Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The picture, originally published in the New World Notes, has the subtitle: "Avatar from Avatar; Second Life avatar of avatar from Avatar" (yes, this is too good to be made up). Anyhow, Hamlet Au asked in his open forum on the New World Notes if the James Cameron movie "Avatar" might generate new interest in Second Life. The answers you can read here.
New interest in Javatars was not created by the movie (yet). But the Jewish culture magazine Tablet has a Jewish story related to the movie that is worth reading (link here).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Paul Duda

Photographer Paul Duda explains the process behind his contribution to the CHAP exhibition in the John Slade Ely House/Center for Contemporary Art.

As a local (New Haven) artist, were you aware of the Orchard Street Shul before the project?
I was not aware of the Orchard Street Shul prior to this project. So many times driving the street to North Frontage Road, I fell prey to the destruction of awareness due to mundane behavior. I think I know an area thus blindly drive an understood route home. I missed a real jewel of architecture many times.

Can you describe the technique you used for your photograph?
My technique is that of the early photographers, the exposures of the mid 1800's with shutter speeds of twenty-five minutes and longer. I shoot on film, medium format slide film, and through filtration and development of the film I can make my exposures in the bright sunlight. The color is not digitally manipulated. Reciprocity or the films inability to record light at the same speed over time (in this case 38 minutes at an f-stop of 32.2) supplies the look of the finished photographic image. The vignette at the corners is caused by a slightly longer distance from the lens to the edge of the film plain compared to the shorter distance from the lens to the center of the film plain. All cars, people walking, bikes, and the rest of daily life simply pass through the image without reflecting enough light to be recorded. The same reason a bullet shot through a photograph exposed of 1/1000th of a second is absent in the image. The expansion of the contrast is also a natural part of the process when exposing at such lengths. The image provided shows my technique verses a more traditional exposure of slide film on the same day at the same time.

How important are for you artist networks such as CHAP?

I have never believed that great art can be created in a closet void of the study and influence of other artists. Any network promoting the introduction of otherwise unfamiliar artists is a wonderful opportunity for growth in ones on work.

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Mary Lesser

Mary Lesser speaks about her work for the CHAP in New Haven.

How did you find out about the Orchard Street Shul project and what motivated you to participate?
Cynthia went to a show of mine in my gallery. She liked my work and called me to suggest that I might be interested in the show.

Can you explain your contribution to the project and its connection to the shul?
I made an installation which hangs from the ceiling and represents a sukkah. The "walls" are paper on which I collaged prints made from photographs and documents connected to the shul. I then printed color and pattern on top with etching ink.

How does this work fit into the context of your other art work?
I generally do not do "Jewish art" but much of my work is concerned with the immigrants who came to America from many lands or were brought as slaves. I often make prints which incorporate manipulated and reprinted antique photographs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship Deadline coming soon!

Yes You Can. You Can be the One.

JDC is currently recruiting for the 2010 – 2011 Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellowship -- the premiere opportunity for engaging young Jewish leaders in the work of the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian aid organization.

Who? JDC is looking for the best young Jewish thinkers and doers -- writers, artists, policy shapers, business innovators, and community builders -- there is no single profile that fits. We are looking for leaders in their field who have the promise to influence the future of Jewish life and the world.

What? JDC’s Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship is a one-of-a-kind, paid, professional development opportunity to live and work in overseas locations where JDC is active and engage with the inner workings of the organization.

Where? JDC works in over 70 countries around the world.

When? Fellowship begins in September 2010 with an orientation period at JDC’s headquarters in New York, continues with two or more overseas assignments, and concludes in New York in September 2011.


Deadline: December 30, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Suzan Shutan

New Haven artist Suzan Shutan spoke with 2Life Magazine about the Orchard Street Shul and her project.

How did you find out about the Orchard Street Shul project and what motivated you to participate?

I received an exhibition call for artists by a colleague who knows that I happen to live in the town where the exhibits central focus would be local, Orchard Street Shul, and thought my community based artwork would be appropriate. I replied to the call with interest and attended a meeting at the Shul site. When I walked inside, it was as if I stepped back into history. At first glance the interior was magnificent, full of intimate details and symbolism and at second glance I noticed sections of ceiling that had fallen through onto hand carved benches and walls that were rotted and exposed amidst beautiful hand stenciling. That is when I understood the gravity of the call and knew I wanted to be a participant.

Can you explain your contribution to the project and its connection to the shul?

My contribution to the project was a video installation called “Stomping Ground” that is part street map, moving pictures and personal stories woven together to examine community as a cultural construct and system that transcends its people.
The title references the neighborhood and Orchard Street Shul as sites of congregation and desecration where boundaries and interactions blur, shared beliefs intermingle, and transformation is the outcome of heterogeneity.
The installation consists of a geometric wooden relief grid work that references an aerial map of the neighborhood. A video screen is mounted in its middle like a courtyard, where action and congregation take place. The video is visually constructed like a grid of four panels that uses assembled photographic images combined with moving video to build a collective recollection of "place".
I interviewed six individuals who reside/d in the community. They represent three generations and four different cultures. Each story told focuses on a universal issue, the immigrant experience (home ownership & business), spiritual experience (the role of religion/the Shul) and community experience (how we connect to each other).
Stomping Ground is about preservation stimulating sustainable neighborhood development so that cultures are retained, views are celebrated and streets bustle with life.

