to attend each one that I am invited to, so my longstanding habit has been to just stop by to convey my mazel tov to the ba’alei simcha, and if my timing is right, to kick up my heels for a dance or two. I suspect that this works well not only for me but for the hosts as well, since the cost of feeding many guests at a simcha can be exorbitant.

Of course when it is a close family member, I am prepared to stay the duration.

Well, the other day I dropped in at the wedding of a friend’s daughter. This wedding was particularly moving since this friend has been widowed for several years now and has single-handedly been raising her several children.

As I looked around me, I saw the kallah’s siblings – younger sisters – all prettied up for the occasion, but with faces that betrayed an inner sadness. After dancing with the kallah, I took turns partnering with each young girl, twirling them around the dance floor in beat to the lively music.

Just before I was ready to leave, a long-time acquaintance approached me and paid me the ultimate tribute. She had been watching me and was impressed with the way I danced. It wasn’t so much my dancing expertise or style that she was taken with, she explained, but the feeling of genuineness – even as my feet were flying in tune to the accompanying musical rhythm, she recognized that it was my heart that was soaring.

Naturally I came away from that affair with a good feeling, which was nothing compared to the emotions that washed through me when I passed the somewhat reserved 11-year old sister of the kallah on the street later that week. She stopped to thank me for “uplifting” her at her sister’s wedding – literally and figuratively. She sweetly expressed her gratitude for my personal attention and participation.

I felt a need to contact the woman who had praised me at that simcha, to share with her this special encounter and the unexpected demonstration of appreciation that had so deeply touched me.

“If I may I ask you something personal ” remarked this woman (aged 30-something). “Were you always into dancing, even as a child ?”

Her question threw me… I realized that dancing was not only never one of my strong points, but that I had always been quite clumsy on my feet, as were my siblings who had always kibitzed about us all having “left feet.”

To this revelation the woman commented, “Well, it would seem then that your wonderful dancing ability is a gift from Hashem Who has perceived your true intentions by seeing straight through to your heart ”

Believe it or not, Rachel, I do not write this to pat myself on the back, but rather to express my amazement at this young woman’s way of thinking. In this day of materialism and competitiveness, when most of what is written concerns our worries over where this generation is headed, I think it is important to be aware that there are clear-headed, serious-minded individuals in our midst who are not only grounded but are constantly aware that there is a G-d watching us and guiding us.

Thank you for stressing this very point time and time again in your column and for letting us, your devoted readers, have our say.

It’s the heart of it that counts

Dear Heart,

Thank you for uplifting us with a truly heartwarming story and its multiple messages.

Kudos to you! It is indeed a mitzvah to be m’sameach chassan v’kallah and you not only seem to know it, but are doing a marvelous job in performing it. Yours is furthermore a lesson in how much one individual can accomplish all by herself, time and time again. How many of us are truly mindful of the mitzvos that are right there in front of us for the taking?

Your friend’s observation is profound, though the premise is certainly not new. We are taught, “B’derech she’adam rotzeh leileich molichin oso ” – the way a person wants to go is the way Hashem will lead him.

Shlomo HaMelech, in Koheles, writes that there is a time for everything, including “a time of dancing” (eis rikud). Why didn’t he state “l’rikud” – a time to dance, like where it says “a time to love and a time to hate, etc.?”

The Imrei Emes explains that when it comes to being mesameach chassan v’kallah, there is no deliberate forethought to dance – rather, as the heart is overcome with feelings of joy, the feet lift themselves off the floor of their own accord, and that is what is meant by “a time of dancing.”

May the merits of our ma’asim tovim (good deeds) speak volumes on our behalf and drown out our shortcomings as we beseech our Father above to take pity on His children and grant us a year filled with simcha and the health and wherewithal to delight in His beneficence.

Wishing all our readers and Klal Yisroel a sweet, mitzvah-filled and inspiring Sukkos!

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

Rachel

Title: Living from Convention to Convention: A History of NCSY, 1954-1980

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Title: Living from Convention to Convention: A History of NCSY, 1954-1980


Author: Zev Eleff


Publisher: Ktav Publishing Inc.


 


 


   Living from Convention to Convention: A History of NCSY, 1954-1980 by Zev Eleff charts the history of NCSY since its inception. These formative years allowed the national youth organization of the Orthodox Union to become what many say is now the largest force in bringing Jewish teens closer to their heritage and religion.

