I can’t look at our cover photograph without smiling. I wonder where these people are now; their expressions of joyful anticipation stay with me.
As the Days of Awe, the High Holy Days, approach, I like to think that these are also days of optimism, as we are reminded of our resiliency. I admire those who manage to be optimists all year round. When I asked my late friend Ellen Kahn, one of the most optimistic people I’ve encountered, about how she stayed so positive, she said that she worked hard at it.
Our contributors look to the glass that’s more than half full. Shelly Fredman turns to the potential in music, mining text and her own experience, and Martha Mendelsohn peers into the field of positive psychology. Recalling a trip to Sicily, Etgar Keret reflects on the potential of finding the good in the least likely places. Rabbi Scott Bolton and Shai Secunda see the optimism inherent in Jewish texts and tradition: Rabbi Bolton reaches for new heights of prayer, building ladders with liturgy, and Secunda offers a close reading of the Talmud. Avram Mlotek describes a Yiddish writer and his outlook on the future. In an inspiring collaboration, Isaac Peterson depicts Yehoshua November’s poem “God’s Optimism” in a graphic strip. Mimi Sheraton advances the calendar to Sukkot, with her ode to the fragrant etrog. And Jerome Chanes invokes the metaphor of lemons and lemonades as he offers his monthly tour of recent scholarship.
The act of immigration is often born of great optimism. Siona Benjamin, who was born in Mumbai, India, came to the United States in 1986. Her work (page 3) celebrates her Indian and Jewish heritage, and also tackles social and political issues, showing all sides of life. “My Magic Carpet,” an exhibition of her new work, is on view through Nov. 5 at the Flomenhaft Gallery, 547 W. 27th St., Suite 200, in Manhattan.
Tal Shochat’s trees also make me smile. Her photographs capture pomegranate, cypress and other trees at the height of their splendor and fertility, full of possibility. Branches of the date palm (left), beloved since biblical times for its beauty, shade and the sweetness of its fruit, are used along with the etrog on Sukkot, as part of the Four Species. An exhibition of Shochat’s work, “In Praise of a Dream,” is on view at the Andrea Meislin Gallery, 526 W. 26th St., #214, through Oct. 29.
Cups half-full or half-empty, I hope they overflow with sweetness. Shana tova, and may your hopes and dreams be fulfilled.
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