How does this work fit into the context of your other art work?

Much of my work is rooted in socio-political content be it obvious or more subtle. For example, I have been working on a series about Pheromones- art and science. The work visualizes patterns of attraction or repellent that happen within our body chemistry. The idea is abstract and its message is subtle, but you certainly get the feeling of a sexual reaction...particles blown away or drawn in like a magnet, the work spreading across 20 foot walls. Last year while on a regional grant to Argentina, I created an entire exhibit based on traveling, how we glean information... developing a preconceived notion about what a place is like before we arrive.
My sculptural work, often combined with large projected videos, is at first glance abstract until you spend time with it to identify its deeper meaning ... in Argentina, a glacial drift was based on a small mountain of ice that dislodging itself in Patagonia due to our climate crisis.
Stomping Ground fits into the context of my other work in that it is based first on an investigation of ideas, in this case being, how can we live well with each other to survive in the world.

Shimon Peres launches YouTube channel

“Welcome to my YouTube channel. I am so glad to speak to you and no less, to listen to you. I would like to share with you my dreams, my thoughts, and I would like also to hear your dreams and your thoughts”.
No, this isn’t a quote by Beyonce, but rather the launching of a completely different channel, the blog IsRealli reports.
After staying on top of almost every global trend, the President of Israel now has his own YouTube channel. At a special event held in Jerusalem, President Peres hit the publish button and uploaded his first ever clip: “The freedom of speech belonged for many years in history to the strong, to the mighty, to the privileged. They have had the microphones and we have had to listen to them. Today we really enjoy free speech. We can talk to each other, no matter where are you, no matter who are you, no matter who I am, as a person to a person, directly. With a great interest and full hope, join in me, in dreams, in hope, in conversation. I think it will enrich you, I am sure it will enrich me.” said Israeli President Peres.
Joining Peres at this event was Chad Hurley, YouTube’s founder who hopes this channel and others will serve to promote peace and understanding: "I could have never imagined when we started this site five years ago that we would be considered a vehicle for peace. Today, we are breaking down boundaries so that people get to see the other side. People see that everyone around the world really shares the same dreams and have the same fears.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Lisa Link

Three questions for CHAP artist Lisa Link.

How did you find out about the Orchard Street Shul project and what motivated you to participate?
I found it somewhere online and was interested because I used to work in New Haven and it was a chance to investigate a place near where I used to go to work every day.

Can you explain your contribution to the project and its connection to the shul?
After visiting the Orchard Street Shul and speaking to some New Haven residents, I kept thinking about the impact of urban renewal projects on people's lives. For the Orchard Street Shul project, I set out to create a piece that gives a small glimpse into the intersection of personal memory, politics, and the built environment. I chose the format of a public Google Map because of its accessibility as a space on the World Wide Web, its capacity to juxtapose layers of information and its option for public participation. I am interested in the contrast between the personal reflections of the people I spoke with and the generic but so functional visual interface of Google Maps. I wanted to place the words and photos gathered from my learning about this aspect of New Haven's history on the map; over the parking lots and highways that were once the vibrant Jewish neighborhoods.

How does this work fit into the context of your other art work?
Most of my other work is more directly political in content and activist in context. My work is about giving people voice in the media and lately, as artist, standing farther in the background, acting as a catalyst for conversation and connections rather than as a focal point as a maker of objects. That is why I chose the format of the Google map - it can reach a lot of people and allows for community participation and my role is almost invisible. I've also been exploring ways to incorporate concepts that I am exploring in my job as a web designer into my art projects and seek to blur the boundaries that I used to set up between these two worlds of "art" and "interactive design".

To visit Lisa's artwork online, click here.


Digital film made in response to the Orchard Street Synagogue after visiting on the day before Tisha b'Av, a day of mourning. The artists selected associative images in the first paragraphs of Lamentations that had direct relevance to the synagogue.

Monday, December 7, 2009

92-year old Sam Faiman at the opening in New Haven

Maya Escobar shared this video from New Haven with me via Facebook. The opening of the exhibition was yesterday.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Alan Falk

Three questions for CHAP artist Alan Falk.

How did you find out about the Orchard Street Shul project and what motivated you to participate?

I initially got involved in the Shul's restoration project. As a designer (my day job), I was invited to develop and create materials for marketing the Shul's fundraising appeal. Having worked in the New Haven Jewish community and producing a series of posters for the New Haven Jewish Historical Society celebrating the contribution of Jews in New Haven during the 350th anniversary of Jews in America, I was extremely familiar with the history of the synagogue, neighborhood and congregation. During my conversations with the Shul Board, I met Roslyn Croog, a participant in the CHAP project and a member of the board. She told me about the artist's project and I expressed my interest in participating. She contacted Cynthia Beth Rubin and the Artist's Committee, and I was invited to participate in the project.

