Blurring Boundaries Between Jewish Denominations

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.

Shomer Negiah Panties
Shomer Negiah Panties, 2005

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?”

Maya Escobar Heckshered Tallis
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
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.

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Just For Jewish Girls

February 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Shomer Negiah Panties

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

SHOMER NEGIAH PANTIES ON ESTY

October 25, 2009 § 1 Comment

Shomer Negiah Panties have finally arrived!!  Get a them on ShomerNegiahPanties.com and Etsy

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.

Berlin’s Eruv at the 2009 Conney Conference on Jewish Art

April 15, 2009 § Leave a comment

I will be presenting Berlin’s Eruv at the 2009 Conney Conference: Performing Histories, Inscribing Jewishness at University of Wisconsin Madison.

Berlin’s Eruv is a conceptual project that addresses the assumed non-presence of Jews in Germany. Berlin does not actually have an eruv. There is however, an active Jewish community, one that is frequently overshadowed by the city’s prominent monuments and memorials commemorating Jewish life (death). Berlin’s Eruv weaves together voices from Berlin’s Jewish community in an attempt to construct a metaphorical eruv representative of a living Jewish Community. 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.

*****

I will be showing Berlin’s Eruv at 2009 MFA Thesis Exhibition, opening May 8th at the Kemper Art Museum.

Frida Kahlo at the synagogue: Maya Escobar

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

ARTICLE IN SPANISH & HEBREW

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.

names

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”.

Shomer Negiah Panties

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.

shomer negiah panties

post by dovbear on the panties recieved these comments

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 |

DB:
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

Anon:
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 |

that’s hot….
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 |

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