April 24, 2012 § Leave a Comment
My Shtreimel is a video blog that features my fiancée Loren, who is a reoccurring character in my work. Sitting in a dimly lit room, Loren shares a personal Sabbath ritual. Behind him is the large painting of the Rebbe that appears in Obsessed with Frida Kahlo video. Although Loren is alone, he addresses the camera as if he were speaking directly with his eventual audience.
My Shtreimel, YouTube Video, 2006.
“I think it is very important for each of us to have an enjoyable Shabbos experience. And to be able to in some ways personally define what that Shabbos experience entails. There’s a lot of different minhags that I think a lot different people have that not every one has. And there are certain things that we develop not necessarily because they are passed down from our father, or our mother, or your mother’s father, just because it is something that makes your Shabbos experience a little bit more enjoyable a lot these personal minhags that we all have…”
Casually citing the Chofetz Hayim and the Talmud Yerushalmi, he acknowledges both his relationship to, and awareness of traditional Jewish texts; thereby, indirectly aligning himself with a more observant Jewish community. Using humor, he offsets the implied exclusivity of those ties, by adding that he is actually wearing a woman’s hat that was purchased at a thrift store.
eruv stl is “posted as a response” to My Shtreimel. eruv stl is intended to link Berlin’s Eruv to St. Louis. In this low quality thus “authentic video blog” Loren and I drive around the Washington University in St. Louis area, with a map in hand, trying to locate St. Louis’s eruv. In the background you can hear Guns and Roses famous song Welcome to the Jungle. Loren assumes a role similar to the one of Matisyahu, a halakically informed Jew, who does not the traditional model for the other and is thereby able to communicate with the secular world.
eruv stl, YouTube Video, 2009.
I ask Loren why he thinks the eruv extends as far as it does and if he thinks that there area lot of Orthodox Jewish families living in the area. Loren tell me that the eruv has extended this far because of the Hillel on campus, and that while there are not many Orthodox families living on the streets that we are driving, that the presence of the Hillel on campus is enough to create an eruv-worthy Jewish community.
Not only does it become clear that Loren familiar with Orthodox Jewish practices and the neighboring streets, but also he is still not sure exactly where the eruv is located. Meaning that even though the eruv is present, Loren is either a) so religious that he doesn’t abide by it, OR b) he doesn’t lead a Jewish life that would involve abiding by an eruv. As the conversation continues Loren continues to distance himself from vocabulary that you would expect to come from a more observant Jew, as he casually engages in humorous banter with me surrounding the eruv.
I ask him how it felt to finally “find” the eruv, he responds that he “feels pretty good” but he didn’t feel like “it was an actual wall” – which it isn’t, so this statement is made in jest. He continues, “its like finding Waldo, Waldo had curly hair and glasses, he might have been a frum Jew [...] maybe it is a statement about jews begin such a small percentage of the population…
more thesis excerpts coming soon…
April 18, 2012 § 1 Comment
Is being half-Jewish, like being half-pregnant? Yes.
Intrigued? Want to hear more?
I have the honor of being the keynote speaker at the Half Jewish?” The Heirs of Intermarriage conference at Northwestern University, which runs from 4/20-4/22. My Friday night talk will center around the construction and the perpetuation of fractured cultural identities. On Saturday my dear friend Yoni Sarason, aka The St. Lou Jew, aka Midwest Director of Birthright Next, will be speaking on a panel with Dan Libenson, moderated by Denise Handlarski. Come check out the conference. Meet some lefty Jews. Learn and mingle.
March 15, 2012 § 3 Comments
ATTN: transient digital native Jews, the ever so talented Ben Schachter has come up with another brilliant Jewish pop culture piece, Pocket Tzedek.
Ben Schachter has entered a competition that asks, “Where do you give?” Sponsored by the American Jewish World Service whose mission is “to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.” Support his design by voting for him here: www.wheredoyougive.org
Charity and Philanthopy are major parts of many religions. Judaism gives it a unique character. As the contest describes, “The word tzedakah (Hebrew: צדקה) comes from the Hebrew word tzedek, meaning righteousness or justice. It refers to the Jewish practice of giving money in order to help those less fortunate—using our financial resources to create a more just and righteous world.”
Schachter’s design, “Pocket Tzedek,” combines wireless technology – a debit card reader – and a traditional “pushke,” or piggy bank. Instead of dropping in coins, the donor dips his card.
Find Schachter’s design under the web interactive category on the third page at www.wheredoyougive.org/voting and vote for him every day until April 1.
July 5, 2011 § 1 Comment
el es frida kahlo featured on Jewesses with Attitude in honor of Frida Kahlo’s 104th birthday.
