Photos reveal locals’ ‘Jewish Journeys’

Photos reveal locals’ ‘Jewish Journeys’

Bernadette Sabatini says she sought to capture the beauty of the moment while atop Masada.
Bernadette Sabatini says she sought to capture the beauty of the moment while atop Masada.

Jewish geography and Jewish photography commingle in an exhibition that opened early in September at the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County in Freehold. 

Featuring the work of 10 area photographers, the works in “Jewish Journeys” span the globe, from Israel, to Europe, to the Caribbean.

The exhibit, which will run through December, is a byproduct of the artists’ own travels, but also illustrates aspects of Jewish life throughout the world. 

In his photo Blue Door and Ramps, taken in 2001 in Jerusalem’s Old City, Joel Morgovsky of Lincroft, a retired Brookdale Community College professor, said he was seeking to show something simultaneously ancient and modern. “I wanted to evoke a sense of the centuries of footsteps that have traveled over those stones, plus the trappings of people who live there at the moment,” he said.

Kean University adjunct professor Ellen Rubinstein of Holmdel, said her 2008 trip to Israel provided source material for a number of her favorite shots. In one that is on display at the museum, she caught an inspiring view of the Israeli flag flying over the ancient hilltop fortress of Masada.

Masada also captured Bernadette Sabatini’s attention. “I’m not a Jew, but my husband is, and many years ago, as a graphic artist, I worked closely with the Jewish National Fund in New York,” said the Eatontown resident. She said that Masada — with its dramatic history of the Roman siege of close to 1,000 Jews who chose death over enslavement — is an appealing subject because it symbolizes the hope and stamina of the Jewish people.

Unlike most of the other artists in the show, Faith Wight of Princeton is a professional photographer. She works as a digital and traditional photo instructor at Hillsborough High School, has sold pictures to The Times of Trenton, and created public relations photography for Westminster Choir College. Her image of Robert Indiana’s Hebrew version of his iconic AHAVA (LOVE) sculpture, is part of the display.

Phyllis Solomon of Marlboro realized what she calls her “lucky photo moment” while she was walking through the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem. “As I came through an incredible labyrinth of passageways and arches, I saw a beam of sunlight coming through a narrow crack. The light created a play of shadows that made me think of the phrase ‘Jerusalem of gold.’” Solomon took the picture with her iPhone.

One of Lynn Danzig’s contributions to the exhibit is a striking black-and-white image of an Ethiopian woman, a local entrepreneur in the northern Israeli city of Beit She’an. “When she was eight years old, she and her brothers trekked through Sudan to reach Israel. The journey took 18 months,” said Danzig, who hails from a suburb of Cleveland but has been coming to Little Silver for 35 years to visit her husband Alan’s family. “Her parents remained behind, but later were reunited with her. Today, she lives in a building that houses both a museum and a restaurant.”

Danzig isn’t the only artist in the show with a Cleveland connection. Rabbi Sally Priesand, now of Ocean Township, was born there. The rabbi emerita of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls earned fame as America’s first female rabbi. 

In the museum exhibit, she is represented by a photo she took in Prague of a sign above a restaurant named for the Golem, the legendary clay figure that was supposed to protect the Jews from their tormentors.

Julie Warshawsky of Howell also found inspiration in Europe, taking pictures in the Jewish communities of Rome and Venice. “I walked quite a distance until I found the big square where the old Venice synagogue is located,” she said. “I saw little children with kipas riding bicycles. In Rome, I took pictures of a Jewish bakery and a kosher restaurant, both representative of what Jewish life is like today.”

Also included are photos by Simon Zelingher of Marlboro and Norman Schwinger of Monroe. An artists’ reception will be held Sunday, Sept. 27. 

Museum copresident Alice Berman credited the design of the display to Arlene Smelson, a retired art teacher and curator of exhibits for the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College. Smelson was assisted by Lynn Reich, another retired art teacher; Susan Richman, a language educator; and Wight, who is also an educator.

Berman said most of the exhibit’s images are for sale, at prices ranging from about $50 to $400.

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