Posted Michał Zajda
Kingdom of Jerusalem and Israel—Crusaders and Jews. Two different worlds, two different cultures, both having a common denominator – land! Magical, holy land soaking with the blood of knights, pilgrims, Jews and Muslims for thousands of years. Land with no memory of peace as it is always an object of dissention and war. Turning from love to hatred, from worship to violence. Being an object of desire and cause of great pain at the same time, like femme fatale it became a sense of life for whole nations. What does she mean for our world today? She is it’s heart and soul.
Eagerest defenders of Kingdom of Jerusalem, with their names dragged through muck and mire, being held liable for all evil in Dark Ages, Fratres Militiae Templi, Pauperes Commilitones Christi Templique Salomonis , mostly known as Templars were captured and imprisoned on October 13th, 1307. Why did it happen? The answer is simple - money! We can be absolutely sure that hundred years earlier no one would ever hurt this convent. So what had changed during this time? Akkon, the last Templars’ bastion in Holy Land fell in 1291. Since then, it no longer made sense for Templars to be a convent and they became a symbol of defeat. Investigation carried by the Pope cleared Templars from heresy charges. The document proving this was found in 2001 in Chinon. Nevertheless, Philip IV of France forced the Pope to conceal results of investigation and made Pope Clement V abolish the convent and confiscate it’s property. Most of the Templars were burned at the stake. As the king’s chronicler wrote : “they had to suffer unthinkable pain, and not one of them in his misery ever confessed. Therefore their souls might be condemned for eternal damnation, as they had lead mob astray”. The last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order , Jacob de Molay was burned alive on March 18th, 1314. Just before dying he called his tormentors before God’s Judgement. They came rather quickly! On April 11th, 1314 the keeper of the king’s seal and Philip IV’s closest consultant, Nogater, both died. Pope Clement V died the same year, on April 20th. The last one to join them was Philip IV himself, dying on 29th of November, 1314.
Convent in it’s structural meaning has failed to ever raise again. Nevertheless, the aura of magic and mystery surrounding it’s history is still alive today, in our minds and conscience. But the convent was not destroyed everywhere. In England, the king contented himself with just a piece of their property. In Aragon, Templars were transferred to Cistercian’s Order. In later years spiritual successors of the Templar Convent took part in geographical discoveries. Red crosses that appear on flagpoles of Portugeese ships are the proof of that. There is even a theory that Christopher Columbus himself had some contact with them. Some even claim that he was a member of a secret organization that had risen on ruins of the convent. Some of freemasonry lodges consider themselves spiritual successors of Templars, and the supposed enormous wealth that they have engage the imaginations of many a treasure hunter. Sometimes, here and there you can hear that they still exist and conspire, ruling this vale from back rows in the theatre of modern world. It’s never enough to just kill someone, you have to take away his history as well. This is the part where traitors failed…
Jews are the self-proclaimed chosen nation. They are progenitors of foundation of modern civilization, persecuted and loved at the same time. In some ways so extraordinary they became thorns in charlatans’ flesh. Is it a coincidence that so many Nobel Prize winners are frequenters of Synagogue? Some would say it is – and maybe they’re right. But if that’s the case then why, when I reach for scientific literature, do I often see a Mosaic smile on the back cover, the author beaming up at me? Vladimir Hotowitz, an outstanding pianist born in today’s Ukraine territory once said that„ There are three types of pianists – Jewish, gay and bad ones”. Was it a joke, conceit or maybe just stating the obvious? Artur Rubinstein, Clara Haskil, Władimir Aszkenazy, Lilya Zilberstein are just a few of the best pianists, and what about the rest of musicians? You could say it’s coincidence. Are you sure? The Jewish people are suspected for worst practice including “Christ’s murderers”, loan sharks, communists and humbugs, traders in everything. They are a people surrounded by superstitions, suspected of ruling the world and having hand in all of the conspiracy theories of this world. I hear many people say that the smell of garlic and passover bread spreads from Wall Street to Ural Mountains. This is definitely not a coincidence.
