Richard McBee's review of "It's a Thin Line"

Exhibit at the Y.U. Museum, New York till June 30, 2013.


"...The fundamentals of eruv are outlined literally by artist Ben Schachter. First he has created an “eruv” around the two level installation by mapping wires around the multiple and complex exhibition walls. The lines linearly depict the surrounding Manhattan cityscape as well as the specific physical outline of the Center for Jewish History, the site of the exhibition. Schachter has 5 other artworks in the exhibition, most of which compress actual eruvim into artwork maps depicting their outlines, here comprised of string surrounding painted enclosures. His works make the expansive concept tangible and physically graspable.

Tightrope (2012) Acrylic on canvas, LCD Monitors 
Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Strikingly in one display case the exhibition documents three mid-20th century arguments against any Manhattan Eruv: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (who, while he opposes, does not condemn rabbis who would permit), Rabbi Shimon Schwab, and Rabbi Theodore Adams. This strict halachic position is still upheld on the Lower East Side. Courageously one artist, Yona Verwer, protests. 

Her “Tightrope” (2012) prominently raises another aspect of the overall concern for the broader Jewish community. The lack of an eruv “excludes women, children and sick people from fully participating in Jewish life and synagogue community.” Her installation depicts 16 panels with images of downtown communities affected by the lack of an eruv. 

Her artwork includes not only images from these synagogues but also community voices captured on 3 video monitors that express the pain and frustration caused by rabbinic refusal to establish an eruv on the Lower East Side. This is a powerful protest artwork on the part of observant Jews that dovetails directly into earlier rabbinic concern over Sabbath desecration by the non-observant. It demands that the eruv, introduced for the benefit of the observant, must also be understood and be created for those of our community who are in need; i.e. the vulnerable and the non-observant...." 

Read the full article here.

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