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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Uzbekistan’

Report: Muslim Countries ‘Worst Violators of Religious Freedom’

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Ten out of the 15 countries with the worst religious freedom abuses are Muslim, according to the recently released U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2013 Annual Report identifying the status of religious freedom throughout the world, and citing countries that are the least tolerant of religious freedom.

IRFA requires the President of the United States, who has delegated this authority to the Secretary of State, to designate as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, those governments that have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom.

IRFA defines “particularly severe” violations as ones that are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious,” including acts such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances, or “other flagrant denial[s] of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”

After a country is designated a CPC, the President is required by law to take action to remedy the situation, or to invoke a waiver if circumstances warrant (As the late JFK put it: He may be an SOB, but he’s our SOB).

For the 2013 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight countries as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

USCIRF also finds that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

USCIRF also places countries on its Tier 2 list, where the country is on the threshold of a CPC status, meaning that the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are particularly severe and that at least one, but not all three, of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard is met.

The Tier 2 designation provides advance warning of negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom, thereby giving policymakers an opportunity to engage early and increasing the likelihood of preventing or diminishing the violations. USCIRF has concluded that the following eight countries meet the Tier 2 standard in this reporting period: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, and Russia.

But not to worry – the State Department has issued indefinite waivers on taking any action against Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. As a result of these waivers, the United States has not implemented any policy response tied to the CPC designation for either country.

Gives a whole new meaning to the slogan “Freedom must be earned.”

In Egypt, the government has failed to protect Coptic Christians, who comprise 10 percent of the country’s 90 million people. The Copts have been tortured and killed and individuals continue to be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for “contempt” or “defamation” of religion (Islam).

Somebody should start boycotting Egyptian products…

In Iran, religious freedom for minorities has deteriorated over the last year, a bad year for the Baha’is, Christians, and Sufi Muslims. The Report details that, “physical attacks, harassment, detention, arrests, and imprisonment” intensified.

Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, and Zoroastrians have faced harassment, intimidation, discrimination, arrests, and imprisonment. Anyone who has dissented against the government, a theocratic republic, including Majority Shi’i and minority Sunni Muslims, have been intimidated, harassed, and detained. Several dissidents and human rights defenders have been sentenced to death and executed for “waging war against God.”

Human sacrifice, that must be their god’s favorite pastime.

Taking The Diaspora’s Portrait

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora
Photographs by Chrystie Sherman
Through January 9, 2009
The Austrian Embassy
3524 International Court, NW,
Washington, D.C.
http://www.acfdc.org/

 

Walking through Chrystie Sherman’s solo show at the Austrian Embassy in Washington will almost inevitably make viewers rethink their notions not only of what it means to be a Jew, but also what Jews look like. Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora is the product of six years of traveling, wherein Sherman photographed Jews in communities that are disappearing. Included are images of Jews from Krasnaya Sloboda, Batumi, Privolnoye, Oguz, and Tbilisi in Azerbaijan and Georgia; Santiago de Cuba and Old Havana in Cuba; Teplik and Vinnytsa in the Former Soviet Union, Berdichev, Kiev, Odessa, Shargarod; Aghbalou Village, Arazane Village, and Tunisia in North Africa; and Tashkent, Bombay, Kochin, Parur District, Kottareddipalem, and Alibag in Uzbekistan.


Many of the images are difficult to look at. “I cried a lot on these trips,” Sherman said at the exhibit opening. “No one is smiling on these trips, because it is counterintuitive.” Sherman also found mixed responses from her would-be subjects, ranging from “terror to pleasure to hostility.” Yet, Sherman said, she became friends with many of them and sent them the photographs she had taken after they were developed.

