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October 3, 2013 6:56 am

Haredi Exhibit Featured in Jerusalem Art Festival

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

Haredi photography on display at Jerusalem's Wolfson Museum of Jewish Art. Photo Credit: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency.

Jerusalem’s first Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art is now underway. The event features a wide range of artwork by haredi, modern orthodox, and secular artists, from both Israel and around the world, in five different venues across the city.

Modeled after the century-old Venice Biennale, the major contemporary art exhibition held in Italy every two years, the Jerusalem Biennale offers the public a chance to see 150 artworks by 50 different emerging and established artists. The Biennale features a rich interpretation of Jewish life and tradition through a wide range of contemporary artwork that includes paintings, sculpture, photography, video art, and performance art.

“We are thrilled that so many artists from Israel and overseas will be participating in the first Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art,” said Biennale initiator, Rami Ozeri.

One of the more unique exhibitions features work by haredi artists, graduates of the Oman School of Art, the Jerusalem art school for the haredi population, which was established a decade ago by the Jerusalem municipality. The haredi art school is the only one of its kind in Israel, and is today a satellite of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.

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The haredi works are part of the “My Soul Thirsts” exhibition at the Wolfson Museum of Jewish Art that features artwork reflecting Jewish spiritual subjects by 35 Jewish artists, religious and secular.

“We have Kabbalah artists from Tzfat with works on display, alongside new immigrants who recently made aliyah to Israel, sabra Israelis, as well as secular and hassidic artists – all the different voices that make up our nation,” exhibition curator, Nurit Sirkis-Bank told Tazpit News Agency.

“There is no contradiction between Jewish belief and art,” explains Sirkis-Bank, who herself became ultra-Orthodox when she was a 27-year-old art history student.

“The Haredi art here gives us an opportunity to see a more personal view of a world that is often stereotyped,” says Sirkis-Bank, pointing to the photography section of the exhibition featuring the works of an Oman graduate, Tzofnat Hindi.

Hindi, who is from Mea She’arim, the well-known ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, took a series of photos of Hassidic schoolboys from her neighborhood that Sirkis-Bank sought to include in the exhibit.

“Someone who isn’t part of the Haredi world would not have been able to capture these kinds of natural shots,” she explains. “The subjects are comfortable, they are not afraid of the camera because they know the photographer. This gives the viewers a chance to see these children in a clear, unbiased way in a time when most of Israeli society doesn’t get to interact with the Haredi world.”

Sirkis-Bank, who was an associate curator at the Israel Museum for 15 years, said that her aim was to bring the different kinds of contemporary understanding and appreciation for Jewish life into one exhibition.

“What all these pieces have in common is the search for a world beyond materialism, a spiritual yearning for something greater” points out Sirkis Bank.

The “My Soul Thirsts” exhibition also features works by leading Israeli artists, including Avraham Levental from Tzfat, the late Esther Yonah, and Jerusalem artist Yossi Arish.

The first Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art is running from September 15 to October 31.

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