How does this work fit into the context of your other art work?

My work is immersed in Jewish issues and topics, so the subject matter came to me easily. As soon as I entered the Synagogue's sanctuary, I pretty much knew how I would approach the project.

How important are artist networks such as CHAP for you and where do you see this project going after the exhibition in New Haven ends?

Having chosen to work, until recently, in relative isolation, my experience of engaging with other artists has been limited for quite a number of years. However, I have come to realize how important these networks are. I recently became involved with the New York-based Jewish Arts Salon and have had opportunities to meet and engage in dialogue with artists of similar sentiment. I have come to understand how this form of exchange - ideas, philosophies, experiences, etc., is so vital to development and growth. The CHAP concept is very appealing, because it goes a step further, involving artists in a form social/community action, and I am delighted to be a part of this venture. I am very much in favor of the idea of developing more cooperative projects, involving artists contributing to a team effort, as opposed to just individual contributions.

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Bruce Oren

Allison Hoffman has today a story about the Cultural Heritage Artists Project of the Orchard Street Shul in Tablet Magazine. In it, you find a slide show with some of the work. One of the artists featured there prominently is New Haven artist Bruce Oren. "I wasn't aware of the Orchard Street Shul before this project," he explains 2Life Magazine in a recent interview. "I've only been in New Haven for five years. I had driven passed the shul before, but simply never noticed it."
Invited to visit the shul, he made his way there one afternoon this summer, and was inspired for his piece. "Soon after committing to do a piece for this project, I dreamed about creating a large, empty tallis. I'd never dreamed up artwork before and felt obliged to follow through on the tallis concept. I'm a stone sculptor who occasionally carves wood, so working with cloth was a considerable departure from my comfort zone. Overall, it was a fun experience working in such a malleable, plastic medium."
Oren is looking forward to the opening this Sunday. He is thankful for the opportunity provided by CHAP, but "artist networks have not been important to me. I work alone and don't usually actively seek exposure".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: David Ottenstein

Three questions for New Haven photographer David Ottenstein about his experience with the Orchard Street project.

As a local (New Haven) artist, were you aware of the Orchard Street Shul before the project?
Yes, I was aware of the Orchard Street shul. Several years ago someone in the community brought it to my attention. I photographed it then, but had always intended to go back and do some more work. This project presented the perfect opportunity for me.

Can you describe the technique you used for your photograph and how they fit into your portfolio?
Unlike much of my work, all the photographs included in the project were captured digitally. Usually I photograph on 4x5 film, then scan my negatives and print them with pigment inks. The 8 smaller images are individual exposures; however, the large, central image was created from 16 separate digital files that were stitched together in my computer. I had been experimenting with this stitching technique prior to my work on this project, but this is the first time I produced a finished exhibition piece using the technique. The prints were made with the same inks, paper and type of printer that I typically use.
To most viewers, I expect that these photographs will be indistinguishable from my 4x5 work. Combining multiple files to create a single large print yields clarity and resolution at least equal to what I can achieve with a scanned 4x5 negative.
How important for you are artist networks such as CHAP?
This is the first time I have been involved in a project through an organization like CHAP. It has been a very rewarding experience. Being part of a diverse artistic community, guided by a common theme, is a great way to work. It provides inspiration and energy in a way that working in isolation simply cannot do. I'm looking forward to seeing the exhibit and meeting more of the artists. I will likely pay attention to future opportunities for working with similar networks.

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Janet Shafner

Janet Shafner, one of the contributors from New York, answers questions about the Cultural Heritage Artists project of the Orchard Street Shul.

How did you find out about the Orchard Street Shul project and what motivated you to participate?

I knew Cynthia Beth Rubin from the time, many years ago, when we both were teaching art at Connecticut College. Over the years, we have had occasional contact.

Last year, I wrote to tell her about a project I was involved with in NYC . It was something akin to the Orchard Street Shul Project, in which a number of artists were planning to show their work in the lower East Side Stanton Street Synagogue, which like the shul in New Haven, was decrepit and about to be rehabbed. The exhibition consisted of works by Jewish artists from the New York area, and panels and lectures to correlate with the show were being planned.

Cynthia, in turn, let me know about the New Haven project, and urged me to participate. Anytime a group of artists interested or working with Jewish themes gets together, I am interested.

For over 20 years I have been making multi-paneled paintings based on material from the Hebrew Bible and classic commentaries and their parallel with contemporary political and social issues. At first, I felt like I was mining a vein that was way off the path. It was almost universally considered "kitsch" to do art relating to Jewish subjects. Now, of course, it has become respectable, although Jewish subject matter is still considered transgressive by many museums, galleries and curators.

So, it is with great pleasure that I join with artists who are bringing this material into a contemporary context.

Can you explain your contribution to the project and its connection to the shul?