A Latina “Jewess with attitude,” Maya Escobar plays with the web as a platform for engaging in community dialogue around identity and multiple identities–how they are socially and culturally constructed. She often assumes multiple identities in her performances, drawing from various existing representations.
About “el es frida kahlo,” she writes:
Frida Kahlo played with the identity that she wanted to project and the identity that was placed on her by others. Kahlo used her clothing, political affiliations, sexual escapades, and personal traumas, to create a character that informed her body of work. She inscribed her identity, painting her image over and over, constructing a mythology around her persona.
In el es frida kahlo I confront the ambivalence I experience as a result of my simultaneous obsession with Frida Kahlo and weariness towards her commodification.
What is your reaction to this confrontational piece? Do you identify with Escobar’s ambivalence towards Kahlo, her work, and her commodification in our culture?
February 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Jewcy Art: Maya Escobar
by Margarita Korol, February 24, 2011
In 2007 we dubbed her the Anti-Feminist Feminist Jewish Latina. We stumbled upon performance artist/ Internet curator/ editor Maya Escobar again at the GA in New Orleans where her video installations were making a Marina Abramovich-style scene near Jewcy’s booth. She uses the web as a platform for engaging in critical community dialogues that concern processes by which identities are socially and culturally constructed. She performs multiple identities, sampling widely from online representations of existing cultural discourses.
click here for full text
January 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
For a limited time Shomer Negiah Panties will be available on Are You My Other? at 1 for $15 or 2 for $20.
choose from: S-XL in Black & Hot Pink, Black & White, or White & Hot Pink
December 31, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Acciones Plásticas in Fringes – Jewish Art as an Israeli Periphery
שוליים – אמנות יהודית כפריפריה ישראלית
by David Sperber
The publication “Fringes – Jewish Art as an Israeli Periphery” is a continuation of a series of publications published under the auspices of the Leiber Center of Bar-Ilan University. The series focuses on research and documentation of contemporary Jewish art discourse in Israel. The series in general, and the current volume in particular, aim at sketching broad guidelines for topics pertinent to the field of Jewish art within the Israeli sphere.
The basic hypothesis of the current edition is that Judaism is conceived as a “subterranean” element of Israeli culture. The discussion considers the viability and elasticity of distinctions between the religious and the secular. This perspective favors a harmonic understanding, by which religiosity and secularism are not opposites, but rather intertwined inseparable concepts. Alongside the discussion concerning canonical artists, this publication relates mainly to peripheral tendencies and non-mainstream artistic groups, aiming to reveal their qualities as well as their limitations.
Fringes — Jewish Art as an Israeli Periphery
published by Leiber Center of Bar-Ilan University
December 1, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Matisyahu also ice skates and dances in a Shakira Loba cage.
Happy Hanukkah, Channukah, Hannukah, Chanukah, Feliz Janukah…
(or all of the above)
October 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
have you been kiruv‘d lately?
July 25, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Excerpt from the Tzit Tzit: Fiber Art and Jewish Identity Exhibition Catalog, by curator Ben Schacter.
Maya Escobar is a Latina Jew who relishes her ability to blur the boundaries not only between cultures but Jewish denominations. Her Shomer Negiah Panites is an extreme example. The expression shomer negiah refers to the law that limits sexual relations. While a women is menstruating and for several days after, she is not allowed to touch her husband. At the end of this time, she takes a ritual bath called a mikvah. This monthly ritual balances abstinence, cleanliness and intimacy. It is said by those who follow this tradition that time together is made even more precious.
Escobar’s work seems to turn this custom on its ear. First, sexuality in the Orthodox community is not publicly displayed. Underwear or anything remotely like it would not be shown in public. Second, part of the function of shomer negiah is one of modesty, not one to tease. But in a twist of modernity, the “tease” can be a way of female control. To exclaim, “Hands Off!” at precisely the moment of greatest vulnerability is exactly what Escobar’s underwear does.
Heckshered Tallis presents an air of transgression without doing so. A hecksher is a stamp placed on food to certify that its ingredients and method of processing follows the dietary rules observed by many Jews, called Kashrut. The symbols themselves have nothing to do with prayer and do not belong on a tallis, or prayer shawl, but the obsessive imprimatur suggests an over compensation on the part of the wearer. Women are not required to wear such garments but some congregants of more liberal egalitarian congregations do. Is Escobar suggesting women’s insecurity by obsessively certifying this tallis as “Kosher?”
