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December 7, 2016 / 7 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘dancing’

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

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

Q & A: Getting Married During Sefira (Conclusion)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004
QUESTION: My friends are getting married on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. I tried to convince them to do otherwise, as many people have a minhag (custom) not to attend weddings until three days before Shavuot. They told me they spoke to rabbis who allowed it. Is this right? May I attend?
Name Withheld by Request
ANSWER: Last week we began our discussion with the clear answer that yes, you may attend the wedding. The source for observing mourning customs during the Sefira period is the Gemara (Yevamot 62b), which explains that 12,000 pairs of R. Akiba’s students died between Passover and Shavuot. The Geonim based their restrictions on showing excessive joy – such as getting married, cutting hair and listening to music – on that Gemara. The mourning customs do not include engagements and betrothals, which are permitted during that time.We also explained that the mourning customs are observed only during 33 of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot since the deaths occurred for 33 days, until Peros Ha’atzeret, calculated as 16 days before Shavuot (see Tashbatz Vol. 1, Responsum 178). Lag BaOmer, lit. the thirty-third day of the Omer, marks the end of the deaths and the mourning customs.

According to some, the 33 days of mourning customs are observed from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Shavuot.

* * *

From the statement of the Mechaber that it is wrong to have one’s hair cut on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, many have drawn the conclusion that according to either minhag, Rosh Chodesh is included in the mourning period. However, the Aruch HaShulchan (ad loc.) clarifies that this only applies to those following the first minhag, observing aveilut (mourning) from the second day of Pesach until Lag BaOmer.

There are other minhagim, and the Rema in his Darchei Moshe commentary on the Tur (ad loc.) notes that it is wrong to say that any of the customs is incorrect. Rather, we should not follow two leniencies at the same time.

The Magen Avraham (ad loc.) rules that we observe the mourning during the entire period because, in his opinion, R. Akiva’s students died during the entire period, but we subtract the days on which we don’t say Tachanun, which are: the six days of Pesach, starting from the second day of Pesach, when Sefira commences; the two days of Rosh Chodesh Iyar; one day of Rosh Chodesh Sivan; and the seven Sabbaths of those weeks, which add up to 16 days; on Lag BaOmer we are lenient due the significance of that day.

We also find the view in Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc.) that one who has not yet accomplished the mitzva of Pru U’revu, or one who cannot manage living alone, may marry even in the midst of his aveilut for his father or mother, for whom it is rabbinically incumbent upon him to mourn. Here, where it is only a minhag, he may marry where the need arises. Nevertheless, “we are more stringent in this regard in our lands.”

We find a similar conclusion in Responsa Beit Yisrael (R. Yisrael Zev Horowitz, zt”l, Av Beit Din in Ujhely, Hungary, and later in Tiberias, Israel) that it is a kal vachomer, an inference from minor to major, to permit marriages where there is a clear need to marry during those days.

R. Yitzhak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Vol. 8, Minhagei Yemei HaSefira 34) permits a marriage during Sefira where the need is great. He emphasizes that performing such a marriage on Rosh Chodesh Iyar is preferred. He then adds (contrary to the minhag of the Beit Yosef) that the groom may also cut his hair for the wedding.

Regarding the statements of the Tur and the Mechaber that if one “went ahead and married, we do not mete out any punishment,” the Mishna Berura explains that this only applies to marriage, for he has fulfilled a mitzva, but if one had his hair cut, there was a custom to levy a fine as punishment.

This issue is addressed in the wonderful encyclopedic Bein Pesach LeShavuot by R. Zvi Cohen, shlita (8:8). There we find a discussion based on Tur Bareket (siman 493) regarding the custom of forbidding the cutting of hair, which was instituted earlier than the custom of forbidding marriages [in this period of time], the latter coming “on the heels of” the former. The fact that we are accustomed not to marry between Pesach and Shavuot until Lag BaOmer is a new custom. It was instituted because there was no hair-cutting on those days. It was thought that the reason was the mourning for the deaths of twenty-four thousand students of R. Akiba. However, “according to those with understanding of Kabbalah, whose every action depends on sound motives, the main reason is that we do not cut our hair on those days because of a specific hidden reason, not because of mourning.”

R. Cohen notes that Tur Bareket is cited by Birkei Yosef (493:10) and points out that there are obviously others who dispute this view.

We find another view in Responsa Chatam Sofer (Orach Chayyim, Responsum 142). The Chatam Sofer cites the Gaon R. Meshulam, who states: “Here the custom has evolved to marry on Rosh Chodesh Iyar [obviously both days], on Lag BaOmer, and on the three days of Hagbala [the three days preceding Shavuot]. And this should not be done because it appears as ‘tartei de’satrei,’ two contradicting positions. Therefore, as a set rule we will prohibit weddings on the three days of Hagbala.”

The Chatam Sofer notes that the only problem R. Meshulam had was not to create ‘tartei de’satrei,’ and that applies only to the mesadder kiddushin, the officiating rabbi who performs weddings on all these days. The individual is not wed on all these days – he gets married only once.

He also notes that the stringency of haircutting seems to be more severe than that of marriages. Nevertheless, any difficulties in behaving one way or the other stem from the fact that in the same city we do not subscribe to customs that are diametrically opposed one to the other.

The Gaon R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggrot Moshe, Volume I, Orach Chayyim 159) states clearly, as he does in other responsa, that here – in “New York” and in “Brooklyn” – where people have come from places with different customs, each may do according to his custom, as these places would be considered as one city with two batei din. In such a case there is no violation of “lo titgodedu.”