I visited the Orchard Street Shul and it was so reminiscent of other very old synagogues, all
deteriorating as the neighborhoods and the demographics shift. The images that were most insistent, for me, were the many piles of old sacred books, on benches and in bookcases. I took some photos and went home to find an image that would link the decaying books to a larger motif.

How does this work fit into the context of your other art work?

As I mentioned, most of my paintings done in the last 22 years have dealt with images relating to the Hebrew Bible, Midrash & Talmud. Almost all consist of a rectangular panel with one or more attached lunettes.

Although this piece is not textually inspired, it definitely relates to the Jewish tradition, and its physical structure of a lunette attached to a rectangular panel is the same.

I admire the reverence that is given to holy books, so that when they are unusable they are buried like, and with, the Jewish people. Zachor (remember) is a reference to those books and
also the passed life of the Orchard Street Shul. To bring the concept forward, the box marked "Shaimos" is placed below the piece so sacred books that can no longer be used, can be deposited there, awaiting proper burial.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Beth Krensky

On December 6th, the Cultural Heritage Artists Project will open its first exhibition, dedicated to the Orchard Street Synagogue. Before the exhibition opens at the John Slade Ely House in New Haven, 2Life Magazine will feature various participating artists. Each one will get three questions related to their artwork and their experience.
Today we feature Salt Lake City based Beth Krensky, an assistant professor of art education at the University of Utah.

How did you find out about the Orchard Street Shul project and what motivated you to participate?

I was interested in the Orchard Street Shul project because it examined a particular place, the shul, over time and, for me, was a way to examine how a space or objects in that space get imbued with meaning. Much of my current work explores how objects can be used to create new rituals that comment on larger social and/or political issues. Since I moved to Utah 6 ½ years ago, most of my art has explicitly drawn from elements of the Jewish tradition—both text and objects--that have to do with transformation. For these reasons, the project intrigued me.

Can you explain your contribution to the project?

I visited the shul last summer and I was interested in how the meaning and power of many of the religious objects remained intact despite the layers of dust and decay that had occurred over the years that the space appeared to have lay dormant. I was also struck by the importance of the space to former congregants. I pondered questions like “What gives a place meaning?” and “Is there a way to sanctify a space by demarcating it in some way?” These questions brought up the idea of portable sanctuaries. I considered making physical tent-like spaces that could signify a space of worship and could go to where the congregants were scattered. In the end, I decided to recall and reify the objects that represented orthodox Jewish observance which would represent that meaning despite the location they were placed in.

In my statement about the pieces, I assert that:

These Reliquary pieces are about enduring objects. The Orchard Street Shul, and the neighborhood within which it exists, act as a metaphor for the multiple layers of shared existence over time and place. The ebb and flow of people, activity, decay and renewal shares a history with objects that retain their symbolism, power and liturgical or ritual meaning over time. The objects placed in the reliquaries have physically and symbolically endured over time and demarcate a space for religious observance. Architectural elements of the Shul have been incorporated into the forms of these containers. Much of my work consists of common objects made sacred. This turning of the mundane into precious invokes the possibility of change, mirroring the layered history of the community and Shul.

How does this work fit into the context of your other art work?

In his book, The Strange Place of Religion on Contemporary Art, James Elkins debates the impact and importance of contemporary art that addresses religious beliefs and/or observances. These beliefs and observances can come from established, new or individually created religions. In describing some of this work, he refers to the artist Betty Saar who believes that this type of work shifts points of view and releases an inner spirit.

For my own work that is based on ritual, I often research ancient traditions that were used within Judaism and other traditions of faith. This research only informs my art, as I often imagine new, sometimes idiosyncratic, rituals based on ancient knowledge. The objects I create are intended as instruments for our own rituals, real or imagined.

I like to think of my work existing somewhere in the space between secular art and ritualized objects. There is a long tradition of artists, many of them women, creating altars, rituals and objects that aesthetically reside within the high art world, yet the purpose of the objects often responds to a personal ritual. These very personal actions can come to bear on larger social or political issues, such as the work Suzanne Lacy engages in.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Visual Midrash

We are living in a world that almost daily offers us new media and new challenges. We are also the latest in a long line of generations awed and wonderstruck by our ancient Jewish traditions and their place in world culture.
A new website addresses both of these realities: It offers access to a digitized collection of artwork on biblical and Judaic subjects, gathered over decades. It is a gate to a vast treasury that can be searched by subject, period, artist, medium and textual location. The search will be aided by biographies, essays, citations, references and pedagogical guidelines for the use of these materials in formal as well as informal education.
A fascinating site, worth exploring. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cultural Heritage Artists Project: Yona Verwer

On December 6th, the Cultural Heritage Artists Project will open its first exhibition, dedicated to the Orchard Street Synagogue. Before the exhibition opens at the John Slade Ely House in New Haven, 2Life Magazine will feature various participating artists. Each one will get three questions related to their artwork and their experience. Today we have Dutch-born, New York based Yona Verwer talking about her artwork.

