Pieces of Ourselves
Those who stumbled into Weissberg Commons during the Yom Ha’atzmaut festivities were treated with an unusual, and even jarring, sight. No, it was not the awkward co-ed mingling, nor the ridiculous amounts of blue-and-white cookies. Rather, there on the carpeted walls of that poorly lit and oddly designed room, were stunning pictures and even a couple of paintings.I highlight this point because artistic skill on Wilf is not a davar pashut (a simple matter) for two reasons. First, in context of the broader world of photography, the majority of images taken these days are composed with little thought towards form and substance, while also lacking an intriguing subject. Therefore, it is surprising that anybody these days could come up with an interesting picture. Yet, on a second plane, it is surprising that within Yeshiva, which lacks both the courses and the interest in the arts, that someone could produce such work. However, it appears that there is still hope.
Culled from the best, this year's Yom HaAtzmaut art gallery featured images from members of both campuses. These pictures were taken during students' gap years in Israel, where unburdened by finals, papers, and mediocrity, they were free to explore the surreal atmosphere of Israel. The gallery highlighted the beautiful complexity of the land of Israel and all of its inhabitants. It was arranged into different areas representing the subject of images taken; candid street, desert/hike, beach/sunset, general landscape, Old City, soldier, and Ultra-Orthodox.
Particularly noteworthy were the street photographs of Shimon Lindenblatt, such as "I See The Light," which adequately distilled the upward longing of a Breslov Neo-Hassid . Also noteworthy were Neta Chizhik's "Cafe Sunset" and Romy Koenig's "King of the Desert," for their effective usage of silhouette in classic Israeli scenes. Daniel Gofine's "Colliding Worlds," taken during his army service, boldly acknowledges the tension inherent in the Zionist enterprise.
While it is laudable to examine the individual picture, it is more important to investigate the global vision of the gallery as a new creation unto itself. Photography, at its most basic level, calls for preserving precious moments in time in fear of losing that experience. As such, a memory or picture lost is identical to a loss of a piece of the self. Therefore, the Yom HaAtzmaut gallery as a whole represents the pieces of our Israel-selves that are crucial for preservation, that cannot be lost to the doldrums of the past precisely because that time is central to our identity. We took those pictures to remember the exuberance and vivacity of the fleeting Israel experience, as fleeting as the one day Yom HaAtzmaut gallery itself.
This speaks to the power of those formative years spent in Israel and its holistic impact on our lives. In that light, it is interesting to note the absence of a Washington Heights gallery on Wilf highlighting students' experience in New York City. Are these not formative years, also filled with life-changing experiences? Do our years and memories on campus not deserve their own physical space on the walls on the institution?
From this analysis emerges an interesting conclusion about the mindset of the YU student population. Our days in Israel are wistfully seen as golden, idyllic, grand ol' times, while we perceive our time in YU as a literal exile into the trenches New York City.
It is the hope of this author that the same passion that compelled us to capture the holy aura of the Land of Israel should also transfer to capturing and preserving our time outside of Israel. Good times and beautiful sights lie ahead, although they require discovery and adventure. And yet that same passion and vision represented by our Israel pictures, should always direct us towards returning to Israel. Not as visitors, but as heirs.