November 26, 2009 § Leave a comment
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
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”.
March 24, 2009 § Leave a comment
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.
June 8, 2007 § 17 Comments
On an almost daily basis, I receive emails from people asking if I am in fact actually Jewish. Although I do find it somewhat bizarre that they find satisfaction in my acknowledgment of what I have already stated numerous times, I usually respond. Come to think of it, the occasions where I have been accepted as a Jew (without further questioning) have been few and far between.
- “ No you can’t be Jewish you are Hispanic”
- “You don’t look Jewish”
- “Escobar… is that a Sephardic name?”
Recently I discovered that without our knowledge, the validity of my own and my brother Gonzalo’s Jewishness has come into question (to the point where documentation has been requested) from people that we are now very close with.
Below are some of the examples of comments (not emails, I do not share the content of emails without permission) from youtube:
roundedwhtcollar Am I the only one who thinks this reprobate Turd is NOT in fact a Jew?
Rafaelpicc But is her las name jewish? or converted?
ReptorY her last name isnt jewish.
xruchy you are not jewish i guess… tus videos= cero aporte
raquelita40 she’s half Jewish/ half Guatemalan.
nakedjanet i am also suspicious. for one thing, escobar is not a typical Jewish name. For another, Jewish girls are usually a whole lot smarter, and have a whole lot more substance, than this girl has
(from chaptzem blogspot) There is no way she is Jewish- there may be a small chance her family are anusim or something.
But what gets even more bizarre is that interspersed with in those comments are horrible anti-semitic statements:
johnnycastle86xx all the jews have to die, stupid jewish puta de mierda. Que mierda que Hitler no mato a tu familia, asi tu no hubieras nacido. muerte a los judios y muerte a israel.
mocrostyle3600 AnotherJewish nasty bitch
mrrimfire She’s an ugly cockroach
filet there’s a nice Jewishcrew- club… Its re-open and called Auschwitz. the drinks are on the house!!! but only for jewish people
roshanpinto13 i want to put you in a concentration camp bitch if your people want israel so bad why don’t you go there and rid the world from your hideous jewish ways
So in light of my sarcasric sense of humor I entitled this post : Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish I wonder what will come of that statement… From Judaism 101: Who Is a Jew?
First, traditional Judaism maintains that a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew, regardless of who his father is. The liberal movements, on the other hand, consider a person to be Jewish if either of his parents was Jewish and the child was raised Jewish. Thus, if the child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother is raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Reform movement, but not according to the Orthodox movement. On the other hand, if the child of a Christian father and a Jewish mother is not raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Orthodox movement, but not according to the Reform movement! The matter becomes even more complicated, because the status of that children’s children also comes into question.
In my case my mother is Jewish and my father is not. Yet it is my father that pushed me to go to Hebrew school until I was 16. Rain or shine my parents have been attending Shabbat services at JRC for almost 20 years. I remember being so mad as a child that my friends got to go out on Friday nights, and I was stuck with my family not even allowed to watch TV when we got home from services. Vickie Korey left the nicest comment on my Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog:
I remember Maya at Friday night services at JRC, sometimes listening intently, sometimes reading, but always being present. When one of the children of our extended spiritual family grows to be such a fine, thoughtful and accomplished young woman we are all proud. Gonzolo and Tina have worked hard to set a strong foundation for Maya and I am so pleased for her and her family.
A few months ago I met with my Rabbi to discuss my (art) work. During our discussion I mentioned to him how my father is feeling really nervous about me having an orthodox wedding where he will not be included in the ceremony. Brant said something to me that really touched my heart. Your father is the essence of what a Jew is, he is a stranger in a strange land. I agree with him whole-heartedly, and if you ask most JRC members I am sure they would agree as well. However that does not change the fact that he is not considered to be Jewish by our neighbors, and even if he converted, to them it would not be halakhic unless he went through orthodox conversion.
So who is a Jew? Who determines this?