Describe your artwork and its relationship to the Orchard Street Shul. How can it be positioned into a wider context of your art?
My art for the shul consists of a print series called “Temple Talismans: Orchard Street Shul Amulets”.
The Kabbalistic notion of Tikkun is the idea that the world is broken and can be fixed only by human acts. Amulets were traditionally made to be worn or placed in locations to protect & to bring good luck. Kabbalists made extensive use of amulets.
For the Orchard Street Synagogue I made three amulet prints to invoke protection and good luck. Orchard Hamsa Amulet I shows the hamsa, a traditional amulet shape, its center containing the top half of the shul's ark (Aron Kodesh): the lions, tablets, priestly hands, crown, and sefer. The five-fingered hamsa shape is echoed in the hands bestowing the priestly blessing. Orchard Fish Amulet Red & Orchard Fish Amulet Blue's main shape is the symbol for prosperity; its center is a detail of the Shul's ark. The line designs on the hamsa & fish are derived from henna tattoos, contrasting with the textural background paint..
With these works I hope to draw positive energy and protection to the shul and aid in the saving of this beautiful building, so that it can reclaim its role as New Haven’s vibrant Jewish center.
Most of my recent work features amulet imagery. My "Modern Amulets: Kabbala of Bling" series commented on the appropriation of Kabbala by pop icons. The “City Charms” amulet photographs invoke protection from acts of destruction on buildings, particularly terror-watch-list targets. I continue this theme in "Temple Talismans"; these apotropaic images aim to protect synagogues against attacks and to bring good luck. Two Manhattan synagogues, Congregation Orach Chaim and the Stanton Street Shul, have been featured so far in the Temple Talismans series; many more to follow.

How was your experience visiting New Haven and the Orchard Street Shul?
The minute I walked into the shul I felt a familiarity; as a Dutch native the architecture reminded me of the “Snoge”, the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. By the way, the congregation there too has dwindled, most of the Sephardim having moved to Amsterdam’s suburbs or Israel.
Roz Croog, while giving us a ride from the station to the shul, had been reminiscing about her grandparents’ participation in the synagogue.
After her stories, which made the synagogue come to life, it saddened me to see the building’s disrepair.
It was exciting to meet fellow artists, exploring each other’s oeuvre, united by the commitment to help make a difference. I can’t wait to meet current and former Orchard Street congregants next time I’m in New Haven.

How important are artist networks such as the CHAP to you?
Artist networks such as the C.H.A.P. are very important to me. Creating artist communities is my passion, and it was the main impetus for founding the Jewish Art Salon (JAS) two years ago. Recently I’ve been reaching out to several Jewish art groups across the country to facilitate modeling our community building efforts; and C.H.A.P artist Maya Escobar is planning on starting a Jewish art salon herself.
It is through JAS. that I met artist Cynthia Beth Rubin, C.H.A.P.’s project director. I look forward to meeting many more C.H.A.P. artists and to future collaborations.

Curious about the exhibition? Then check out the catalog here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Mexican Filmmaker Ariel Zylberstein created this beautiful short film that is now making the rounds in the Internet. Thanks to the web, this film gets the exposure it deserves.

Monday, November 16, 2009

GWU Twitter

George Washington University is the most active Twitter University in the US (and probably in the world) and behind it is a friend of a friend of mine, Menachem Wecker. The video is an introduction to the topic. For more, read also the Washington Post article.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Living Memory

She might not be the oldest Second Life user, but with 87 years, Colorado resident Fanny Starr is one of the oldest (the oldest is, by the way, 97 years old, as reported in the New World Notes). In January, she spoke about her experiences during the Holocaust to an audience of avatars. The New World Notes reported here about it. The YouTube video above gives a little of the atmosphere during the event. Let's hope that this event can be repeated some time in the near future.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The other 9th of November

Newspapers worldwide feature today the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Another event that happened as well on November 9th seems today forgotten: Kristallnacht.

Zeek magazine features today photographs by Julian Voloj of the Muensterland, a small geographic area in the north west of Germany. Voloj was born in Muenster, the capitol of this region, and for this project, the New York based photographer re-visited his hometown and the surrounding area, documenting the last traces of the once vibrant Jewish culture in this area. None of the villages he photographed has a Jewish community today, but other areas witness a renaissance of Jewish life. Around 200,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union turned Germany's sleeping Jewish community of around 25,000 into the third largest of Europe with around 220,000 (only around half of them are recognized by the official Jewish community due to Halachic definition).

Voloj's photographs are traces of the past, taken nearly 70 years after Kristallnacht. Today, 71 years later, they are a silent reminder.
(To visit the slide show, click here.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Orchard Street Shul Cultural Heritage Artist Project

A month from now, a very interesting exhibition will open in New Haven: The Orchard Street Shul Cultural Heritage Artist Project.

The project was, at the outset, spurred by an urgent need to make the public aware of efforts to save a community building that has been designated a Historic Site by the State of Connecticut. The project is without religious mission, but rather is the outpouring of thoughtful response and integrated research by those who found the story of this building and community to be compelling.