 

 


Chrystie Sherman. “Rabbi,” 2002. Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

 

However sad, she compares her photographic project with Oscar Wilde’s famous 1890 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which tells the coming-of-age story of Dorian, a very attractive young man who posed for the artist Basil Hallward. As Dorian discovers more about himself, he realizes to his horror that his own depravity and sins are visited not upon him but upon Basil’s painting. Despite his reprehensible life, Dorian remains forever young and beautiful, as his representation becomes more and more terrifying. Sherman sees her work as akin to Basil’s portrait of “past, present, and future” − but added that, “Lost Futures” is “ultimately a question of the future” − the future of the far-flung Jewish communities.


One of the most gripping portraits in the show is a white-bearded rabbi who sits on a bench with a Holy Book in his hand. He wears a dark coat over a white robe and has a large knit kippa on his head, which tilts to the right as he looks at the camera. His face is deeply wrinkled, and he appears to have been disturbed from his studies or prayer by the photographer’s sudden appearance. Behind him is a structure of some sort that seems liable to collapse at any minute – a dramatic touch deepened by the dark shadows of the black-and-white image. According to Sherman’s caption, the rabbi is the oldest member of the Orthodox synagogue in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and he sits in front of the construction of a new synagogue, which will probably never be finished.

 

 


Chrystie Sherman. “Shabbat,” 2002. Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

 

“Shabbat,” which shows a housewife in a doorway to her house in Bukhara, carries a very different tone. The woman, who wears a dress that both evokes a lizard’s scales and camouflages with the doorway, is preparing Friday night dinner, according to the caption. Sherman’s compositional move of capturing the anonymous woman in the doorway provides a second frame, wherein the woman is in a doorframe, which sits within a larger frame. The viewer is offered no glimpse of what is inside the home, and a bright white light shines from behind the figure, almost offering her a halo. Like the rabbi, this woman’s expression is tough to read, and she could easily be mistaken for a movie star posing for a glamorous photo rather than a Jewish woman preparing for the Sabbath.

 

 

 


Chrystie Sherman. “Holocaust Survivor,” 2000. Teplik, Former Soviet Union.

 

The woman who posed in Teplik in the Former Soviet Union for “Holocaust Survivor” cannot be mistaken for a movie star. Most of the woman’s family perished in the war, and she lives by herself in a small wooden house. Sherman shows the woman, who wears a flower-patterned shirt and a shawl over her head, standing in a field full of weeds. The woman carries a walking stick in her right hand, and it seems that her laundry is hanging behind her. This photograph could be a companion piece to the Tashkent rabbi in a diptych, as the survivor tilts her head in the opposite direction. Like the rabbi, she looks directly at the viewer.

 

 

 


Chrystie Sherman. “Challah,” 2001-2002. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

 

In “Challah,” a young boy carries a loaf of challah that his father baked to the synagogue. The boy wears a striped polo shirt and a large kippa, and he stands in front of a street and an alleyway where two Cuban children sit. Viewers can compare and contrast the boy with the two children and arrive at a lot of differences. They are black and wear no shoes. He is white, holds a Jewish ritual food, and is dressed nicely. In fact, many viewers might be comforted by the fact that, a loaf of challah is a loaf of challah is a loaf of challah − and they make it the same way in Cuba. But that does not seem to be the point. Sherman’s work is about gathering together − perhaps an antidote to the Diaspora that she represents − and about finding common bonds between Jews around the world, even as they are very different.


I think this is a touchy point for Jewish art. If Diaspora and losing the Temple is supposed to be our punishment for sin, and if we are spread out around the world just as the builders who created the Tower of Babel were, because we were deficient in our faith, then ought Jewish art celebrate those differences?


Is documenting Diaspora an appropriate project for a Jewish artist? I think there is a great risk in becoming enamored of Diaspora, since a multicultural world where people look different and act differently and have different customs sounds far more exciting than one where everyone is the same. Sherman agreed that the aim is to leave the Diaspora and return to Israel, but she was not particularly worried about the notion of memorializing Diaspora.


“As a photographer, to go around and see these really ancient communities that are really steeped in community and history that are drying up is very sad,” she said. “Maybe I just have a problem with things that end.”
    