As I stated in a previous post I will be working as the art director this summer for Camp JRF. I am in the process of creating this summer’s curriculum that will be geared towards answering these very questions and challenging notions of Jewish Identity. Below is a very rough sketch of my plan…. (Please let me know if you have any suggestions, or would be interested in contributing any resources)
The Changing Face of Jewish Identity: an exploration of self and what it means to be a Jew in our contemporary society
To introduce the concept of a changing Jewish Identity will discuss the following:
- How do we define ourselves/ how do others define us?
- Who is a Jew?
- Can someone be more or less Jewish/ who decides this?
- What is our role in society?
- What characteristics make up a Jew?
Mediums Mixed media sculpture
Campers will produce mixed media sculptures that reflect their perception of what it means to be a Jew
- We will begin as an ice breaker/ intro to project identifying the characteristics that make up Jews.
- Followed by a discussion on contemporary representations of Jews in Popular culture
Project Campers working in groups of 3-4 will have the option of creating either abstract or representational mixed media sculptures that to them represent Jewish identity. Prior to the construction of their piece students will need to create a (flexible) proposal that outlines their piece.
- Will it be site specific (interact with a certain location)?
- What form will it take?
- Will it have a function?
- What materials will be used based on the above?
If they end up going with more representational sculptures I thought it would be really cool to photograph the sculptures and to place them in various Jewish settings and non-Jewish settings (baseball stadium, temple, Shabbat dinner, work, school….)
February 13, 2007 § 6 Comments
from the series acciones plásticas
When Maya Escobar uses this stereotype she may be either mocking it or indulging it – or both – that’s one of the dangers of comedy. She clearly thinks that she’s mocking it, and attempting to provide a conversation starter (Okay, Maya, so here I am starting a conversation: Kol hakavod!) But even in her attempts to mock the stereotypes that have been projected onto her (and let’s be clear the chach and the sexy latina aren’t any better!), I have to wonder about those who are watching the comedy, and whether it helps them reject – or accept- those experiences in which they met a person onto whom they themselves projected such a label. “After all, how can she “nail the JAP” if there’s no JAP to be nailed, if the JAP happens to simply be a person whom one dislikes upon meeting, but no more likely a Jew than a Lutheran? In order for it to confirm that glorious feeling, one has to have a little sense that there is something about being Jewish and female that attaches to that kind of behavior, n’est ce pas?
she offers the following links
an exerpt from Dr. Evelyn Torton Beck’s essay “From ‘Kike to Jap’:How misogyny, anti-semitism, and racism construct the Jewish American Princess.”
bibliography of the analysis of the JAP stereotype
February 13, 2007 § 16 Comments
SHOMER NEGIAH PANTIES NOW AVAILABLE ON ShomerNegiahPanties.com
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.
my pink sexy low cut bras say vlo sasuru in micro print … lol
frumbabe | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 2:00 pm
why don’t you ASK her, DB? Or would that be un-tznius (as opposed to, say, visiting her blog, looking at her panties, and then tattling on your own blog…)
Tzipporah | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 2:34 pm
this is much more tzanuah.Trust me. I’m a man
DovBear | 02.22.07 – 2:44 pm
“Shomer Negiah Panties,” essentially ordinary cotton undies, I’m going to run over to CafePress and put some “Shomer Negiah Thongs” up for sale.
Al Gore | 02.22.07 – 3:07 pm |
What about the fringes? Women unite for equality! We want fringes on our panties!
Anonymous | 02.22.07 – 3:13 pm
How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind? This could be a real trend on the upper west side!
Anna Nicole | 02.22.07 – 3:18 pm |
How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind? This could be a real trend on the upper west side!
Totally unecc. In Willy. they’ve found the combination of bald heads and really thick stockings serve the same purpose.
DovBear | 02.22.07 – 3:27 pm |
that’s a weird fetish.
Tzipporah | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 3:31 pm |
Not a fetish. A form of birth control.