Kosher Davening, 2006
The pattern of heckshers also creates a fashion akin to a Louis Vuitton print where the fabric is paradigmatic of luxury. Hechshered Tallis brings high fashion and religion together in a satisfyingly truthful and critical way. Even more interesting is the way Escobar’s work comments on different traditions and laws through fashion. Escobar’s oeuvre highlights denominational fragmentation by drawing attention to certain details of Jewish life. The traditional woman who follows shomer negiah would most likely not wear a tallis. Identity is rarely mixed in this way. For an artist to be able to make cross-denominational commentary such as found in Shomer Negiah Panties and Heckshered Tallis takes keen observation. Escobar does not exempt her own experience from such examination.
As she shared with me, her family chided her to make napkins for her future, now husband. This traditional role, that is to make the home, chaffed her mildly. She was resistant to such commonplace assumptions about gender so to exaggerate the request, she embroidered “napkin for my husband” across hand woven fabric. Her actions as a wife would thus never be taken for granted.
Napkin For My Husband, 2007
Napkin has been given an additional function, as a challah cover. One covers the challah, or bread made specifically to honor the Sabbath, before the blessing is said and the bread is cut. To embellish a cover heightens the ritual by making the objects beautiful. Napkin tethers together Jewish practice and the work of a relationship. Through her demonstrated knowledge of Jewish custom in her work, one wonders if she also knows Eishet Hayil, a song sung in praise of one’s wife. “A good wife, who can find? She is precious far beyond rubies.” Perhaps Escobar is not so passive aggressively demanding to be serenaded.
February 3, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Last night @DovBear sent me this tweet:
@Mayaescobar posted your jewish women clip w\o realizing it was parody. A little too well done.
expert from his post:
“Aside: At the end, the woman on the film suggests that Jewish women who are dissatisfied with their back of the bus status secretly wish to be men. There’s some truth to that, of course. Jewish women wish to be men in the same way that Jim Crow blacks wished to be white, meaning they want the same freedoms and opportunities that are available to men. Though Judaism has made much progress in this regard, the RW and Ultra circles still run like MadMen. Telling women they’re more spiritual, pat pat, run along, is just a way to protect the status quo.”
Jewish Women from the series Acciones Plásticas 2007
selection comments posted below:
if you follow the link-trail, it becomes clear that this video is likely making fun of the attitudes it depicts. so as right as what you say in this post is, it’s not really aimed at this video…
So are you opposed to any distinction whatsoever between men and women in Judaism? Do you think we should get rid of the mechitza and the laws of niddah and negiah and tzniut because they all make distinctions between male/female and thus somehow discriminate against and oppress women? If so, why aren’t you a Conservative Jew? If not, why not? What kinds of distinctions between men and women are not discriminatory in your book?
The fact is, Judaism have a very conservative halachic process that makes it difficult or impossible to change most things. Do you think we should change that process to make it easier to make big changes? If so how is that different from the Conservatives?
People mistakenly think that every explanation for distinctions between men and women must be some kind of conspiratorial justification for the status quo. But that’s not true. You have to look at the history of the explanation. For example, consider shelo asani isha. The explanation is, women, slaves and gentiles don’t have to perform certain mitzvot, so we’re thanking Hashem for giving us more mitzvot to do. Conspiracy to trick people into thinking Judaism isn’t sexist? No — it’s in the tosefta to the earlier version of the three berachot (which thanked Hashem for not making one an ignoramus.) So that supposedly “P.C.” explanation was from before the mitzvah was even finalized!
It’s a mistake to think about Judaism in the same terms you think about American history. It’s apples and oranges. If not, you’d be calling someone a “bigot” for not accepting the ordination of women, just like many liberals today will call you a bigot if you don’t accept gay marriage. Of course bigot is an implicit reference to anti-black American racism. Which is a lot different from differing roles of the sexes in Judaism.
Actually, oppressing women is the best reason to get rid of the mechitza. Nidda has nothing to do with this.
And Tzniut has nothing to do with this. Tzniut has everything to do with social norms. Oppressive double-standard tzniut should be abolished immediately,
And you do not have to be a Conservative Jew to understand this. You just have to be an Orthodox woman.
AFIK the mechitza is an outcropping of the orthodox halachic process. It is at least a universally (amongst orthodox) practice minhag. How would abolishing the mechitza be consistent with orthodox Judaism?
I enjoy davening in my own (men’s) section, because I would likely feel distracted/embarrassed by any attractive women in our shul standing next to me, hearing me sing, etc. I don’t see how this translates into a desire on my part to oppress women. I’m sure there are men who wouldn’t feel this way, and would probably daven just fine, just as there are young men, on the other side of the spectrum, who would maybe even ogle women. But it’s impossible to satisfy everyone in a community.