MENACHEM WECKER welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, and resides in Washington, D.C.

Ozeri’s Bukharan Conversation

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

Bukharan Odyssey: Photographs By Zion Ozeri

Support for this exhibition is provided by the Nartel Family Foundation and the Moti Hasson Gallery.

 

Museum of Jewish Heritage, A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

18 First Place, Battery Park City, N.Y.,

(212) 509-6130

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday – 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m.; Wednesday – 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday – 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Nov.- March.

Admission: $10 adults, $7 seniors, $5 students, children 12 and under free.

Until March 12, 2006.

 


Look someone in the eye, and you immediately begin a narrative. Photograph them while they are looking at the camera, and a cascade of narratives are launched. That is the nature of our visual selves, one of the strongest desires of the human being, the passion to connect. Zion Ozeri’s photography is responsible for a flood of narration arriving from the four corners of the Jewish universe. His camera and his vision reach out to our brethren, isolated and impoverished in more ways than one and begins a conversation. One wonders if we, his audience, will be able to respond.


Each conversation must have at least two participants, and their mutual interaction begins to create a narrative, a story of that encounter. In these photographs only one side of the conversation is seen, therefore part of that narrative is stillborn. Nonetheless, the visual presence of his subjects evokes a deep historical narrative, pushing back into the viscera of their lives. Zion Ozeri opens up the narrative of the Bukharan Jewish experience in Bukharan Odyssey, currently on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Each person’s story seems to rest on an ancient history.


The “Family Fergana” resides in Uzbekistan and their rural existence appears hard; the pitchfork on the left has such weight that it visually balances father, wife and daughter. They look directly at us, three aspects of their familial life. The father’s firm grasp of the tool-handle anchors the women in his family. His tradition is affirmed by the large woven kippah, even as his wife’s modern silk print proclaims a woman of the contemporary world. Their daughter links her parents; her modest and yet open features look to a future she can hardly imagine. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this photograph is the light that leaks through the slats above the doorway. On the right, the head of a lamb behind a wire enclosure finally convinces us that their portrait has been taken in the family barn.


Bukharan Jews have an ancient narrative, claiming that they arrived in Central Asia just after the Babylonian exile. The Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 31b) mentions the existence of a town called Margwan, now know as Margiana, located in a fertile delta region in Turkmenistan, only 200 miles southwest of Bukhara. Muslim sources in the 8th century refer to Jews in this region perhaps because the Jews were the only people of this area that did not accept conversion to Islam. While a Jewish presence has been specifically documented in Bukhara in the 13th century, only in the 16th century did it become a center of Jewish life in Central Asia. Soon a Jewish quarter was imposed, forbidding Jews to live elsewhere.


Due to regional geopolitical strife, the Bukharan Jews were cut off from the rest of world Jewry in the 18th Century and soon after, Islamic efforts of forced conversion deeply disrupted the Jewish community. The conquest of the area by the Russian Empire in the mid-19th century briefly improved living conditions but continued oppression and discrimination hastened a further decline. The Russian Revolution in 1917 heralded more restrictions, this time based on Jewish participation in former “exploitations” of the working class. As part of the Soviet suppression of all religion, most synagogues were shut down in the 1930′s and while many Jews steadfastly maintained traditional observances of circumcision, marriage and burial, other aspects of Jewish life such as Shabbos and kashruth were deeply eroded. The 20th century narrative of Bukharan Jews has been fractured, difficult and finally dominated by emigration away from their homeland to the United States and Israel. Ozeri documents those who remain.


