Julian Voloj and his Jewish New Yorkers

Daniel Sieradski
A sampling of Julian Voloj's photographs of Jewish New York is currently on view at "If you live in New York..." at the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy's Visitor Center.

The Jewish Art Salon asked Voloj two questions.

Q 1: Your work explores the diversity of New York's Jewish community. What is the background / impetus of this project?

Voloj: The comedian Lenny Bruce once said that "if you live in New York, you're Jewish". The title of the show uses part of the quote. If you know the quote, you will complete the sentence, if you don't... well... you will find out once you see the show.
The photographs explore how present Judaism is in New York City, and how diverse at the same time. I show photographs of African Americans celebrating Rosh Hashana at the East River, Chabad emissaries from all over the world gathering in Brooklyn, Russian World War II veterans in Brighton Beach, you name it. All these photographs are very different, but they are connected through the connection to Judaism.

Q 2: Can you list a few people you photographed for this series and tell us a little about them?

Voloj: I am interested in the diverse way New Yorkers express their Judaism. So often friend (or friends of friends) suggest people I should meet and portray. I should explain that I frequently write for a few European magazines, so often out of these meetings longer magazine stories develop or vice versa.

Benjamin Melendez
There is for example Daniel Sieradski, who is one of the founders of the Occupy Judaism movement, who I photographed long before Occupy Wall Street. He is a new media activists, and many people told me about him.
Then there is Benjamin Melendez, one of the founders of the South Bronx gang "The Ghetto Brothers." In 1971, he arranged a gang truce, which later led to the development of the break dance and hip hop culture. He later found out that he was a descendant of Crypto-Jews and had a return to Judaism. My portrait reflects the different layers of his identity.
Moshe Klein
I also love the portrait of Moshe Klein, a Torah scribe. I tried to blur the picture at the edges, so that it gives a feeling of an old photograph. It's a "traditional" photo of a Jew in a "traditional" profession, but was not taken in an Eastern European shtetl at the turn of the century, but in Brooklyn last year.

Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy – Kling & Niman Family Visitor Center.
400 Grand Street, (at Clinton Street).
New York, NY 10002. 

Till December 30th, 2011
Hours:Sun.: 11 AM to 5 PM, Tue. - Thu.: 12 noon to 5 PM
Fri., Sat. and Mon.: Closed. Additional hours by appointment

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