On January 20th, 1942, in a Berlin villa on Großer Wannsee, a group of prominent Nazi activists sentenced the Jewish nation. During those ill-fated 4 years of war, in the name of sick ideology, millions of people were murdered in a brutal, carefully planned way. Ideology so unthinkable, that not even Satan would participate. It’s hard to believe that anyone or anything would ever do such a thing. Satan’s students and henchmen in their human form had definitely outgrown their master. Using the word “human” in this case should actually raise many concerns, as this enormous cruelty is grossly inhuman. Nazi aggression grew out of people’s deeply hidden hatred, almost like a chemical reaction. Its outcome was just pure evil. Outbursts of slaughter, rapes, and persecutions were the result of venomous minds—minds exposed to aggressive Nazi ideology. The scale of this outburst in some cases even outgrew original intentions of Nazi malefactors. Hypocrisy and fraud were hidden in the ideology itself. German action against the Jewish nation during World War II was called Aussiedlung,a word which translates into English as “expulsion!” In a Jewish dictionary this very word took on a far more ominous meaning. It became a synonym for death. Why is that? Many books have been written on this topic. This isn’t a time or place for historical analysis, but sometimes, when I listen to the wisdom of this world, I want to scream! Even though, as years pass by, grief takes over my scream, then becomes despair, and then I’m left reflecting over poor education system. Professor Jerzy Wyrozumski, brillant polish mediaevalist and Polish medival history researcher, once started his lecture with this statement: „Ladies and Gentleman! If you don’t know what history is about, let me tell you – it’s either about money or women.” For modern historians King Philip V’s intentions are clear and were in no way influenced by a woman . On the other hand, the German machine named „Nazism” clearly experienced a deficiency, and surely not the love kind. Let’s ask one question. Would the Holocaust have ever happened if Jews had their own land and nation? The answer is no! You lose your land, and with the land there goes your independence, self-determination… the most important elements for a nation or community. It is a matter of life and death.
There are few analogies between Kingdom of Jerusalem and Israel. Of course, Israel is a gentile nation and this is what makes it strong. But in 1099, when Kingdom of Jerusalem was found, the concept of nation was strongly connected to religiosity, which was then commonly accepted. Israel today is a young country, populated by an ancient nation with culture and tradition based on religion.
Burning crematories of Treblinka, Aushwitz and Sobibor were as stakes into which Templars were thrown. Of course, we can’t compare the scale and we can’t compare times. For over 600 years man has gained experience and refinement. He has learned a lot! Thought progressed, methodology was adjusted. Only one thing that never changed was that guilty ones were the ones caught in the fire, burning. Studying history, sometimes I fear the progress, even though I know it’s inevitable. But remember - Historia magistra vitae est!
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June 20, 2012 | 9:56 am
Posted Mendelssohn X
According to Jewish mystical belief and Kabbalistic sages there exists Five Levels of the Soul. These five souls are in between the poles of Yesh, which is the world that we know, in which we exist as individuals being separate from the whole, and on the other end the world of Ayn, which is the cosmic soul of everything, or in more biblical words, it is what we mean when we say G-d is everywhere.
The individual being is like a sunbeam. It is unique and it exist as a „self“, but it is much more itself when it is in its source, which is the common sun, where the individuality of the sunbeam dissolves in a higher „self“. The five levels in between this „I am a sunbeam“-process are Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chayyah and Yechidah. Nefesh can be seen as the life force, which keeps the heart beating and the lungs breathing. Ruach is the instinct that causes you to look for shelter when caught by a rainstorm. Neshamah is the closest to our Ego. It is saying „I, me, mine“ and is a conscious and separate self. Chayyah is the beginning of cosmic consciousness. Chayyah understands that everything is connected, yet it also feels itself as a separate entity, though in unity with the whole.