I agree that there are misogynists in Jewish communities, but I don’t think allocating separate space to men and women in the synagogue automatically translates into oppressing women.
In most Orthodox shuls, I would agree that most mechitzot themselves are misogynistic.
Buried in the back, or the corner, with an obstructed view of the proceedings.
The purpose of the mechitza is to allow for the inclusion of women in the service. Not the exclusion.
so it really depends upon how it is felt about and put into practice lemaise. I remember one woman quoting a sicha of the lubavitcher rebbe ztz”l a”h and saying “it sounds like litvish appologetics doesn’t it?” she then adds “well there is a difference, the litvishers are telling this to women, the rebbe first said this sicha to men!”
This wikipedia article seems to support your views, except for the citation of R’ Hirsh (who might be hard to depict as a feminist). But the article may be leaving out earlier sources.
It’s part of a series called Acciones Plasticas by a Jewish Latina artist. http://mayaescobar.com/accionesplasticas.html It looks like an examination/satire of the stereotypes associated with her heritage.
Whoah, that lady had the most steriotypical modeof Ashkenazi-Jewish speech I ever saw…
Uriel do you really and truly think everything frum Jews say and do is authentically Jewish? well guess again. The post is a critism of the man made culture, not the god decreed religion.
The answer to your question is no. Will you answer my questions?
Look at the quote from Rav Hirsh in the wikipedia article and you’ll see that the idea that women are more spiritual than men is indeed authenticly Jewish (unless you see Rav Hirsch as some kind of pre-feminist apoogist). How old it is, I’m not so sure.
The idea that women have a better nature or more spiritual is NOT authenticly Jewish. We know this because non Jews got fed the same horse manure as a way of keeping them satisfied with less. Look, I dont even know what youre arguing: The more right you go the worse off Jewish women are -in satmar they cant even drive and have to shave their heads. Thats an inrefutable facr.
That’s an odd way of proving something, you have to admit. I think a better way is to see how old an idea is. But even if it’s not that old, if Rav Hirsh and Rav Aaron Soloveichik said it, I would say that’s pretty authentic. Something doesn’t have to be somewhere in the Mishnah to be authentic (though the older the more authentic). Much of kabbalah, mussar and chassidus would be inauthentic if that were your standard. At that point you’d be creating your own special denomination that is very picky and choosy about what in modern Judaism is authentic to you — and that sounds like Reform.
Are you saying Satmar is more authentic than other Jewish groups? Chazal surely had more contact with heretics and gentiles than Satmar does.
I think Zapp is right.
This is a parody / satire for sure. She is NOT serious.
February 2, 2010 § Leave a Comment
excerpt from article in The Jewish Chronicle by Justin Jacobs
Walk into the Saint Vincent College art gallery in Latrobe and the first thing you’ll see is a wall covered in brightly colored women’s panties.
Not the most common item on display at this small, staunchly Catholic institution, but peek a little closer — each pair is adorned with Hebrew text: shomer negia (don’t touch). Or, as artist and designer Maya Escobar explained, many interpret her panties as, “If you’ve gotten this far, you’re too far.”
The underwear is part of Tzit Tzit: Fiber Art and Jewish Identity, Saint Vincent’s new exhibition as assembled by guest curator and associate art professor Ben Schachter. The pieces included interpret the exhibition’s title both literally and metaphorically — tzit tzit as art, certainly, but also as a symbol of how Jews are bound together by material through tradition and practice.
“I wanted to make something like a ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bracelet but for young, Jewish girls,” said Escobar of her popular creation (they sell online at her Web site). “But why do people automatically assume it has to be a sexual message for men? It should be a halachic thing for women. Ideally, these aid in being shomer negia because they’re a reminder. They’re about individual sexuality for women.”
“They’re provocative and also ‘keep your hands off’ at the moment of greatest vulnerability. It’s really post-modern and funny,” said Schachter. “I mean, it’s underwear.”
click here for full article
SHOMER NEGIAH PANTIES are avaliable on ShomerNegiahPanties.com
January 13, 2010 § 1 Comment
Here are some behind the scenes images from the many Acciones Plásticas プリクラ photo shoots.