The members of the Orchard Street Shul Cultural Heritage Project began with varying levels of familiarity with the story of immigration to New Haven at the turn of the 20th century, and the shared history of working class neighborhoods during a time of radical change throughout the United States. Through the fluid exchange of research and resources within the group, all participants are now finding new meaning in the narrative of the community and surrounding neighborhood of the Orchard Street Shul.

One of the expected outcomes of the project is a dialogue among artists on the conceptual inspirations derived from interaction with the building, as a symbol of a community.

This could be a proto-type for similar future projects for other historic sites of meaning to other parts of our collective community and memory.

For more information visit the projects website. The exhibition opens on December 6th and we plan to introduce some of the artists on this website.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Is Twitter the new Second Life? Tom Hale's Case Study at the Web 2.0 summit

My friend Wagner James Au recently reported in the New World Notes about Linden Chief Product Officer Tom Hale finishing his presentation on the Web 2.0 summit, 'attacking' Twitter. His presentation "Surviving the Hype Curve: A Case Study" warns Twitter that they might also see a backlash like Second Life did.
See presentation for yourself. One important difference between Second Life and any other "hyped" platform like Twitter or Facebook: Immediately perceivable, substantial impact beyond its user base. Yes, Second Life is still growing and yes, its users, the residents, are very loyal, once they stay for longer, but outside the virtual world, the impact is not very feasible.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Second Life on Zeek

With the financial crisis, many Jewish blogs and online magazines had to find new partners, or vanish completely. Jewcy now is hosted by JDub, and Zeek is partnering with the Forward. The new Zeek website went online this week.
A new feature are artist slide shows. The first one featured actually Second Life's Jewish community (a link can be found here). In 18 slides, a brief history of Judaism in the virtual world of Second Life is presented. Many of the pictures were previously featured in the magazine edition of 2Life, others were older screenshots from the 2Life archive.
The slide show shall wet appetite for more, and more will come with Zeeks winter (print) issue where Julian Voloj will have an essay on the Genesis of Jewish (Second) Life. Something to look forward to.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Virtual Shtetl

When you think about Jews and Poland, you probably think about death camps and ghettos. The Holocaust is definitely very much associated with these two words, but Poland's Jewish history dates back 1,000 years.

Four months ago, Albert Stankowski launched the Virtual Shtetl Web site as a homage to Jewish history in Poland, a country that once offered the community religious refuge in medieval times and later became home to the world's biggest Jewish community.

Stankowski, the son of a Holocaust survivor and a Roman Catholic Pole, likes to call the site a museum without walls—a multimedia precursor to the 2012 completion of Warsaw's long-anticipated Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The website is more treasure trove than institutional preview. Its key feature: wiki technology enabling registered users to contribute memories, documents, and photos to the bilingual (English and Polish) site. Stankowski is also integrating the Virtual Shtetl with sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. According to Stankowski, about 2,000 to 3,000 visit Virtual Shtetl daily. He expects that number to keep growing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2010 – 2011 Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship (RIG)

The Next Generation and Service Initiatives Department of the Joint Distribution Committee are currently recruiting for the 2010 – 2011 Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship (RIG) -- the premiere opportunity for engaging young Jewish leaders in the work of the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian aid organization.

Yes You Can. You Can be the One.

JDC is currently recruiting for the 2010 – 2011 Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellowship -- the premiere opportunity for engaging young Jewish leaders in the work of the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian aid organization.

Who? JDC is looking for the best young Jewish thinkers and doers -- writers, artists, policy shapers, business innovators, and community builders -- there is no single profile that fits. We are looking for leaders in their field who have the promise to influence the future of Jewish life and the world.

What? JDC’s Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship is a one-of-a-kind, paid, professional development opportunity to live and work in overseas locations where JDC is active and engage with the inner workings of the organization.

Where? JDC works in over 70 countries around the world.

When? Fellowship begins in September 2010 with an orientation period at JDC’s headquarters in New York, continues with two or more overseas assignments, and concludes in New York in September 2011.


Deadline: December 30, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Auschwitz on Facebook

The BBC reported that the Polish authorities in charge of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz have launched an official site on the social networking website Facebook.

A spokesman said the move was aimed at reaching the younger generation and educating them about the Holocaust.

It follows the launch by Auschwitz - now a state museum - of a YouTube channel earlier this year.

"We're always trying for new ways of reaching people, and in today's world one of the most popular tools is the internet, and on the internet millions of people use Facebook," said Auschwitz Museum official Pawel Sawicki.