If Chayyah had Facebook it would post stuff like „Be the change that you want to see in the world“ Gandhi. Before we come to the highest level, Yechidah, it is important to understand that most of the complexity between Yesh and Ayn happens between the soul levels Neshamah (ego) and Chayyah (cosmic consciousness). Now Yechidah moves from cosmic consciousness to unity consciousness, meaning it´s the Meta-LSD, when there is no separate self anymore at all, but only pure understanding without someone who would be actually there to understand. Abraham Abulafia said in the 13th century in Sepharad: Ani Hu!. I am He. And G-d himself had told Moses during the episode with the burning bush, he should tell the children of Israel that „I will be who I will be“ has spoken. Maybe that was the stuff that Jesus was on? Who knows, it used to be a rule that someone should not study Kabbalah until he is 40 years of age, because he might go nuts. What do you think, a great description of our reality or „One Jew over the Cuckoo´s Nest“?
You can see more pictures of Alisa on www.jewrnalism.org
June 20, 2012 | 9:41 am
Posted Itamar Treves-Tchelet
A moment before the interview started, Muhamed Mesic was having an oversea conversation with a work colleague in Spanish. “We have some legal issues with the government of Guatemala; they run their affairs there like in Iraq or Syria”, he switches to a perfectly formulated Hebrew and then apologizes: “Sorry for my bad language. I haven’t spoken Hebrew since 2009”.
The truth? One cannot notice. Apparently this is how it feels like when you speak more than 60 languages, not including holding a few academic degrees in Law, Judaism, International Relations and Japanology. And all these before even turning 28.
Muhamed was born in Tuzla, an industrial city in the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina of today) to a family of Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage. His mother tongue is Serbo-Croatian. After the falling apart of the communistic state, language was separated into Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. “Bosnian children speak three languages already from birth”, he says.
His phenomenal talent for languages was discovered by chance at the age of 5, while being with his family on vacation in Greece. “This was the first time I met people whose language I couldn’t recognize”, he remembers, “I could listen to our neighbors talking and then figure out the meaning from the situation. At the end of the vacation, I was able to help my father to communicate with a local mechanic who repaired our car. My parents were shocked.”
The doctors who examined Muhamed concluded that it is the Asperger’s Syndrome (a light form of Autism) that made him effortlessly comprehend languages, even unintentionally. “At the age of 9, I learned Swedish from the Swedish soldiers who were situated in my city during the Bosnian Civil War. In my first trip after the war to Hungary, my Grandmother demanded from me not to learn Hungarian, she said I didn’t need it. When I came back, I was afraid to tell her the truth.”
ITT: Which language do you use for thinking?
MM: Mostly in Slovak and Portuguese. Hebrew is also a very good language to think in. Once you translate a problem into Hebrew, it becomes more visual and understandable. I like the logic in Hebrew and the fact that you can be polite without really being polite. Also curses are a complete normal expression of a language, and I think that grammar isn’t that important for life – these are just arbitrary that developed with time. A language could be beautiful also without it. People tend to categorize simple languages as ‘primitive’, but au contraire.
How did you come to speak Hebrew?
When I was 12, I listened to a show on the radio with the president of the Jewish community in Bosnia. I was put on-line and asked him how I can learn the three languages of Judaism - Ladino, Yiddish and Hebrew. He laughed and asked: ‘all at once?”, and then recommended to start with Hebrew. At that time I also had a good friend who kept the VCRs of all the Eurovision Song Contests throughout the years. So this is how I started to learn Hebrew: by reciting Israel’s songs to the competition. I can recall all of them to that very day.
So the Eurovision is a multi Language Course for you?
Yes, but today it’s different. When I was young, each country sang in its own language, and I thought: ‘great – I can practice all of them’. Today everybody sing in English, and also not in the best quality.
Could you reveal you secret: how do you do it?
At first you need a cause to learn the language, and then to recognize how you can grasp it efficiently. Every person does it differently: some with the help of books, others with language courses, movies or music. Except for Hebrew and the Signs Language, I never took a language course. For instance, once I needed money. So a friend of mine asked me to learn fluent Latvian in 2 weeks and then to join him on a business trip in Riga. With the help of YouTube, two books and 43 cartoons I managed to get to a conversational level.