The Latina Hipster
The Homegirl putting on fake nails (lovin’ the shabbos candlesticks and theory books in the background)
The Avodah Girl
goodness. I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersections between new media and traditional forms of knowledge and how these intersections can be ways of supporting tradition, innovation, resistance and liberation. As a media-maker, I’ve thought a lot about non-traditional forms of telling stories and the value of stories to allow us as individuals and communities to grow and remain in movement. I want to both honor our traditions and create space for challenge in order to support growth. This is particularly challenging when, as indigenos, we are usually FORCED into the frozen stance (as my sister Whisper says) of the “American Imaginary”. Born out of a flat analysis, the “American Imaginary” boxes us into specific archetypes and narratives that, though perhaps grounded in truth, metaphorically and at times literally “freeze” us and immobilize us from engaging in healthy movement and LIFE. As a guatemalan-born/ mixed -id’d/ mayan-adoptee I’ve dreamed about new and innovative ways to create forums and craft form that embodies the intersections of say, mayan id, transracial queer, working class, single teen mama id. For example, as a queerasfuck femme I’ve LITERALLY dreamed of beginning a series of corsets created out of huipil’s with stories attached to each… though I have yet to begin work on that. I am so excited by the thoughts of spaces for dialogue, beauty, challenge & examination of the COMPLEX identities embodies by the our contemporary indigena communities. . Fierce and phenomenal chicana and radical latina artists have had HUGE impacts on me but I’ve been hungry to see this come from other guatemelan/ mayan artists. Today, I got a taste of a contemporary and GUATEMALAN artist who is actively engaged in a similar examination! I came across this blog (and art work) and it was as if an answer was given to me in the form of possibilities. A sweet affirmation that this form of mayan/guatemalan art CAN and DOES exist.
December 24, 2009 § 1 Comment
I met Ben Schachter at the 2009 Conney Conference on Jewish Art: Performing Histories, Inscribing Jewishness, where coincidentally, we both presented Eruv themed works.
In addition to making humorous Jewish themed conceptual art, Ben is a curator and is the man behind Tzit Tzit: Fiber Art and Jewish Identity. I have a few pieces from Hiddur Mitzvah included in the show.
A special exhibit assembled by guest curator Ben Schachter, “Tzit Tzit: Fiber Art and Jewish Identity,” will open with a reception at The Saint Vincent Gallery in the Robert S. Carey Student Center at Saint Vincent College from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, January 28. Admission is free and open to the public.
The exhibit will continue from Friday, January 29 through Sunday, February 21 during regular Gallery hours: 12 noon to 3 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 12 noon to 3 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The Gallery is closed on Mondays.
Ms. Silk will present a lecture, “Quilting and Spirituality,” at 6 p.m. Monday, February 9 in room 100 of Prep Hall.
Mr. Schachter, associate professor of fine arts, will give a Gallery tour of the exhibition at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 9.
The exhibit was developed by Mr. Schachter. “I have been studying various aspects of Jewish art for the past three years and this exhibit is an outgrowth of that interest,” Mr. Schachter said. “The artists hail from Los Angeles, New York City, Kansas City, Illinois and Pittsburgh.”
“Fiber art refers to any use of a cloth such as stitching or weaving,” he explained. “The title, Tzit Tzit, refers to the fringe on a prayer shawl, or tallis, worn by many Jews during prayer. While using thread, cloth, pattern making, stitching and other craft materials, each artists’ process creates a language derived from craft techniques that reinterprets the Old Testament, the oral law as written in the Talmud and personal histories. In so doing, both craft theory and Jewish Art are reinvigorated. I learned of these artists through Jewish art conferences I have attended, through exhibitions and through national awards. I think our students and our friends in the region will really enjoy seeing their work.”
Ben Schachter is an artist whose work integrates conceptual art and Jewish law. He sees a connection between the rules artists have created to guide and limit their work and Jewish traditions. His work has been shown nationally and will be on exhibition at the Westmoreland Museum of Art in Greensburg concurrent with this exhibition. He holds an M.F.A. and M.S. degree from Pratt Institute and lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and two children.
Carol Es paints images that powerfully scream of a life of hard labor. As a child she worked endless hours in a sweatshop with her family. Ms. Es’ works are featured in numerous private and public collections, including the Getty Museum, Brooklyn Museum, UCLA Special Collections, the Jaffe Collection and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. She is also a two-time recipient of the ARC Grant from the Durfee Foundation and was recently awarded the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Fellowship.
Maya Escobar’s work directly challenges gender roles and illustrates how Jewish tradition empowers women. Ms. Escobar received her master of fine arts degree from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis, and her bachelor of fine arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited work in Spain, Guatemala, United States, Germany and Venezuela.
Melanie Dankowicz creates intricate papercut sculptures, marriage contracts, and wall art. An expansion of the medium, Dankowicz’s three-dimensional forms are ephemeral lace-like paper structures, of elegant tracery that has inspired her recent metalwork. She draws inspiration from the countryside of Illinois, where she resides with Harry and their three children.
