Temporary exhibitions

Among the Hasidim

Among the Hasidim

The Israeli photographer, Gil Cohen-Magen, took his camera to Mea Shearim, a quarter in Jerusalem inhabited by the Hasidim. For ten consecutive years he would return to the neighbourhood to observe the everyday life of the local community, which is hermetic to outsiders. See for yourself what the Hasidic wedding, circumcision ceremony, redemption of the first-born son, first haircut, Hanukkah or the ritual bath look like.

It all started from one typical reporter assignment received by Gil Cohen-Magen from Reuters. For the photographer, who was born and raised in one of the secular quarters of Jerusalem, treading the narrow streets of Mea Shearim, located only a stone's throw away, required verifying his own ideas of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews, which had been to a great extent shaped by the media. It was no easy task. The Hasidic communities, whose life he resolved to document, avoid being photographed in keeping with the Book of Exodus: "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth"

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Be that as it may, the photographer's determination and patience helped him gain the acceptance of the Hasidim. The project which launched in the Quarter of the Hundred Gates later incorporated other areas. As a result, he created a photographic essay on the communities which protect their identity and whose rhythm of life is governed by Torah and time-honoured traditions. Although the ban is related only to pictures taken for ritual purposes, Cohen-Magen and his camera were looked at with mistrust throughout the entire project.

The exhibition illustrates key aspects of the life of men, women and children of the Hasidic communities in Israel. Many of these communities were established in Poland and still use the names of their places of origin, among others, Belz (Bełz), Biala (Biała Podlaska), Ger (Góra Kalwaria) or Modzitz (Dęblin). The pictures show groups such as Belz, Bobov, Boyan, Breslov, Karlin-Stolin, Lelov, Satmar, Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avraham and Vyżnic. All of the communities trace their origin to Baal Shem Tov, a mystic from Podolia, and share similar philosophy, but differ slightly as far as religious practices and attire are concerned. The pictures depict, among others, the Hasidic wedding, circumcision, redemption of the first-born son, first haircut, Hanukkah or the ritual bath.

The official opening of the exhibition entitled "Among the Hasidim" will take place on 31 March at 6 p.m. The pictures are on display until 5 June.

The presentation is coordinated by the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków. The exhibition’s curator is Tomasz Strug.