Marriage in all Jewish communities is an ecstatic occasion, marking the beginning of Jewish lives that we hope will flourish and create even more life, guaranteeing a future from the union of two Jewish neshamas. “Young Bride, Karmana, Uzbekistan” reveals another aspect of marriage. The pure practicality of this scene is overwhelming. This young woman peers out at us from her material universe of pots, pans and utensils. She leans on the family stove clad in a delicate floral robe and woolen socks. An open milk urn is the center of her collection of vessels as she smiles at us, finally happy to be a vessel of Jewish life. Ozeri could have photographed her anywhere; in a bedroom, a living room or outside. His choice of the kitchen and placement of her in the composition begins telling the narrative of her life to us.


While many of Ozeri’s images in this exhibition are simply documents of Bukharan Jewish life, the poetry we find in some of his photographs is linked to a concentration on one or two individuals, almost always confronting the photographer. It is here that Ozeri moves from document to narrative, from skill to poetry. “The Musician” is at first a straightforward enough image of an older man in knit kippah, proudly holding a traditional stringed instrument, the tanbur. His serious expression reflects the gesture of presentation, as if by showing us the instrument we will somehow hear it. But Ozeri pushes further by capturing an abstract pattern on a wall behind his subject. It takes up half the image and the horizontal and vertical lines, thick and thin seem… well… musical. Reminiscent of the rigging of a ship or a very modern musical notation, this design of shadows echoes the old man’s music.


Quite another kind of music is summoned in the photograph, “In the Yard, Margelan.” It is an image of a woman standing in a cow barn with a thick cattle prod. Her son clasps her side, shyly averting the photographer’s stare. She too seems preoccupied, glancing down. She is an absolute stanchion of stability, providing sustenance for the family. And yet is this really the ultimate source of a Bukharan Jew’s livelihood? No, indeed traditionally Bukharan Jews thrived in the fabric industry, especially in the dying of cloths. Earlier in the 20th century they were limited to hairdressing, shoe repairing and petty trades. More recently they entered the professions as doctors, teachers and engineers. But farmers… no this image represents a stunning reversal of cultural status, a defeat well worth serious contemplation. This is no song, but a dirge.


Yet this exhibition is no dirge. It is filled with hope and an appreciation of the life of the Bukharan Jews, exemplified by a portrait of a “Nursing Mother.” She sits alongside her child’s crib, rather surprised by the photographer’s intrusion. She stares at us, centered in the bottom half of the image, determined to provide sustenance to her child. Most tellingly in the dim background, we see the walls of her room covered with pictures, indistinct and yet definitely images. She is feeding the future of the Jewish presence in Central Asia and has as a support, literally a background, a pictorial inheritance to pass on.


Indeed, each one of these Ozeri images narrates a history past and present. It starts us on a conversation with fellow Jews struggling to maintain themselves as Jews in a frighteningly alien land that is still their traditional home since the Second Temple. What are we to make of this determination, this fierce faith? Can we learn from it? It depends upon whether we take up the conversation Ozeri has begun.



(Historical background: Encyclopedia Judaica)




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

Diaspora Pictures: Photographs By Chrystie Sherman

Friday, October 31st, 2003

Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora:
Photographs by Chrystie Sherman. 92nd Street Y:
Milton J. Weill Art Gallery. Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street. (212) 415-5500:

Call for Gallery hours. Until October 24, 2003.

 

There are Diasporas and then there are Diasporas. We Jews in the American Diaspora are fortunate to be exiled in the freest country in the world, with full religious freedom and the benefits of an affluent society. Our Torah communities are strong, healthy and growing in the midst of the majority of Jews who still identify as Jews, even as tragically large numbers of our brethren drift into the allures of assimilation and Jewish annihilation.

Other Diasporas struggle with a starker reality and simply hope to survive in any form. This “Other Diaspora” is the subject of Chrystie Sherman’s powerful photographic essay, Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora at the 92nd Street Y until October 24, 2003.