Leslie Golomb exhibits her work nationally and internationally and is the recipient of numerous awards, including recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Individual Artists Fellowship Award and a State of the Art Award from the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Her work was recently included in the Three Rivers Arts Festival and Best of Pittsburgh Invitational. Ms. Golomb holds a bachelor in fine arts from Carnegie-Mellon University and a master of fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She served as founder and director of the American Jewish Museum of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh for nine years. She has returned to the studio producing prints and artists books.
Louise Silk began her quest to acquire skills as a quilter after being inspired by an article in Ms. Magazine in 1971 about quilt making as a woman’s art form. Over the past 30 years, her work has been included in Quilt National Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Quilts as well as many private corporate collections such as USAirways, Paine Webber and PNC Bank. She is a certified Integrated Kabbalistic Healer. She is currently living and working from her loft in the South Side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Ms. Golumb and Ms. Silk collaborate and join their printmaking and fiber art into multilayered quilts, runners and tallisim. The images and techniques bring together American folk traditions and Jewish history in surprising ways. Ultimately the perspective of these five artists reinvigorates what Jewish Art is and can become.
Shirah Apple received a master of fine arts degree from the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006. She is a graduate of MICA’s post-baccalaureate certificate program and of Miami University, where she received a bachelor of science degree in business administration.
Further information about the exhibition is available by contacting the Gallery at 724 805-2107, www.stvincent.edu/gallery.
December 21, 2009 § Leave a Comment
My papi, Gonzalo Escobar, took some amazing photos this Channukah. His shots really put my cellphone pics to shame. Click here to see more.
December 13, 2009 § 1 Comment
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am quite the fan of awful horrible animated gifs. As I continue to work with seeNoga and Rio Yañez on the Jewish characters from Acciones Plásticas プリクラ: The Jewess Blogging Queen, The Avodah Girl and The 612er; I thought I would share this terrible image created early on in our collaboration. There is also another version (which I can no longer find) where in last frame of the gif sequence, it rains diet cokes.
November 2, 2009 § 4 Comments
In 2008 I traveled to Berlin as part of exchange program with my University. Prior to this visit, I had never been to Germany- nor did I have any particular reservations about going or not going, but it seemed everyone else had their own opinion on the matter.
“Germany, how can you go there as a Jew?” “There are Jews in Germany? I thought they were all dead?” “You are so brave to go to Germany…”
Ultimately people’s projections as to my intentions for going to Germany became the filter through which I experienced Berlin.
While I was in Berlin I conducted interviews with members of the community concerning the highly visible presence of the monuments and memorials commemorating Jewish life (death) have impacted their individual and communal Jewish identities. Other topics included: the notion of German Jews vs Jews living in Germany and how this differs from an American Jewish identity, their status as diaspora Jews and their relationship to Israel, their thoughts on the European Union, anti-semitism and the widespread use of facebook as a mode of connection.
The title of the piece Berlin’s Eruv is a play on the fact that there is not actually an eruv in Berlin. An eruv is a rabbinically sanctioned demarcation of space that transforms public space into private space for the purposes of the Sabbath, allowing Orthodox Jews to carry in public places, a practice which is otherwise prohibited. Modern eruvs are often made of wire strung between utility poles, a gesture towards a “walled courtyard,” indicating an enclosed, private space.
Just as the eruv exists in the minds of the people who abide by it, Berlin’s Eruv manifests itself through the conversations surrounding the idea of the piece. The interviews I conducted in Berlin relied on the presence of institutionalized markers of Jewish identity, to give weight to the idea non-presence of the living Jewish community.
Berlin’s Eruv Talk
11/8/09 @ 10:30 am
KAM Isaiah Israel
1100 E Hyde Park Blvd
Chicago, IL 60615-2810
October 31, 2009 § 1 Comment
photo by Julian Voloj
Maya and Gonzalo Escobar create Talking about Orchard Street, a multi-sensory interactive installation that explores the generational transmission of Jewish life through dialog. The father-daughter duo traveled from Chicago to New Haven to conduct interviews with former members and friends of Orchard Street Shul and to record locals’ stories of growing up in New Haven during the 1920s and 30s. These stories of everyday life include tales of flirting on the front steps of the shul, eating herring and kichel, speaking Jewish, finding first jobs, going on first dates, learning bar mitzvah portions, and hearing (or having) loud conversations in the women’s section. In Talking about Orchard Street, visitors are invited to sit in comfortable armchairs, sample herring and kichel, listen to excerpts from interviews and engage in dialog with each other.
click here for more information about the Orchard Street Shul Artist Cultural Heritage Project
October 25, 2009 § 1 Comment
Shomer Negiah is a concept in Jewish law halacha that prohibits any degree of physical contact with, or touching of, a member of the opposite sex, except for one’s spouse and immediate family. Shomer means “guards”, but due to its common use in phrases relating to religious practice, it has come to mean: “adhere to” as well. Negiah is the Hebrew word for “touch”, and thus Shomer Negiah is a term used to describe one who “guards the touch” or simply “adheres to restrictions of touch”. Although the feminine form of the term is technically Shomeret Negiah, it is almost always used in the masculine, even when in reference to women. Shomer Negiah Panties allow a woman to abide by the halacha, but still be individual and sexy at the same time.