How come the fellows from the Linguistics Academy did not kidnap you by now?
I didn’t go there because I believe that it will take away all the magic.
The Battle over the Language
Muhamed left Bosnia 10 years ago in order to study International Law at the University of Vienna, with the faith that he could help his country better from abroad. During his studies he decided to focus on Genocides, a topic that concerns him since he was a child in Bosnia between 1992-1995. His role model is Jewish-American jurist Raphael Lemkin who coined the term “Genocide” in 1944. Similar to Muhamed, Lemkin spoke 15 languages himself.
“Before the war in Bosnia, people used to say: ‘we live with each other, not next to each other’. There was no relevance whether you were Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian”, Muhamed says. “And after the war I came to the conclusion that people simply do want to understand each other. So as being said ‘Never Again’ about the Holocaust, I have my private ‘Never Again’ in relation to Genocides.” And indeed, since he finished his studies, Muhamed has become a wanted speaker and activist in this field, and cooperated with the Professors Israel Charny and Eliyahu Richter from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The same as in battles over territory, Muhamed believes, there is also a war happening between big and small languages. According to recent estimates, the number of the languages spoken today is 6,700. More than half of them are doomed to disappear by the end of the century. Muhamed believes that by learning languages, he can rescue them and the minority’s culture they represent from extinction. “A bad example today is North America. Many minorities could have maintained their language and culture, and still integrate themselves with the mainstream”, he claims. “I have a friend; she’s an offspring to the Lakota Tribe, whose people have lost completely the ability to speak their tribe’s language. The only way they try to save it, is by holding a meeting once a week and learning there new vocabulary every time.
Look, allegedly there are languages that you don’t need for life.
I don’t focus on the plain profit from a language. I speak Icelandic for example, but I don’t think that I must do anything with it beyond speaking with friends and colleagues. Language is knowledge, and knowledge is happiness, and that’s what is important in life. A language dies when the people who speak it no longer relate to it as wealth, but as something redundant. And when it dies, the knowledge it carries in it dies with it. Take for instance ‘Tovan’, which is a Turk language being spoken in south Siberia. Children in this region learn this language as if it was already dead or extinct. Then they lose interest in it, and distance themselves from their own culture. This leads eventually to poverty in the region, violence and depression. You see the same with the Eskimos in a civilized country like Canada. I think that as the state has the duty to protect the freedom of religion for each person; it musts also protect his language.
And where do you think the schools should step in?
Sometimes I thank G-d for not going to school for two years during the war. This made me open my eyes and focus on what really interests me. The problem is that schools made language learning all about getting good grades, and in order not to be able to speak with other people [sic]
After he finished Law School in Vienna, Muhamed decided not to become a lawyer. “I don’t like confrontations”, he says, “I prefer to settle disputes and not the win them. In fact, I get a headache every time someone is lying to me.”
In these days he works as the head of the legal department of an international construction firm and for the “outbalance”, he is a part of several projects with the aim of creating sustainable and barrier free access for information. Over the last few years he has been active on Wikipedia (in many languages, in fact) and was busy with developing a platform for languages and translations named dict.cc.
How do people at home see your success?
Every time I drop by for a visit, people ask me where I have been and what I have done. The media used to invite me as the ‘kid who speaks many languages’ so they can test me live on TV like in a circus. It was nice while I was 17, but now I’m approaching 30 and stopped counting how many languages I can speak. The company I work for builds into the depth – specializing on the parts of the building you cannot see from the outside. I can relate to that because I also don’t like the spotlights and prefer to be alone with my books.
Where are you ranked between the people who speak the most languages in world?
There is no such ranking. And besides: how can you define ‘speaking languages’? I know, for instance, a guy who can greet, thank and say goodbye in 500 languages. There are people who can speak 8 languages as their mother tongue, including scientific and technical expressions. And me? I don’t learn languages to brag, for me it is enough that people can understand me.