Still, a strange idea. Do you be-friend Auschwitz on Facebook? How do you feel about this?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cao Fei at ICP

The International Center for Photography is currently celebrating its Triennial with the signature exhibition "Dress Codes". The Triennial is a global survey of the most exciting and challenging new work in photography and video. This year, artists variously explore fashion—whether in everyday dress, haute couture, street fashion, or uniforms—as a celebration of individuality, personal identity, and self-expression, and as cultural, religious, social, and political statements.
Surprising enough, visiting the Center in Manhattan's Midtown, I found also a computer with Second Life running on it, featuring Chinese artist Cao Fei, known in-world as China Tracy.
Cao Fei has become deeply involved in Second Life. Her avatar is a striking Chinese woman who often wears shiny body armor.
In 2008, Cao Fei and a team of young web designers created RMB City, a metropolis inside Second Life that brings together various ancient and modern Chinese landmarks. Among the recent events in RMB City was a fashion shoot commissioned by Modern Weekly, a leading Chinese lifestyle magazine. For this project, a Second Life programmer modified numerous real-world runway looks to fit the measurements of China Tracy's virtual body. The resulting screenshots subsequently appeared as an editorial spread in Modern Weekly.
For the ICP Triennial, Cao Fei has installed this group of fashion photographs on billboards throughout RMB City. By maneuvering an avatar on a nearby computer, visitors can explore RMB City and discover Cao Fei's images.
Even if some critics claim that Second Life is dead, having Cao featured in the leading center for photography is an indication that Second Life (or at least parts of it) should be taken seriously as a new art form.

New Jewish Words

Jewbilation (n.) Pride in finding out that one's favorite celebrity is Jewish or that your offspring is marrying a Jewish person.

Torahfied (n.) Inability to remember one's lines when called to read from the Torah at one's Bar or Bat Mitzvah. (OR from the Hagadah at Passover)

Matzilation (v.) Smashing a piece of matzo to bits while trying to butter it.

Bubbegum (n.) Candy one's mother gives to her grandchildren that she never gave to her own children.

Chutzpapa (n.) A father who wakes his wife at 4:00 a.m. so she can change the baby's diaper.

Deja Nu ( n.) Having the feeling you've seen the same exasperated look on your mother's face, but not knowing exactly when.

Disoriyenta (n.) When Aunt Linda gets lost in a department store and strikes up a conversation with everyone she passes.

Hebort (v.) To forget all the Hebrew one ever learned immediately after one's Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

Jewdo (n.) A traditional form of self-defense based on talking one's way out of a tight spot.

Mamatzah Balls (n.) Matzo balls that are as good as your mother used to make ..

Meinstein (slang.) "My son, the genius!"

Mishpochadots (n.) The assorted lipstick and make-up stains found on one's face and collar after kissing all one's aunts and cousins at a reception.

Re-shtetlement (n.) Moving from Brooklyn to Miami and finding all your old neighbors live in the same condo building as you.

Rosh Hashana-na-na ( n.) A rock 'n roll band from Brooklyn .

Yidentify (v.) To be able to determine Jewish origins of celebrities, even though their names might be St. John , Curtis, Davis, or Taylor.

Minyastics (n.) Going to incredible lengths and troubles to find a tenth person to complete a Minyan.

Feelawful (n.) Indigestion from eating Israeli street food, especially falafel.

Dis-kvellified (v.) To drop out of law school, med. school or business school as seen through the eyes of parents, grandparents and Uncle Sid. In extreme cases, simply choosing to major in art history when Irv's son David is majoring in biology is sufficient grounds for diskvellification.

Impasta ( n.) A Jew who starts eating leavened foods before the end of Passover.

Kinders Shlep (v.) To transport other kids besides yours in your car.

Schmuckluck (n.) Finding out one's wife became pregnant after one had a vasectomy.

Shofarsogut (n.) The relief you feel when, after many attempts, the shofar is finally blown at the end of Yom Kippur.

Trayffic Accident (n.) An appetizer one finds out has pork

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Japanese Sukkah

One of the most unusual Sukkahs that can be found on TMA (to teleport click here) is the one done by Shmoo Snook. It has a Japanese motive. 2Life asked Shmoo about his creation.

"I wish I had planned all along to make a Japanese sukkah. The reality is that I already had other walls up when I noticed that another builder was using that texture. I didn't want my sukkah to be redundant, so I started casting about for something else, and I remembered the Japanese screens in my Inventory. Once those were erected, I was on my way."

Only later, Shmoo tells us, it occured to him to go to the Chabad of Tokyo website to look for appropriate photos.

"The Japanese sukkah evolved; initially, I actually had a campfire where the table is now. But the motif led I had chosen led me by the hand, sort of, as I added and modified elements of it.
I am very pleased with the result. I feel that the sukkah -- with the simplicity of its elements and its uncluttered feel -- exudes tranquility. Just as I hoped it would."

We agree with Shmoo and congratulate him to his beautiful Sukkah.

Do you want to be featured in 2Life? If so, then write to us or IM Kafka Schnabel or Mayer Rhaspody and we are happy to consider you in the 2Life blog.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sukkah Building Contest has nearly 50 entries!

This week is Sukkoth and this means time for the annual Sukkah building contest. If you make your way to TMA, you will be surprised. Not 5, not 10, but nearly 50 Sukkahs can be found in the area between the Second Life Synagogue and the 2Life building. "Amazing," says Beth Odets, the organizer of the competition. Yesterday's count was 48, but, because of the high number of participants, Beth gave one more week for the competition. Already two people showed interest in building their own virtual Sukkah. But it is not about winning, some participants told 2Life. It is more about gaining skills, cooperating with other Javatars and celebrating a Jewish holiday in a virtual world.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Renate in SL Israel

I love Machinima. Well, some of them. Yes, I know, there are some poorly done ones, and yes, the one you can see here might not be the most exciting one, but you know what, it covers SL Israel and for those of you who understand German, it might be fun to see.