May 3, 2009 § Leave a Comment
April 6, 2009 § 6 Comments
Frida Kahlo at the synagogue: Maya Escobar and the young Jewish-American Creation
by David Sperber in Ma’arav Israeli Arts and Culture Magazine.
translation by Shlomit Nehorai
Maya Escobar is no doubt one of the ‘hottest’ things developing in the Jewish-American art scene. Escobar defines herself “dyslexic internet artist”. And in order to view her work you need not wander far.
Her work is mostly created in familiar internet format, and is most often displayed on Youtube. Escobar, daughter to a Jewish mother and Guatemalan father, defines her art work as ongoing personal anthropological-sociological research into the narrative language that uses contemporary media.
The “Acciones Plasticas” work includes short films that present a series of convincing characters and monologues that deal with identity questions. In the first short film in the series she appears dressed up as the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who became an icon within the feminist discourse. it is commonly argued that Kahlo had some Jewish roots. Escobar is dressed and made up as is famously attributed to Kahlo – the uni brow – while screaming “I am Frida Kahlo, you are Frida Kahlo, we are Frida Kahlo”. In agitation or in ecstasy she tears her custom, messes up her hair, wipes her make up off of her face and returns to being herself. In another short film in the series she carries on with a monologue of a jewish orthodox woman. The text here is so exact that for a minute the line between irony and slapstick to deep seriousness is blurred. In another short film the stereotypical Latin female as a sexual sensual object is presented, when here too the subject is moving between embracing the stereotypes and breaking them. Escobar is presenting different episodes that she had experienced herself and that deal with her hybrid identity as a woman, as a Jew and as a Latin American.
Another work of Escobar is “my shtreimel” – a video-blog that is also presented on Youtube.
In that piece appears a young man in his twentieths who sits in his room in front of a computer and talk about his Shabbat rituals. The monologue describes an amorphous jewish world in which jewishness lives and materializes without obligation to its institutions and mostly in personal frameworks. A central part in this world is self deprecation: The young man shows his beloved shtreimel and mentions that the shtreimel which looks like the traditional is actually a women’s hat purchased at a thrift store.
In the work “eruv” (intermingling) Escobar relates to the fact that in Berlin there is no eruv even though there exists a vibrant jewish community. In a series of photographed interviews with the city’s citizens she transforms the notion eruv – from a halachic-legal notion that creates a conversion of the public space into the private space, into a blending – the creation of a multiple of characters and worlds. The blending (eruv)transforms into a cultural concept that celebrates the different and the unique. The individuals create a splendid mosaic that assembles anew the “collective” as a social concept. The way Escobar deals with the subject is typical to the jewish-american art world that tends to transfer concepts from the practical halachic and transfer them to another world, and so they transform into a metaphor of the personal or social condition. The personal experience is significant to Escobar: ” Like other jewish rituals, the Shabbat encompasses practicalities that materialize private condition in a private space. Except that the understanding of the private space and the public space is fluid and changes at all times. I think that it is very important that people celebrate their Shabbat as a pleasant experience, defined and personal. The Shabbat rituals evolve all the time – not as an unbending obligation that is transferred from generation to generation, but as a result of a simple choice of the individual to create to him/herself nice and pleasant Shabbat customs. We all have these kind of customs.”
The intercontinental use of the Internet gave birth to a generation of individuals who create for creation’s sake, and the concept of art for art’s sake gets that way a new meaning. The Internet media connects individuals and contributes to mutual influences between people who work separately in far away places. The young work on the Internet challenges the old definitions in relation to what is considered art and what isn’t. Similarly, it adopts new presentation forms that are not the norm in the art world’s mainstream, and breathes new air into the art field.
The discussion into Escobar’s work leads into a wider discussion about the differences between the Jewish thinking in the Israeli discourse into the new understanding of the American world view. The Jewish-artistic engagement in the United States is influenced by the introduction of new-age ideas into the center of the conversation, and is integrating into the effort to create a connection between contemporary culture and the traditional Jewish identity. Within the American-Jewish community there are signs of a move from an organized institutional Jewish expression into a unique and personal expression of the very personal experience. These artists reorganizing the traditions on their own terms, and in this way contributing not insignificantly to the definition of Jewish-American Non-Orthodox Modern-orthodox anew. The link between Jewish culture and Jewish identity to art occupies a central role in this conversation.