We find (Iggrot Moshe, Volume II, Orach Chayyim 94) that he was asked the following question: “What should a person do whose custom is not to have his hair cut from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until the [three] days of Hagbala and he has to go to a wedding on Rosh Chodesh Sivan?”

R. Feinstein sets forth that if one knows of this situation at the onset of Sefira, he could change his minhag, for whether he follows one minhag or the other, there would be 33 days on which he does not cut his hair.

However, if one had no knowledge of the impending wedding, what should he do? From R. Feinstein’s discussion we see that the main issue during Sefira is tisporet (haircuts), not weddings. He states that if one is able to attend a wedding without having his hair cut, he should refrain from cutting his hair. If refraining from cutting his hair will cause him embarrassment, he would be permitted to cut his hair even if he does not have a close relationship with the hosts, as there is a mitzva of simchat chatan vekallah at every wedding.

This is unlike a circumcision, where we only allow the father of the child, the mohel, and the sandak to have their hair cut. For a wedding, all are duty-bound to celebrate, which includes attending the wedding and personally making the new couple happy.

As for dancing and music, they too are not prohibited as they are part and parcel of the wedding celebration. If one makes the wedding on Lag BaOmer or erev Rosh Chodesh Iyar, dancing and musical instruments are also permitted during the seven days of Sheva Berachot that follow.

R. Feinstein then concludes that everyone is permitted to be present and partake in the joy.

Thus, to answer your question, there would be no doubt that a wedding is permitted on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Whether you have your hair cut or not would depend on R. Feinstein’s guidelines.

It is important to understand that Jewish weddings are dependent upon the bride securing a date and the availability of a hall, and that leaves a very narrow time period during any given month. Therefore, we must be very considerate of the couple’s needs.

In conclusion, send back your response card indicating that you will attend, and perhaps we will soon participate in an even greater joy – dancing in the streets of Jerusalem as we celebrate the arrival of Melech Hamashiach speedily, in our days.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Fat Free Yeshivas

Thursday, January 1st, 2004

I recently attended an all-day shidduch program sponsored by the National Council of Young Israel in Manhattan. I spoke to a pediatrician, Dr. Dienstag, who told me that she was seeing female patients as young as nine and ten who had developed eating disorders because they were told that they had to be thin in order to get a good shidduch.

On the flip side, she expressed her concern about the rampant obesity amongst children in our
community. She echoed what I heard a year ago from a pediatric endocrinologist concerning the alarming increase of Type 2 Diabetes in school age youngsters.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many yeshiva boys are easily fracturing their bones because they are deficient in Vitamin D and calcium. They are deficient in Vitamin D because of insufficient exposure to sunlight, and deficient in calcium due to a lack of exercise.

There is a mindset in the haredi communities that any activity not related to learning is bitul z’man, a waste of time. Any activity but learning is seen as frivolous. To that end, children often go to school when it is still dark outside, and come home after dark. Recess periods have become shorter, and gym classes have been obliterated altogether. Recently, some
Hasidic rebbes have begun discouraging unmarried young men from attending weddings, because time used for singing and dancing could be better utilized by learning.

Sadly and probably unwittingly, the Torah world is undermining their children’s health. A colleague related a story to me of spending a Shabbos with friends who live near the shore. A 12 year old son of the family – who was grossly overweight – asked his mother if he could take a walk along the beach. His mother said no, insisting that his time would be better
spent in learning. The boy vented out his frustration by going to the fridge and taking a big chunk of cake to his room. This well-intentioned mother was oblivious to the fact that a stroll would very likely increase his ability to concentrate when he learned. Besides, his enjoyment the world Hashem created would be another form of learning. That is why we recite brachot upon witnessing the beauties of nature such as trees in bloom, great oceans, vast deserts or
lightning and thunder.

Years ago, in Toronto, when my boys were preteens, I was introduced to a man whose credentials on paper were impressive. He was a scientist, a child psychologist, and quite learned. He let me know that if we were to marry, my boys would have to stop playing hockey (they were in a Jewish league – set up for shomer Shabbat kids) since they could use that time for study. (Their pets also would have to go since they took up precious time as well.) I let him know that he could take a proverbial “hike”.

Life – even for children – can be very stressful – and it is a well-known medical fact that exercise relieves stress and strengthens the immune system. Physical activities such as sports also enhance mental health, releasing endorphins in the brain that naturally suppress depression. People who frequently jog experience what has been labelled “runners’ high”
because of how good they feel after an energizing run.

The irony is that educators and parents who are so concerned that their students learn at their
maximum capacity – are restricting the very thing that would increase their students’ ability to absorb information. Children who are physically fit have better circulation and are more alert and learn better than their easily tired, lethargic classmates.

In some cases, yeshivas have inadvertently become the “sweatshops” of the modern era, with
students hunched over their desks hour after hour, just like their great grandparents were hunched over their sewing machines 100 years ago, working 12 hour days. We adults would not tolerate being forced to work at our jobs six days a week from early morning to late evening. Civil rights lawyers would have a heyday in court suing employers with those
expectations! Then why is it OK for our children?

With the kosher nosh industry booming, with dozens of sugary treats overflowing our pantries and tired kids unconsciously overeating to get a temporary energy boosts, this generation of youngsters is at serious risk for diabetes – an extremely insidious disease with lots of serious complications such as blindness, skin ulcers, limb amputations – and cancer and heart disease.

The Torah exhorts us to take care of ourselves. Providing extended recesses, on-campus gym, swimming, even dancing at weddings is a good beginning. Hashem created our bodies as a temple for our neshamas. It’s time to stop desecrating His gift.

As for learning – the healthier one is, the longer one’s life – and the longer one can devote oneself to learning.

Cheryl Kupfer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/fat-free-yeshivas/2004/01/01/

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