 

   Eleff wrote the magnum opus as an undergrad student at Yeshiva University. Eleff’s hard work is a thorough and detailed examination of the challenges facing NCSY in its early days and the politics that were present behind the scenes, a given in almost any national Jewish organization.

 

   One of those initial disputes was over the nature of certain activities NCSY sponsored for the young and unaffiliated Jews it hoped to bring closer to Orthodox Judaism. While NCSY was founded with the intent to follow halachic standards, it also needed to attract secular teens to its events. And yet, despite its refusal to cave to protesters and sponsor activities such as mixed dancing beginning in 1961, after Rabbi Pinchas Stolper assumed NCSY’s top position, NCSY was successful in attracting teens who may have otherwise balked at participating in social activities such as “separate workshops in ‘singing and Israeli dancing’ for boys and girls,” part of the program agenda for the 1960 NCSY National Convention.

 

   Eleff attributes this to NCSY’s “serious effort to give NCSYers a feeling of ownership of the youth ownerships,” owing to the movement’s malleable nature when it was first starting out. “Teenagers began to flock to NCSY because they considered themselves partners in its inception and development,” he writes.

 

   Another difficulty the young movement saw was in maintaining close ties with right-wing rabbinical figures, which Rabbi Stolper felt was crucial to NCSY’s survival and continued success. Eleff suggests that this was due to the fact that in previous decades, Modern Orthodox Jews were more lax in their religious observance. Thus, “Modern Orthodox rabbis of the 1970’s tended to validate their outlooks outside a halachic framework.”

 

   Because Rabbi Stolper hope to attract more right-wing youth to NCSY, the many endorsements of those Modern Orthodox rabbis would not go a long way towards convincing more right-wing teens to attend. However, as more right-wing rabbis had trouble giving approval to a movement that sponsored co-ed activities – even if they did not involved mixed swimming or dancing – appealing to more yeshivish students proved difficult.

 

   A further blow came when the Lubavitcher Rebbe, one of the most seminal figures in Orthodox outreach, criticized both Yavneh and NCSY as groups that fell outside the realm of acceptable Orthodox outreach organizations. Due to a misunderstanding, the Rebbe was led to believe that NCSY may have made dispensations for its followers at the cost of strict adherence to Torah law, which he found wholly unacceptable.

 

   “In the end,” writes Eleff, “the episode’s residual effects were minimal [but] the incident speaks to the caution exercised by the already well-established NCSY to mollify right-wing Orthodox leaders to whom NCSY administrators felt obligated to justify the ideals of the youth movement.”

 

   Eleff touches upon a significant change that faced NCSY beginning in the late 1970’s, when the majority of teens attending NCSY events and involved in its programming came from single-sex and co-ed yeshivas and day schools. Eleff accredits this to two things: to NCSY’s belief in “demographic studies [in the 1980’s] that suggested Orthodoxy was losing thousands of neglected young people reared in observant homes, and “the disappearance of Jews from the small towns that had once been the hallmark of the youth movement.”

 

   Many small-town families that had once been the stronghold of NCSY were now moving to more mainstream Jewish communities or becoming more assimilated into the general population. It was at this time, writes Eleff, that NCSY established intensive study programs and kollel programs in Israel, recognizing that the typical NCSYer was now most likely to be from an Orthodox background.

 

   The aforementioned episodes only highlight the numerous anecdotes and historical reminiscences that are so abundant throughout this crowning achievement. Eleff is to be commended for the painstaking research he conducted to compile this definitive history. The serious historian and the casual reader alike will both benefit from his devotion to producing a comprehensive history accurate in its minutest details. This slim volume contains a wealth of details.

 

   Perhaps the greatest value of this book is that it illustrates a number of important halachic and hashkafic principles regarding how one does effective kiruv on the individual and mass scale without sacrificing one’s integrity, personal or institutional. In that sense, this book reads like a primer of kiruv, one that kiruv practitioners today would be well advised to read and follow.

 

   The times, conditions, and challenges facing outreach workers in the 21st century might have changed in certain details – iPods, Internet, cell phones, etc. – but the principles for connecting effectively and communicating eloquently the beauty of Torah remain remarkably constant, and the heroic men and women who presided over the birth of NCSY have much to say to our modern kiruv workers. And given the realities of the Jewish world and our responsibility for our fellow Jews, aren’t we all outreach workers?

