These images are part of my ongoing attempts at integrating the richness of diasporic Jewish practice with aesthetic forms. I overlay many images from my personal life with words and symbols from the Hebrew language to provide jumping-off points for rediscovering inspiration in Judaism.
Some of the photographs (Myrtle, Bedeken, At the Start, Shofar) are experiments with caffenol, a coffee-based film process which I use to develop 35mm film. The symbolic objects captured here include my collection of drying myrtle branches, one of the four plants that are gathered on the holiday of Sukkot, as well as my shofar, the instrument that we sound at this time of year to wake us up to right alignment. The double exposure images were mainly taken privately and are the result of chance overlaps. Bedeken shows a rephotographed image of my mother being veiled at her wedding, juxtaposed with a prayer book open to the sh’ma unity declaration and the subsequent ve’ahavata “You shall love” paragraph. The original black and white image was colourized using a deep-learning colourizing software available at www.colourise.sg.
The card for healing (refuah) and the Blue Bet banner came out of collage exercises at Jewish Self-Care through the Arts, a Lishma Jewish Learning class facilitated by the wonderful Or Har-Gil. Blue Bet refers to the traditional blessing recited upon noticing wonders of nature: “Blessed are You.. who performs [continually] the work of creation.”
The aleph cardboard cut-out was made for Elul, as it is the first letter of the name of the holy-month that leads up to the High Holy Days. The aleph is also the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and according to some rabbinic opinions (Rabbi Mendel of Rymanov) it was only this silent letter, pregnant with infinite, unspoken possibility and meaning, that was divinely revealed to our ancestors at Mount Sinai.
Header photograph Aleph by Aaron Rotenberg.
Aaron Rotenberg is a visual artist and filmmaker. He serves as the Spiritual Leader of Annex Shul in downtown Toronto and as the Hesed Intern at Beth Tzedec Congregation, while studying towards rabbinic ordination through ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.