Sherman’s powerful compositions and compelling subjects make a strong case for the use of the portrait as a narrative medium in one of the strongest exhibitions of contemporary photography in recent memory. Her images engage the viewer with an unsentimental honesty
that elaborates upon the portrait format of modern masters such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Both these artists utilize eye contact and emotional engagement of the subject against a neutral modernist background as the foundation of visual communication. Sherman expands this vocabulary with the introduction of an engaging social context. Each of her subjects is
situated in an environment that, by means of composition and potent symbols, narrates the individual image into the complex fabric of Jewish life often poised at the very edge of survival.

Chrystie Sherman is a professional photographer with 25 years experience in photojournalism and set photography for public television. After working on portraits of Holocaust survivors on the Lower East Side through Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, she became intrigued by the idea of the forced dispersions and suffering of the Diaspora. Exploring the backwaters
of the Diaspora, she photographed in the former Soviet Union in 2000, Cuba in 2001, then Uzbekistan in 2002, and this year in India in what has become The Diaspora Essay, to be published in 2005.

She sought out dwindling Jewish communities ravaged by oppression, poverty and emigration of much of the younger generation. In spite of this diminution, there were those Jews who choose to stay behind and maintain a Jewish life in their homeland. They are her subjects in
the 27 black and white prints shown here.

Holocaust Survivor, Teplik (2000) stands alone in her garden. She lost most of her family during the war and has lived alone since in a small wooden house. The photograph’s composition shapes the subject’s staunch determination to survive in the face of unremitting
suffering. Her figure is pushed to the right of the frame, assaulted by the curved wash line and the leaning overgrown plants. It is as if nature itself conspires to topple her. And yet, her determined eyes and steady glance at the camera tells us that she will persevere. Indeed, she is rooted to the earth by the dark shape of her dress, clinging to her homeland in spite of all odds.

Explicitly Jewish content in these powerful images is frequently submerged in subtle allusions. Woman with Bullock, Alibag (2003) is typical in its disarming impression of an Indian rural scene. This illusion begins to evaporate as we notice how the line of the rope carefully winds its way from the lower left foreground (our visual entrance to the image), through the young
woman’s hands, up through the beast’s horns and finally to the sky at the top of the image. This motif echoes a far more ancient Jewish reality of taking a prized animal up to the Temple in Jerusalem for sacrifice. The finely dressed maiden, tenderly posing with a valuable beast,
ennobles a banal reality and allows it to resonate through the corridors of Jewish time.

Symbols, strikingly simple in Sherman’s photographs, provide a narrative background in Samuel the Butcher, Old Havana (2002). The Magen David clearly identifies the shochet just as the rooster creates an ample allusion to the vicissitudes of the Jewish year. Perhaps it is the extreme verticality of the composition that makes the handsome rooster seem a likely candidate for Kaparas just before the Yom Kippur. Surely the butcher himself seems strong and determined to work for at least another year in the only kosher store in Cuba.

The Biblical narrative itself arises in Sarah and Her Indian Servant, Kochin (2003). The startling contrast between the European face of Sarah and the darkly beautiful Indian servant brings to mind the distinction we can imagine between Sarah our matriarch and her Egyptian maidservant Hagar. How well did they know each other in middle age, before Hagar bore Ishmael? The gestures of their hands and tilt of their heads echo their closeness. Was there originally a bond of affection and trust in that distant past as we see here in these two beautiful women? Sherman’s photograph plunges us into complicated relationships of today even as it reveals the complexities of our familial ancestry.

Chrystie Sherman is exploring in photography what it means to be a Jew on the edges of Jewish existence. Her photographs of the graceful Bukharian housewife Erev Shabbos, the hands of a Jewish bride in Bombay intricately decorated with henna, and even aged resistance fighters in the Ukraine all touch on issues of self-identity in a foreign environment. These communities are barely holding on, and yet the strength of the people, expressed in the power and sureness of her images, lends a disproportionate hope for the future of this Diaspora. Each portrait expands into an engrossing narrative and in the hands of this artist; each narrative
implies not only a past, but a future as well.


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at www.richardmcbee.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/diaspora-pictures-photographs-by-chrystie-sherman/2003/10/31/

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