 

   Rabbi Burg writes an afterword, praising Eleff’s work in tackling “the seemingly insurmountable task of documenting NCSY’s formative early years.” Rabbi Burg described the ways NCSY has changed in more recent times, as teens themselves have changed since earlier decades of NCSY. “… as of the close of the era covered by this volume, NCSY’s story has just begun. I look forward to the eventual, inevitable sequel, detailing how NCSY continues to carry the torch into the new millennium and beyond.”

 

   The book is available in major Judaica stores and through the OU’s online store, www.shopou.org.

Rachel Lallouz

Photojournalist’s Testimony: Photographs By Jerry Dantzic

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Trailblazing in the Rebbe’s Footsteps


Chassidic Art Institute


375 Kingston Avenue


Brooklyn, New York 11213 


718-774-9149


Noon-7 p.m., Sunday-Thursday 


Zev Markowitz, Director


 


Lag B’Omer is a communal sigh of relief. Historically the plague that consumed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students in the second century did not include the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. The Talmud relates that this terrible scourge was caused because “they did not act respectfully toward each other.” Therefore one aspect of the holiday of Passover (when the counting begins) celebrates the healing theme of ahavas Yisrael, the imperative to love and respect our fellow Jews.

 

Another reason to express joy on Lag B’Omer is the commemoration of the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of the most illustrious of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples and a fierce defender of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Following his instructions to his students, it is celebrated with outings, parades, bonfires and communal celebrations − especially at his grave in Meron in northern Israel.

 

Known as the author of the Zohar, his influence continues to this day in the practice of Kabbalah and many Chassidic customs. Not the least of which is the annual Lubavitch Lag B’Omer parade, in which Shimon bar Yochai’s lifelong crown of Torah study is proudly celebrated on the streets of Crown Heights. As a 1973 poster proclaims: “American Jewry! Join 50,000 Boys and Girls Saluting Judaism!” On that Sunday, May 20, 1973, the photojournalist Jerry Dantzic captured much of the spirit and happiness of that Lag B’Omer, seen in a stunning series of photographs at the Chassidic Art Institute until September 2.

 

Jerry Dantzic (previously reviewed here in April 2003) was a lifelong photojournalist, whose long career documented the arts, music and the vast diversity of New York life.  He freelanced for the New York Times and Life and Look magazines, among other major publications. He also taught photography at Long Island University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

 

In 1971 he rediscovered the Cirkut camera that could take panoramic 360-degree pictures. His tour of all 50 states exploring the creative possibilities of this unique camera resulted in two Guggenheim Fellowships, an NEA Fellowship and, finally, a Museum of Modern Art exhibition in 1978.

 

The black and white prints shown here (all about 17 x 25 inches) are a curious mix of old and new technology. They were shot using Dantzic’s dependable Leica camera with Kodak Tri-X film. He took about 200 shots of the Lag B’Omer parade in May 1973, but didn’t print any of them because the funding sought for “The White Ethnic Project” that they were to be part of was never granted from the Guggenheim Foundation.

 

 



Grand Lag B’Omer Parade; Black and white photograph by Jerry Dantzic. Courtesy: Chassidic Art Institute


 


 

In preparation for this current show Dantzic’s son and archivist Grayson Dantzic, along with curator Zev Markowitz, chose the images for this exhibition and had them printed using the latest digital technology by Gamma One Conversions. They are brilliant, crisp prints, preserving all the qualities of the original black and white glossy technique.

 

The first half of the show consists mainly of photos of a Grand Farbrengen, celebrating the 46th anniversary of the 12 Tammuz release of the sixth Rebbe from Soviet prison and reversal of his death sentence for “counterrevolutionary activities” that included organizing an underground education network that helped Judaism survive the Communist suppression of religion. Seated prominently on the dais is Israel’s President Zalman Shazar, seen toasting Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson at the 1973 event.  All of these images were previously shown in the 2003 exhibition.

 

The Lag B’Omer photos begin appropriately with Eli Lipsker and his Drum Corp, a spirited 25-member marching band, setting the celebratory tone of the day’s festivities. Lipsker is seen proudly leading his band across an Eastern Parkway filled as far as the eye can see with men, women and children – and dozens and dozens of signs proclaiming a cacophony of messages: “Put on Tefillin,” “We’re From Boro Park,” and “Enjoy Torah, It’s the Real Thing.” In a more stationary mode, the six-man Neginah Orchestrais playing their tunes to an equally enthusiastic crowd.

