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  • Author or Editor: Maya Balakirsky Katz x

Maya Balakirsky Katz

Abstract

Scholarship on Hasidism typically utilizes literary source material of the dynastic leaders and their top disciples, while the more typical master/disciple relationship has escaped attention. Hasidic movements have produced, distributed, and voraciously consumed visual portraits of their leaders throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The most visually productive Hasidic community is the Belarusian HabadLubavitch, which has produced images of five of its seven generations of leaders. Indeed, portraits of its leaders have been integral to the development of Habad both in Eastern Europe and its post-Shoah rejuvination in the United States. This paper begins with Habad's visual history from the 1880s release of portrait paintings of the first and third Habad leaders in the effort to establish a unified group identity at a time of factionalism. The survey then moves to Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Habad, who rallied his followers with the medium of photography. Photography became a central component of his leadership in the 1930s and 1940s. The study then moves to the seventh and last Habad leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who expanded the use of visual culture in Habad and used his own image to forge a post-Shoah group identity around a distinctly American leader who was also the spiritual repository of the six preceding Russian leaders. Schneerson's image production and reproduction began to model American celebrity culture in the early 1970s as part of a public campaign to inaugurate the Messianic Age. This broad dissemination of Schneerson's image inadvertantly created an elastic Schneerson portrait, whose reflexivness, in some respects, transcended its subject.

Maya Balakirsky Katz

After Stalin consolidated the major animation studios and closed down smaller regional studios to create a single Moscow-based drawn and puppet animation studio in 1934–36, the animation studio Soyuzmultfilm became the largest animation studio in Eastern Europe. In the 1960s, Soviet Jewish animators focused on the theme of social geography and developed individual characters in relationship to social mapping. This essay analyses the enigmatic Cheburashka, the Soviet Mickey Mouse, whose popularity as a Communist ideal led to his starring role as Soyuzmultfilm’s most enduring logo. It is particularly concerned with the development of the ethnically-unidentifiable Cheburashka against the history of the Moscow Zoo and its inter-species exhibitions.

Maya Balakirsky Katz

The Jewish Brumberg sisters, known as the “grandmothers of Soviet animation,” established their own directors’ group at the newly-formed Soyuzmultfilm through which they sheltered and nurtured an underemployed artistic milieu. A case study of the personal, professional, and creative biographies of Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg reveals how they used their directors’ group as a safe haven for Moscow’s disenfranchised intellectual community after the closing of avant-garde theaters in the 1930s and 1940s.

Maya Balakirsky Katz

This article considers Israel’s national image both at home and abroad through the framework of Israeli costume dolls, looking specifically at the way that gender played a role in Israel’s national image as it travelled from domestic production to international reception. Initially, predominantly female doll makers produced three main types of Israeli dolls, but over time the religious Eastern European male doll triumphed in the pantheon of national types. Produced for retail sale to non-Hebrew speaking tourists by immigrant woman, the Eastern European religious male doll came to represent Israel abroad while the market pushed representations of the Middle Eastern Jewish woman and the native sabra child to the side-lines. This article examines the shift from the multi-ethnic collection of dolls as representative of the nation’s idea of itself to the privileging of the male Eastern European doll as representative of the normative image of Israel abroad.