Yesterday I visited the Yeshiva University Museum and was given a tour of the current exhibits by Assistant Curator Zachary Paul Levine. The Museum is housed at the Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011).
CJH (an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution) is home to five institutions: American Jewish History Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, all five present interesting exhibits and programs of interest to every Jew, all five boast impressive collections of historical, artistic and cultural items.
Three exhibits are, at present, running concurrently at the Yeshiva University Museum; these are: Jews on Vinyl (July 24, 2011 – January 8, 2012), Prophecy of Place: Quintan Ana Wikswo (August 14, 2011 – January 22, 2012) and Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women (September 25, 2011 – April 15, 2012).
Jews on Vinyl brought back many memories and some nice surprises as I listened to some of my long forgotten favorites of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and was pleasantly surprised and touched by some non Jews singing Kol Nidre, Eli Eli or Mein Yiddische Mamme. Yes, folks, you can listen to some highlights of the LP collection, they will delight you, they will surprise you, they will touch you and even make you want to dance!
I was touched by this very different photo exhibit. As the press release says:
Wikswo uses damaged and salvaged antique military cameras and battlefield typewriters to explore the startling ecological beauty that obscures “traumatized” sites of crimes against humanity, and to uncover the intergenerational legacies surrounding them. These fiercely mysterious images and starkly graceful prose poems create a powerful encounter with violence and beauty revealed through a fractured, unsettling lens.
Created between 2008-2011 in Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Finland and Russia, Prophecy of Place presents kaleidoscopic portraits of the astonishing and often invisible histories hidden at the heart of communities where Jews encountered exile, shelter and trauma.
Traversing 10 centuries, eight countries and five languages, the exhibition is a deeply immersive engagement with the legacy of Jewish survival and the struggle with other cultures through luminous, prismatic, multi-part contemporary photographs of villages, cities, shtetls and camps – sites where Jews have faced devastating attacks or attempts at cultural annihilation.
Some images make it hard to imagine the horrors Jews in these places once experienced, yet the poetry, subtly, makes it clear. Without minimizing the evil, Quintan Ana Wikswo‘s words give hope while making us aware of the terror. She gives a voice to all the nameless Jews tortured and murdered, whose cries can never be heard, whose names have long been forgotten. As I looked at these unsettling images, as I read some of her accompanying prose poems, every unheeded cry somehow pierced my heart, every tear seared it. But… you will not see any image depicting the pain, the brutality, the fear, the death…
Well worth a visit, gentle reader!