As we searched for illustrations on the theme of loss, our art director Dan
Bocchino told me of an uncle who used to visit the Queens cemetery where his wife was buried, set up a lawn chair and keep her company almost every afternoon.
I’ve had that image in mind as we sought out essays that explore the shadows of life, the power of ritual and the possibility of consolation.
The Uzbek woman on the cover, in Chrystie Sherman’s striking photograph, is washing the Jewish gravestones in a cemetery in Samarkand, as she does almost every day. While the Bukharan Jews have left Uzbekistan, they send money back to the Muslims living there, to ensure the upkeep of their communal burial grounds. In her essay, folklorist Ilana Harlow writes about, among other things, the customs the Bukharan community has brought to the cemeteries of Queens, where many have resettled.
In contemplating loss, our distinguished writers, in many ways, affirm life. Amy Koplow reflects on a year of saying Kaddish. Rabbi Felicia Sol describes lovingly participating in the cleansing rituals after a congregant’s death. Ari L. Goldman discusses the art of the obituary, and Samuel G. Freedman pens a tribute to his late father. Ann Birstein looks back and ahead, adding some humor to the mix. Peter Bebergal makes peace with his late brother’s choices. Widening the conversation, Rebecca Raphael considers financial loss and its impact. Jerome Chanes’s literary wanderings take him though the Holocaust, the Bible and popular culture.
It’s not always easy to find words on this topic; and sometimes there are none. I’m grateful to all the contributors for their generosity and candor. For me, this has been a year of sadness; we just marked my father’s first yahrtzeit. I miss him terribly.
I’m so pleased to feature the work of Israeli photographer Naomi Leshem. All of her work, as she explains, is about “the in-between, being on the move” — between life and death, water and sky, youth and growing up. The serene and exquisite photos of the sea (below and page 13) are from her series “Way to Beyond,” while the photo of the young soldier (page 12) is from “Runways,” when Leshem photographed barefooted young women at different Israeli air force bases. Her work is rooted in part in personal loss. Leshem’s husband, an Israeli air force pilot, was killed in a training accident over the Sea of Galilee. The photos of the sea are taken there. “Photography freezes one second,” she says. “In this one second but the places with water and air are still there — the life there continues, in a beautiful way.” Thanks to the Andrea Meislin Gallery in Chelsea for lending the work (naomileshem.com).
“I pose a question and let people think about it,” Alan Falk says of his intensely colored paintings featured here, which relate to end of life. He has been painting since he was a teenager in London. In the past decade or so, he’s been working with Jewish narratives, revisiting the religious studies of his childhood with greater depth. Behind all of his paintings are personal stories (pages 4, 6 and 8). An exhibition of his work (alanfalk.com) is on view through Oct. 30 at Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, Conn.
And, in remembering the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we call attention to artist Tobi Kahn’s upcoming installation at the Educational Alliance in lower Manhattan, “Embodied Light: 9-11 in 2011” (page 10).
As my South African friends say at memorials, “You should have long life.”
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