Anon | 02.22.07 – 3:39 pm |
I think it’s just for giggles. I could imagine SN girls giving each other these panties as a joke… the number of SN guys who’ll ever see them on a girl is probably tiny.
quietann | 02.22.07 – 4:10 pm |
Granny panties are by definition shomer negiah.——–
Perhaps what the world REALLY needs are burqas with playboy bunnies or ‘party-babe’ stencilled across the front.
The Back of the Hill | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:18 pm |
Been done before. Look, don’t you think this makes the statement just a bit more…… pointed? http://www.corkscrew-balloon.com…torture/ 31.html
“A form of birth control“
A form of birth control??? Wow, I’d hate to know what you consider birth-out-of-control, then.
Baal Devarim | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:33 pm |
ThePervert | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:52 pm |
I just don’t see it.Then why bother giving old Maya and her incredibly unfunny, juvenile and tasteless underwear any more free publicity? What motivates you to post what you do really mystifies.
Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 5:13 pm |
Oooh, these could be useful for the frum girl who secretly moonlights as a stripper. Warning, guys — all lookie, no touchie.
GoldaLeah | 02.22.07 – 5:19 pm |
the frum girl who secretly moonlights as a stripper. A match truly made in hell as her audience would no doubt comprise frum boys who secretly “moonlight” as patrons of “gentlemens” clubs
Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 5:28 pm |
Kinda like the “Sanitized for your protection” ribbons on motel toilets.
Psycho Toddler | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 5:54 pm |
A match truly made in hell as her audience would no doubt comprise frum boys who secretly “moonlight” as patrons of “gentlemens” clubs…I now have this mental image of bearded young gentlemen wearing ill-fitting ‘gentile’ clothes yelling “remove your sheitel, remove your sheitel”. Thank you. It will take me a while to get over this trauma.
The Back of the Hill | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 6:14 pm |
BOTHDain ershtoinung iz gornit antkegen der ershtoinung fun zaira vaiber If only such occurences were as humurous and harmless as the “sleeveless bar” scene that you conjured.
Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 6:20 pm |
I can see them being a present for a friend too–or a joke for one’s husband.I don’t see them having any halachic purpose, though. Unless there’s a mitzvah to wear tacky panties that I somehow missed.
balabusta in blue jeans | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 6:27 pm |
I’m married, and I would wear them. I think they’re hilarious. But I’d be too scared to give them to anyone I know–they might take it the wrong way.
Rivka | 02.22.07 – 8:39 pm |
Pardon me for the overshare, but I have a pair of panties that say “Girls know best” on the front. And there are times that they are appropriate for the situation, like maybe when I need a reminder that girls really do know best (I am almost 43, so hardly a girl, but the sentiment is the same.)Similarly, I could see a shomer negiah young woman wearing these panties on a date. Just knowing what her panties say might help her keep her skirt on!
quietann | 02.22.07 – 10:21 pm |
at the mall any day now, i’m expecting to see “Shomer Negiah” stenciled on the butt of some babes yoga pants…
eliyahu | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 11:15 pm |
I am truly mystified that this post exists
reality | 02.23.07 – 7:38 am |
It’s obviously a gag. What’s the big deal? Girls that are really shomer are never going to wear them with any expectation that a guy will see them, and those that aren’t will wear them for their ironic humor.
nicejewishguy | Homepage | 02.23.07 – 11:15 am |
How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind?Also know as a “Tramp Stamp.”
Al Gore | 02.23.07 – 12:26 pm |
It should also say “shomer negiah” in braille in case it’s dark in the room when being read.Should also say it in Hebrew or Yiddish, so the message is clear to all chareidim as well.
B.T.A. | Homepage | 02.25.07 – 1:54 pm |
Ah, should have looked at her site first. DB, now you’re linking to tushies?! What a shonda. I go away for a few weeks…In any event, perhaps she could tatoo it on the small of her back, then could wear any panties she likes? Just a thought.
B.T.A. | Homepage | 02.25.07 – 1:55 pm |