 

The three images of the Rabbinical Grandstand move from conventional piety to an unexpected pictorial insight. The first image (actually number 3) captures at least 14 elders, almost all with long white beards and many bespectacled, appreciating the proceedings.

 

 


Rabbinical Grandstand #1; Black and white photograph by Jerry Dantzic. Courtesy: Chassidic Art Institute

 

 

The next image from a slightly different angle sees the same men a few moments earlier, but now includes a back row of “ordinary” Jews. One man in the upper left is quizzically looking up at the sky, as if to seek a Heavenly sign of approval of the celebration. 

 

And finally, the last image in this series (number 1) pulls back from the Rabbinical Grandstand to reveal the wooden bleacher on which the sages are seated. Behind them in clear focus is the corner of Kingston Avenue and Eastern Parkway, with the building at 770 Eastern Parkway overseeing the entire scene. The first two rows of the bleacher are empty, creating the illusion and perfect metaphor of Rabbinic elevation and perhaps even levitation.

 

The notion of an event that somehow transcends the mundane world is further explored in another image of the Kingston Avenue/Eastern Parkway corner. The fire escape of the four-story building at 788 Eastern Parkway is packed with young men overlooking the parade. On the second floor a banner proclaims, “The Torah Times: its what’s happening!!” under a six-foot size “pocket watch.” On the floor above, another banner simply proclaims, “Keep Shabbos!” And finally, the top-floor fire escape supports four or five Chassidim appreciating what they think is the best viewpoint. 

 

But the image continues to give more and more precious information the longer the viewer lingers. The fire escape crowd is exclusively men, while the packed crowd on the street below is discreetly mixed with men and women. Everybody is straining for a view of the parade, perhaps none more precariously than the eight men we suddenly notice all the way at the top of the image on the edge of the roof above.

 

Finally, just when we think the image has taught us everything we might want to know about this happy moment in time, we see the two women in the window at the extreme right edge of the print. Their presence peering out of the open window, almost secretively in the otherwise all male building, reanimates the scene with a diversity and excitement that make us want to continue scouring the photograph for more secrets and insights.

 

The combination of an intense crowd scene, the layered placement of 40 figures dressed remarkably alike and integrated with the architecture of an ornate building façade begins to express the complexity and transformative nature of this religious celebration.

 

The heart of this Lag B’Omer celebration may be found in what is the oddest, and yet most exciting, image in the entire exhibition: Dancing Rabbis. The location is suddenly strange and unfamiliar, an open field and bleachers with distant institutional buildings in the background. A line of six couples − all male − are seen dancing across the field with the clumsiest elegance imaginable.

 

 


Dancing Rabbis; Black and white photograph by Jerry Dantzic. Courtesy: Chassidic Art Institute 

 

 

The Lubavitch men are filled with the incredible spirit of the day’s joyousness without the necessary dancing experience – and yetdance they must! One seems to be telling the other, “Just prance and jump, that’s all there is to it!” while another drags his partner in happy excess. The innocence of man dancing with man as couples, not in an anonymous line dance, pushes the image into a transcendence of the moment that perfectly captures the ineffable spirit of Lag B’Omer, a day of release from sorrow; a day of immersion in the holy Torah, and love and joy of our fellow Jews.

 

It is said that photojournalism does not aspire to the refined status of art photography. Its job is relatively simple; just describe in pictures what happened and bring back the story for the uninitiated. We can see from this exhibition that Jerry Dantzic was a first-rate photojournalist who clearly went beyond simple reporting, as his work becomes a testimonial to the Jewish community – its joys and beliefs.

 

At this Lag B’Omer parade, he turned his lens not on floats, banners and spectacle. Rather it was the crowd that mattered to him, since he instinctively knew that the audience − the people who faithfully traveled and participated by their very presence − was the real subject of this celebration. As a proud Jew, he knew it was the Jewish people that ultimately mattered. So too, the banner quoting the 133rd psalm at the top of 788 Eastern Parkway proudly says that where Jews are this united, “For there Hashem has commanded the blessing, May there be eternal life!”

 

Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

Richard McBee

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/photojournalists-testimony-photographs-by-jerry-dantzic/2008/08/13/

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