June 20, 2012 | 9:39 am
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
Any large city wants to be proud of their Jewish Museum. London, claiming to be the centre of the universe, is no exception to this rule.
It is easy to walk by the Museum without spotting it. The inconspicuous building is neither fenced nor loudly inviting with banners or signs. It’s a quiet place in the middle of crazy Camden Town that, for an average London visitor, has nothing to do with Jews. Sure there are some bargain clothes and hippie folk, but Jewish culture—not so much. The place, however discreet it may be, offers more than its modest facade.
Those who had a chance to visit the Jewish Museum in Berlin are in certain way “disabled” to appreciate any kind of interactivity that another museum can offer. The Germans probably used all the possible ways of making a visit not only informative but also fun an interactive, reminiscent of an amusement park. In that regard the London museum has a lot to learn from Berlin. The items are displayed in a very standard way – object, some text about it and that is all. Some stories are told through speakers or headphones. Perhaps more could be done to engage the viewer with the presentation.
Londoners focused a lot on the British Jews throughout the years. Firstly there was a short introduction to Judaism: this part was designed around the principles of the religion with exquisite Judaicas brought from different parts of the world. The section explores all the do’s and dont’s of Judaism, luckily explained in a way that literally everybody can understand. Some rules are explained by children—their talks are absolutely adorable. After this general introduction to Judaism the visitor is taken for a tour in history. London used to be a place of high importance for the Jews (as it is today). Even though being a Jew openly has been prohibited for more than 350 years the Island has had a unique allure that has been appealing to Jews all over the world. There are many things to be showcased as the first Jewish settlements in Great Britain can be tracked all the way back to 1066. The glossy posters reproduce the landscape of Jewish London, the Jewish areas that have been demolished and the legacy that has not been forgotten, but can be seen only contained in the museum’s walls. There are butchers, shoemakers, bankers and young people who aspire to be famous – all of them reduced to their testimonies, diaries and pictures. Obviously, space is given to the migrants who came to the UK in the 20th century, significantly changing the Jewish landscape of the country.
For me the standard of any Jewish museum is set by the Holocaust section. Perhaps this methodology is wrong, perhaps it does not capture the the efforts of the curators working on the whole display, but presenting this extremely delicate issue is always difficult. How do we avoid showing the Shoah in an inappropriate or misleading way? How do we make the place informative and bias-free? The Jewish Museum in London decided to follow a well grounded way of telling Holocaust by telling a personal story. Londoners decided to pay tribute to a Holocaust survivor, a UK citizen, Leon Greenman. Not only had he gone through 6 Nazi concentration camps, but his whole life after the war has been dedicated to campaigning against racism. Greenman died in 2008 and today his vivid testimony explains what Shoah was. His whole story is placed a bit apart, in a separate room. The idea is fantastic because the Holocaust, as part of Jewish history, has the potential to become the only part of Jewish History. There is much to learn and know about Jewish culture and ancestry beyond just the Holocaust. The museum did a good job at including the Holocaust without having it define all of Judaism.
Care of the curators has to be acknowledged. There is a visible line of the story that is being told. There is a plot that visitors follow and they are well guided. No matter if they are Jews or not, they are able to learn. However, the information is not always relayed in the most engaging way—a talking LCD is obviously not the most that a modern museum can offer.
The Jewish Museum
129-131 Albert Street, London, Greater London NW1 7NB
For those who cannot visit the Museum in person, I recommend seeing the on-line exhibition “ Jewish Britain: A History in 50 objects”: http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/jewish-britain-home as well as Yiddish Theatre in London: http://exhibitions.europeana.eu/exhibits/show/yiddish-theatre-en
June 2, 2012 | 7:36 am
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
There are two of them. One is Jewish the other is not. They used to create artsy track-suit-like dresses and skirts. Now they embroil David’s stars all over their projects. And not only that….
