Shahar Marnin-Distelfeld

Abstract

This article examines images of wild flowers in Israeli visual culture from the period of pre-state Israel until the present day. These images have served as “cultural objects” that have helped construct a national identity. They have appeared in Hebrew publications, stamps, banknotes, and artworks. Arguing that the choice of botanical art is a political statement, this article shows the complex attitudes embodied in contemporary wild flower images—both thematic and stylistic—in which the artists negotiate their multifaceted relationship with the Land of Israel as a troubled territory. The images created by Israeli-Jewish artists share a twofold significance: they stand as naïve memories of Israel’s early years and, at the same time, they embody the reality of conflict implied in the idea of sharing the Land with the Israeli Arabs. The methodology of this article is interdisciplinary, as it integrates an analysis of visual images with the use of interviews and the explication of texts.

Eugeny Kotlyar

Abstract

The present article studies the thematic ways in which Jewish childhood was represented in Russian Jewish art and visual media from the 1850s to the 1930s. During this period, Russian Jewry was undergoing important transformations. It saw the establishment of a traditional model of religious life, a subsequent process of modernization and acculturation, and finally the education of the “New Jew” as part of post-Revolutionary secular culture, as well as the seeding of extreme forms of radicalization that would develop in the Soviet era. Jewish art and visual media were always a documentary means of representing collective ideals, key among which was the value associated with Jewish children’s future. The images preserved in art, photography, and print show how diligent study for boys and young men was extolled in traditional communities; this resulted in the formation of an intellectual elite that served as a bulwark of religious and spiritual self-consciousness against outside cultural influences. Along with historical-statistical studies and memoirs, these images recreate a psycho-emotional and social background for the traditional model of children’s education. On the one hand, this model perpetuated the lifestyle and values established over the centuries, yet on the other, it sparked charges of anachronism and fanaticism, which intensified the antagonism of Russian society toward its Jewish minority. The same model proved to be extremely influential for the Jewish masses; it came by its iconic visual representation in various “Cheder” compositions and portraits of the “Talmudist Iluy.” Both types of works brought out the value of religious education. Later artistic depictions demonstrated that upon passing through the grinder of the Soviet atheist system, this model inspired the zeal that Jews had for secular education and the prospect of their children’s being granted equal opportunity, resulting in the loss of their ethno-cultural identity in the new Soviet reality.

David Sperber

Abstract

Helène Aylon (b. 1931) is among the first generation of feminist artists who identified and challenged traditional patriarchal and misogynist readings of ancient religious texts. This article analyzes the discourse and examines the reception of Aylon’s work The Liberation of G-d (1990–1996) within the Jewish art world and the American Conservative Jewish community, and her contribution to these two diverse audiences. Despite the work’s confrontation with tradition, some rabbis from the Conservative movement played a significant role in the acceptance of the work and its exhibition in the Jewish Museum in New York and other Jewish institutions. However, they reduced its radicalism, reframing the work as a Midrashic interpretation (a form of traditional rabbinic commentary) that operates within the framework and rules that delineate the traditional Jewish interpretive community. This article analyzes how the rabbis tamed the artist’s activist and critical work. I argue that Aylon challenges the Jewish community with a radical feminist discourse that is often omitted from the dominant discourse of the traditional Jewish community. By analyzing the engagements with and reception of Aylon’s work within the Jewish art world and the Jewish Conservative community, I demonstrate how the artist seeks real social engagement that reaches beyond the walls of the museum, challenging the structures of religious patriarchy while engaging in a dialogue with its representatives.

Gil Pasternak and Marta Ziętkiewicz

Abstract

This article studies the photographic methods that the Poland-based Landkentnish (Yiddish for “knowing the land”) movement employed in the interwar period to promote Jewish culture and Poland as a home for the Jewish people. The movement wished to increase the exposure of Polish Jews to Poland’s diverse landscapes in order to strengthen their connection to the Polish land. It also aspired to create archives of local Jewish cultural heritage to attest to the long history of Polish Jewry and to the contributions that Jews had made to Polish society. After tracing the movement’s origins, the article explores the concentrated efforts that it made to provide its members with photographic knowledge and education. Analyzing the photographic sources and resources that the movement created, the exhibitions that it put on display, and its employment of snapshots, the article demonstrates how photography assisted the movement in realizing its key aims and objectives.

Joshua Schwartz

Abstract

Everyone plays and that, of course, includes children. In an ideal world, there would be literary traditions, archaeological remains and artistic renditions, which would enable the reconstruction of toys. Unfortunately, the situation does not exist for ancient Jewish society. For the most part, there are depictions in rabbinic literature and it is those toy traditions which I examine.

The study begins with those toys explicitly connected to halakhic issues, firstly with those traditions in which the toy is essential to the law and afterwards to those in which the toy is tangential to the law. The study then deals with those toys mentioned in a nonlegal rabbinic framework. Finally, I discuss toys that were popular in the Greco-Roman world but not mentioned in rabbinic literature. I seek to determine whether descriptions of toys in rabbinic literature and set within the broader Greco-Roman world are sufficient for visualization.

Tali Berner

Abstract

This article discusses the clothing of Jewish children and adolescents in Western and Central Europe in the early modern period. Looking at egodocuments, sumptuary laws, visual representations, moral books, halakhic literature and apprenticeship contracts, it gives a first overview of children’s dress and involvement in the textile industry. The article explore the forces that shaped children’s garments—parental desires, legal and halakhic constraints and social norms. It pays special attention to the places where children and adolescents desires were manifested, and the ways children’s agency is professed, through choosing their own garments and contributing to the textile industry and changing of fashions.