The Internet is ...

Yes, the internet is lovely. Isn't it? There is so much to find. The web of endless opportunities. Or not? A friend of mine, who was one of the brains behind Wikipedia and left frustrated to create something else (that is not yet done and therefore won't be mentioned here) send me a link to this website. If you have a minute, check it out and read it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mayer July in Second Life, Second Chance

For those of you who missed the opening of the "Mayer July" exhibition in the Tachles Gallery, you have a second chance to meet Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, daughter of the artist Mayer Kirshenblatt, to talk about her father's work.

Tomorrow, 10:30 EST (7:30 SLT), she will join from Warsaw again to present the virtual exhibition to an audience in New York.

Some general information about tomorrow's event can be found on Barbara's blog.

The event will be hosted in New York by the NYU Center for Religion and Media. So come on and join, you will be prominently featured on the big screen for a RL audience in New York.

There is also a review of the exhibition opening on the Westmuse blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

10 Days/10 Questions

A friend of mine sent me an invitation to join 10Q, a project launched for the time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

10 Days. 10 Questions. You answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. At the end of the ten days, you hit a magic button and send your answers to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping. One year later, the vault will open and your answers will wing their way back to your email inbox for private reflection.

An interesting and creative project to reflect in the Days of Awe.

In-world, also an interesting project was brought to our attention. Yula Finesmith made a freebie earring for Rosh Hashanah and wanted to let everyone know they can have it.

Interested, then contact Yula. I am sure she is happy to hear from you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dancing Rabbis

Yesterday, when I couldn't sleep, I flipped through my TV channels and what did I see? Dancing Hasids! Yes, guys like the one you can see here on my left, even if this one is virtual.
What I witnessed was the Chabad Telethon. I never watched a Telethon and for those of you who are not American, a Telethon is a very American experience, a little bit of shopping channel, a little bit of light entertainment ("Borsht Belt humor"), and everything about fundraising. Last year, the Chabad Telethon brought in over eight million dollars. This year's results are not out yet.
The Chabad Telethon is a real American experience, and it attracks not only Jews. Having this event on television underlines (at least to me) how all American orthodox Jews are, and it seems not strange to have them dance on the streets of Los Angeles to raise money for welfare programs.
In-world, even if not that visible, Jews are also part of main stream Second Life culture. You don't believe this? Well, I do. If you look at the membership of the Second Life Synagogue, you'll see that over 1,000 avatars joined the group. Yes, I know, not everyone is still in-world, maybe some avatars belong to the same RL person, etc., but this is true for any group, and if you compare SLS with other religious groups, you will see that not so many (if any) can proudly state that they have over 1,000 people registered.
As the founder of SLS, Beth Odets (Brown in RL) has been featured in many interviews and was recently at the Second Life convention in San Francisco. NPR, the American National Public Radio, had two years ago an interesting story about Online Religion and she was one of the people interviewed. In case you missed it, here a link. Even if nearly two years old, many things could have been said just yesterday.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mayer July exhibition to open at Tachles Gallery

The New York Times called him "a reluctant painter and accidental memoirist whose words and images form an extraordinary exhibition".

And this exhibition is now coming into Second Life.

The artist, Mayer Kirshenblatt, was born in Opatow (in Yiddish Apt), Poland in 1916 and left for Canada in 1934. At the age of 73 he taught himself to paint and made his mission to remember the world of his childhood in living color, lest future generations know more about how Jews died than how they lived.

This unique project is a blend of memoir, oral history, and visual interpretation. Intimate, humorous, and refreshingly candid, the project is a remarkable record -- in both words and images -- of Jewish life in a Polish town before World War II, as seen through the eyes of an inquisitive boy.

So far, the images have been shown in in Berkeley/San Francisco, in Kirshenblatt's hometown Opatow in Poland, and are currently at the Jewish Museum in New York and the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, Poland. In December, part of his artwork will be show in Amsterdam.

And now "They Called Me Mayer July" will come into Second Life.

The opening will take place in the 2Life Building (Tachles Gallery) in Nessus at 11 AM SLT.

Those who are either in New York or Warsaw, will have even a chance to join the opening in RL.

In New York, 2Life Magazine organizes a get-together for the opening, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the daughter of the artist, will join from Poland.

We're back... somehow

Rosh Hashana is around the corner and you might wonder if there is another issues of 2Life magazine.

The bad news: There won't be a Rosh Hashana edition of 2Life.

The good news: 2Life magazine is continuing (for the moment) in blog form.

Having a blog has the advantage that the news are more immediate. What happens right now in Second Life can be minutes later already on this blog.

Yes, we know, we loved the nicely magazine layout, but you know how it is. Times are tough, money does not grow on trees, etc.

Hope you enjoy the blog. If you have any comments and suggestions, write us to