- The brand ‘RISK made in warsaw,’ established by Antonina Samecka and Klara Kowtun, is centred on a grey hoodie. Everyday we wear high heel shoes, skirt, etc. We realized though, that we each have at least seven hoodies in our respective wardrobes, and we feel comfortable wearing them– says Antonina Samecka, the Jewish part of the duo. Once The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee contacted them to see if they would like to contribute to a Jewish fashion show they got very excited by the idea. - Initially the committee wanted models to go on streets wearing Hasidic clothes taken from the Jewish Museum in Krakow. Boring! We wanted to show that we are modern—leave the seriousness and pomposity at the door. We wanted to show that you can play with the symbols and you can play with being Jewish – and that’s why we founded RISK FOR JOINT.
- We wanted to show that being a Jew is cool and sexy, that it is modern and does not need to be fossilized or isolated – Samecka says. In the early 1990’ Jean Paul Gaultier showed a haute couture collection ‘Chic Rabbis” inspired by Jewish orthodox clothing. His sumptuously ornamented apparels, beautiful as they looked, were far from everyday wear. Samecka and Kowtun went a different direction an chose to display the easy-going part of being a Jew. Their aim was clear: show that the religion is relevant and sexy. - It might sound silly, but in Warsaw being a Jew is trendy. In some way it upgrades you and distinguishes you positively – this is how Samecka sees the situation in her milieu. - There is a café in Warsaw, it is called Chlodna 25. We sit there, we drink wine and than somebody says ‘I’m Jewish’. So we ask ‘What does it mean for you?’ ‘Actually nothing. I do not obey shabas, I do not eat kosher—it’s this attitude that goes well with wearing the RISK’s collection. It does not “dress up” people who wear it. Rather, it just gives a Jewish touch to the clothes that are already pretty artsy and underground.
Manifesting or playing hide and seek
When you first see the projects you may think that it is all about some kind of hidden manifestation. - Of course not! – Antonina protests. - We are not hiding anything here. The embroidery is made in fluorescent colours and it is impossible to miss it. It is not that we wanted to create a fashion-statement shouting ‘I am a Jew’. We wanted to observe the Jewishness of today and comment on it – she explains. Indeed, some of the clothes are very explicitly citing certain Jewish symbols: Mezuzah, Hamsa or Menorah and obviously the David’s star are omnipresent. However, if you are not familiar with them, you just cannot understand these references. - We wanted to take it with a grain of salt but at the same time avoid scoffing at Jewishness – this is how the authors of the collection see their work. They are just playing with the convention, countering the seriousness and dramatic thinking about Jews.
‘You wanna get your face smashed?’
Hidden or not, it seems to be a contentious issue to manifest your religious affiliation overtly. - When I was starting to work on this project, a couple of my friends told me that no one would wear the clothes, unless they wanted to get their faces smashed’. Samecka was always courageous though. Her grandma was terrified when one day she put on a David’s star and went to attend classes at her high school. Nothing bad happened. Why then, should people not show their Jewishness. - I do not want to use the word ‘mission’ but it is hard to frame it differently. I wanted to play with the Jewish symbols in a way that Jews understand but the general public (and people interested in criticizing Jews) may not. She underlines that the collection has nothing to do with hiding the symbols.
You had me at shalom
Moreover, the manifestation might have an additional appeal she thinks. - Imagine a situation: a Jewish woman is sitting with 10 men. She likes 5 of them but if she knows that one of them is Jewish it is obvious that she will focus on him, not the other four. This is how it works. It is even more true for Jewish men… You just feel a bond that is stronger because of nationality – says Samecka. This is how the duo came up with the ‘You had me at shalom’ T-shirt. The letters are large, it is not possible to miss them. After all, you do not want to miss an opportunity to meet Jews in a new environment.
Apart from the fun part and lively colours to attract attention, the collection engages in more serious issues as well. - The military stripes on a skirt is our commentary to the women in the Israeli army.
