Silent Witnesses - Mel Alexenberg

Every week we feature several artists participating in our current exhibit Silent Witnesses: Synagogues Transformed, Rebuilt, or Left Behind - Artists Respond to History.
This is an art exhibit organized by the Cultural Heritage Artists Project, in collaboration with the Jewish Art Salon, JWalks and the Holocaust Memorial Center. February 22 - April 14 in Metro Detroit. Exhibit info here.

Mel Alexenberg
Bar Mitzvah in a Brooklyn Mosque

I was born in the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital (now Interfaith Hospital), celebrated my bar mitzvah in my Uncle Morris' synagogue at 1089 Coney Island Avenue (now a Pakistani mosque), and was married in the Park Manor Jewish wedding hall on Eastern Parkway (now an African-American Baptist church).

My Uncle Morris founded a storefront synagogue in Brooklyn that he named Congregation Beth Abraham for my father.  He was the rabbi of the congregation.  He lived in the two floors above the shul with his wife Dora (my mother's sister) and their six children.  My parents, my sister and I spent all the Jewish holidays in their house.  We had only to run down a flight of stairs to participate in the services.  

On the Sunday following my being called up to the Torah as a bar mitzvah on Shabbat, we celebrated with family and friends in Uncle Morris's shul as he sang with the accompaniment of a choir.  My parents sat with my sister and me in front the bima draped with an American flag. When my uncle retired, he sold 1089 Coney Island Avenue to a Hasidic group that later sold it to Muslims who redesigned the synagogue to serve as a mosque.    

Mel & Miriam 
Mel Alexenberg explores interrelationships between postdigital art and Jewish consciousness, space-time systems and electronic technologies, participatory art and community values. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide. He is head of the School of the Arts at Emunah College in Jerusalem, former professor at Columbia University and Bar Ilan University, head of the art department at Pratt Institute, research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, and author of The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness and in Hebrew Dialogic Art in a Digital 
World: Judaism and Contemporary Art.

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