The echoes of this tendency can be seen in Israel as well ( in the young Yiddish culture developing in Tel Aviv, for instance ), but generally there is still a deep disconnect between the dominant concepts in Israel and in the United States. In Israel it is common to connect between Judaism to an organized tradition and to a blood line that is based on a genetic continuity. On the other hand, many young Jewish-Americans marry outside their religion, but nevertheless see themselves as an integral part of the Jewish world and expect to not be expelled from it. As opposed to Israelis who experience their Jewishness in terms of disintegration that followed restoration, the Jewish-Americans create new branches where growth and rebirth metaphors fit them better.
The joining of contemporary culture and art to Jewish creativity expresses itself in fashionable characteristics like tattoos, hip-hop music, Internet art and the like, and is often understood as the disconnect with the accepted binary dichotomy between holly and the common. That is why conservative bodies see these art forms as a dangerous provocation. These new cultural concepts interconnect during confrontational discussions with the old cultural concepts. Philologically speaking it can be said that borrowing symbols from one discipline to another interferes with the semiotic systems. In the Kabalistic vernacular it is said that the energy that is released during the friction that is created by the disintegration of the usual vessels – creates “new light”.
February 3, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Time to Choose Peace
A Rabbinic Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama
Rabbis, Cantors, and Jewish clerical students:
Join your colleagues in urging President-elect Obama to make resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority of the incoming administration by signing on to the statement below.
Text of the Letter
We the undersigned, call on you, President-elect Obama, to pledge to make resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority of your Administration.
While you come into office with a long list of problems before you, the long-simmering conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is among the most urgent. After eight years of half-hearted diplomacy, there is no time left to walk softly and hope for the best.
The consequences of failing to establish a durable peace are grim. The influence of Iran and Hezbollah would grow among an increasingly bitter Palestinian population, and extremists would have further excuse to do vicious battle with the West. It is difficult to calculate the damage that a downward spiral into fresh waves of violence could hold.
American Presidents traditionally look to the Jewish community for insight on Israel-related policy. As Jewish clergy, we pledge to mobilize our people behind your leadership for a mutually-acceptable, two-state solution. We pledge to support you through difficult, trying times, and to celebrate with you when the job is done. We pledge to let the American public know: An American President who dedicates himself to the establishment of a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace acts in the best interests of Israel and the United States.
* We call on you to dedicate yourself to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel early in your first term.
* We call on you to appoint, within your first 100 days in office, a high-level, highly-regarded envoy to the region, an individual who has the ear of both Israelis and Palestinians, the respect of the American people, and ready access to your Oval Office.
* We call on you to establish mechanisms of enforcement and follow-through, so that decisions made and agreements signed will be respected and brought to fruition.
Jewish Identity Questions- generated by the 2008 Jewish Multiracial Network Retreat Youth Staff with Artist Maya Escobar
June 16, 2008 § 1 Comment
I just returned from the residency I did for the Jewish Multiracial Network, located at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. As part of my programming I worked with the youth staff to generate a series of questions regarding Jewish Identity. These questions then set the framework for the theater games (inspired by theater of the oppressed) and the flag books that we made over the course of the weekend.
not everyone got around to answering these questions at the retreat, however here is a new chance . So I now invite anyone and everyone to participate in finding answers to these questions ( , non- , Jews, non-Jews….. )
What do you need from society, yourself, the Jewish Community to recognize diversity and to become aware of racism, sexism, homophobia (oppression) both internalized and experienced and the times you yourself have been racist, sexist , homophobic, and then move past to create change?
What do you do when you are in an uncomfortable situation regarding your Judaism?
Do you have a Non-Jewish side, what is that like?
What makes a person culturally Jewish?
What make you a Jew in your everyday life?
Define what makes someone Jewish.
Name your greatest Jewish moment.
Why are you Jewish?
What does a Jew look like?
Did you ever not feel Jewish?
What is it about being Jewish that makes you most proud?
What do you love about being Jewish?
What was your weirdest Jewish Experience?
Have you ever questioned your Jewish Identity?
Has anyone else ever questioned your Jewish Identity?
Have you ever questioned another persons Jewish Identity?
What symbols represent Judaism for you?
What non-Jewish activities do you partake in that to you are “Very Jewish”?
What is your responsibility as a Jew of color?
What is your responsibility as a Jew?