Photo Exhibit Explores Lives of Russian-Speaking Orthodox Jews

1 Jan

Final invitation January 8-page-001

On January 8, the COJECO Blueprint Fellowship will host “Re:Turn”, a joint photography exhibition and literary salon, featuring the photographs of Anna Chana Demidova and the short fiction of Avital Chizhik. The evening is devoted to the narratives of Russian-speaking Orthodox Jews – originally from the Soviet Union who became observant.

“This demographic turned out to be more socially and culturally invisible than I thought,” says Anna Chana Demidova, a Belarusian-born photographer who lives in New York and studies at Columbia University. “My intention was to show the daily lives of my subjects and to tell their stories of reconciling Soviet mentality, immigrant experience, American culture, and Jewish laws. Both secular American and Russian-speaking communities are rarely supportive of Orthodox Jews’ lifestyle choices. I wanted to show the value of that lifestyle.” The exhibition features photographs of Russian-speaking Orthodox Jews in moments of routine and religious rituals, along with interview excerpts about their experience of becoming more observant.

Avital Chizhik, a journalist in New York, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Tablet and regularly in Haaretz, will be reading from her short story collection, “In The Eighteenth Minute”.

“My stories are set in the Russian-Jewish community, from New York to Moscow to Jerusalem,” Chizhik says. “Becoming observant is, in many ways, an immigration experience, always being an Other in the foreign land of ritual and text study. My work examines that outsider experience, the clashes between generations, cultures and languages. And I think there’s something universal about it, in that search for home: in land, in religion, in culture, and in language.”

The COJECO BluePrint Fellowship is a year-long program for Russian-speaking Jewish adults ages 25-40 to explore personal and collective identity through the creation of community projects. This project was made possible through a grant by the COJECO BluePrint Fellowship, funded by the UJA-Federation of New York and Genesis Philanthropy Group.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP here:

Date: January 8th, 2015, 7-9pm.
Directions: 353 Bowery is between 3rd and 4th Streets. BDFM Trains to Broadway-Lafayette St, 6 Train to Bleecker St, NR Trains to 8 St- NYU.

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