It is mostly about playing, but it enables people to wear symbols they normally would not wear. You put all that symbols on you but people do not recognize them – not a blunt statement, but a subtle way to reflect. - We are not talking about the conflicts or problems that Jews are facing, but it is a type of commentary, like a cartoon. It is not just a track suit with a David’s star embroiled.
The collection has its premiere tonight during the 7@Nite> event in Krakow. What is next? When asked about possible buyers of her products Samecka hesitates - Our brand has a lot of customers and I think they will be the first who will be interested in this collection. Even if they do not understand the symbols, they will like it’ A missed opportunity? Samecka does not think so - I believe that most of the collection will be bought by ‘local Jews’, which means friends and the friends of friends. Even though they claim not to be a closed Jewish clique, probably the informal channels will help to spread the word. - If there are some proposals to continue, we would love to. The constraint and limitations we met while crafting the collection have been very inspiring. For now though, we invested a lot, and whatever is going to happen, well, we will see after the first show.
The collection RISK FOR JOINT will be available on-line at midnight CET at http://www.shwrm.pl/ The project has been prepared by RISK made in Warsaw together with Monika Błędowska and Marcin Franczak.
(in www.ejpg.eu -> Lifestyle/ Fashion you can find photos of clothes)
June 1, 2012 | 2:33 am
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
Black and white, completely different from all the nuances and shadows that they create. There is not a black and white vision of who contemporary Jews are, and Judah Passow shows that perfectly while taking the viewer for a trip to the Jewish UK.
It is not a common thing to meet a photographer and get a private tour of his current exhibition. However, Passow, a winner of four World Press Photos awards, was present today at The Jewish Museum in London telling stories about his pictures. The project entitled ‘No Place Like Home’ has taken him two years to be complete. While walking through the exhibition you have an impression that one day, this graphic testimony will be displayed as ‘this is how it used to be in the 21st century’. And how is it today?
Passow unearths Jewish lifestyles that used to be kept secret. Meticulously, with a surgeon’s precision, he opens the world that stretches from the Orthodox Jews preparations for a Bar Mitzvah to Jewish gay couples dancing passionately. He embeds himself in the reality of the individuals he immortalizes. The outstanding naturalness is made possible by the meaningful relationships he established while working on ‘No Place Like Home’. There is one very special photograph entitled ‘37 minutes old’. Devorah Rachel Taylor is holding her newborn baby. The intimate atmosphere can be compared only with Vermeer’s way of approaching his models. The first contact, the first breaths of the baby and mother’s fulfillment are strong to the extent that while looking at the picture you can’t help but stand silent and engage yourself in living the joy. ‘The father of the child texted me when the labour has started. I have just jumped to a taxi and went to the hospital’ says Passow. London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Warwick… In two years the whole Jewish Great Britain has been explored. Passow reveals a more subtle Jewish lifestyle. He does not show jolly Hanukkah parties or formal celebrations in the Synagogues. His Jews are proud of being Jewish and they say loudly ‘This is us today, this is how we live, this is what we do and we are proud of that’. No posed family pictures of doubtful veracity. Some Jews he shows are angry as they do not like Easy Jet launching route to Tel Aviv, some are young soldiers unsure of the future. Some are excited like a couple preparing for their wedding. Passow captures brilliantly emotions that unite the Jews of all walks of life. Some of them are Orthodox, some Reformed, some not religious at all, but the author finds ways to unwind his panorama of modern jewry in the UK.
Passow explores a slaughterhouse in Luton where the butchers are awkwardly heroic in their mundane work. He shows a changing room of Maccabi Lions team where sweaty bodies are filling the frame. It could be any changing room, virtually anywhere.But little bits and pieces that create identity give clues of the histories the individuals have, something as simple as a tattoo. Shots taken in colour have been turned into black and white. The classic documentary style brilliantly preserves much more than just what has been shown. The relationships Passow has been embarking on during his project have been translated into 98 pictures that are giving a genuine account of the contemporary Jews in Great Britain. The British Jewish life has never been depicted with such a intimate touch.