Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Shofar

Blowing the Shofar is an integral part of the Jewish high holiday rituals, Rather than repeat what's already been written about it, and much more authoritatively than I could ever hope to do, you can read all about it here. It's a ritual that captivated me as a kid.

Basically, it's a ram's horn (or a goat's, or any other kosher animal - except a deer, their horns are  bone) that has all the internal cartilage removed and a hole drilled in the narrow end. That's the easy part. The hard part is making a sound come out. Kind of like blowing into a trumpet, but more difficult because there's no mouthpiece for a shofar.

There's three specific sounds or signals that are used, each of different length. More about it all on that website.

Drilling the end-hole after the cartilage is removed:

Trying to make a sound by blowing into the hole:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Midtown New York This Afternoon

Traffic was controlled chaos. With the opening of the UN and all the diplomats and heads of state
attenting streets were closed all over midtown. Seems to me a terrible waste of manpower and money, just to ensure the safety of an institution that is a meaningless anachronism of the Twentieth Century.
The bright spot for me as I walked around was to visit the Mitzvah Tank that's parked on Fifty Seventh Street near Fifth Avenue every Wednesday afternoon.

Today was an important day in the Jewish calendar, called Chai Elul - the 18th of Elul: the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, Yisroel Ben EliezaR - the founder of the Chassidic movement, and the birthday of Sneur Zalman of Lliadi - the founder of the Chabad Lubavitche sect of Judaism. Also for the entire month of Elul leading up to the first day of Tishrei - which is the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is sounded during each of the three daily services and also for anyone who happens by and would like to hear the sound.

My friend Kalman, one of the regulars on the Mitzvah Tank (and a fellow photog):

Rabbi Levi Baumgarten blowing the shofar after the afternoon Minchah service:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Abundance of Bris Photos

Last October, after looking at all the work of the past few years on my Diaspora/Dream project, I realized I had gaps in the the overall story. One was the lack of brit milah photos. Now I have too many to choose from, and narrowing it down has become very difficult. The photo story has to be told in twenty images, so I don't have the luxury of several photos of the same subject. I have thirteen 'finals' to choose from, and as I'm writing this entry and listing the photos the stronger ones are becoming more obvious to me, but here they all are arranged by event.

I like this series of three photos because they have the intimacy of being in a private home. And the family and community are average mainstream middle-class Jews. The first is of the father holding his son before the ceremony:

The paternal grandfather holding the baby: 

Looking on while the mohel does the circumcision:

Another home setting with the paternal grandfather, baby, and mohel:

The next two were taken at Chabad World Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. 

The last set were taken in a restored synagogue on Manhattan's Lower East Side.  The first two are of the father holding the baby. They're very similar and each has it's strengths and weaknesses.

I have a special feeling about this last shot because of the view of the wine cup and the rabbi holding the baby. It's technically not great, but that's the problem when, as a photographer I become attached for emotional reasons to an image.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lower East Side Bris - Part 5: The Deed

The time comes in every Jewish boy's life when his mother turns him over to be carried to the mohel (pronounced moy'-ell) for the circumcision. It's a ritual that connects every Jewish male to our biblical founding father - Abraham.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Lower East Side Bris - Part 4

Lots of photos for this entry. I want to get to the actual deed in the next post. The synagogue where the bris was held, Chasm Sofer - named after a famous rabbi/torah scribe of the late 18th century, is a restored building on Clinton Street of the Lower East Side. I've been to the building a number of times over the past few years, but this visit was special. It had been through a restoration, and the finished project was beautiful.

Two shots from the women's gallery:

Brothers of the new baby:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Lower East Side Bris - Part 3

More faces from the congregation in attendance at the bris.

Lower East Side Bris - Part 2

The lighting was very difficult in the synagogue because the congregation was facing east and the eastern wall of the building had two long narrow stained glass windows through which the morning sun was very strong but it created some very interesting patterns. One of the grandfathers of the baby was sitting in a patch of light that had four different colors. The shots in color were impossible, but as b/w they came out rather interesting.