14-04-2020 Polish-Jewish Relations, Visual Arts

Bracha/Blessing. Back to Polish Shtetls by AGNIESZKA TRACZEWSKA

In Commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Honoring the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of Holocaust

January 27 – 30, 2020
Palm Beach Synagogue
120 N County Road | Palm Beach, Florida

Program:

Monday, January 27, at 1:00pm
Grand Tour with opening remarks of the Synagogue founder and the host Rabbi Moshe Scheiner, followed by The Polish Cultural Institute NY Director, Adrian Kubicki, and by the artist, Agnieszka Traczewska.
Tea and light refreshments will be served
Tue-Thurs, January 28-30, every day at 1:00pm Walk through the exhibition with the artist Agnieszka Traczewska

Wednesday, January 29, at 5:00pm
Special walk through for kids and families

Thursday, January 30, Special closing reception
7:00pm Closing reception begins with Cantor singing
8:00pm Closing remarks with special guests: Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz, the plenipotentiary of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in dialogue with the Jewish diaspora as well as Rabbi Moshe Scheiner, Reb Duvid Singer, PCINY Director Adrian Kubicki , and the artist Agnieszka Traczewska followed by Special Recognition of a Holocaust survivor
Kosher refreshments will be served

Agnieszka brings a very rare combination of professional photographic artistry and tremendous sensitivity to the Hasidim whose lives she is documenting. She captures the physicality as well as the spirituality of what she observes. It is a real blessing for us that we have her taking these photographs. “ — Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland.

“Her perspective as the ultimate outsider gave Miss Traczewska a unique vantage point, allowing her to play the roles of both photographer and sociologist at the same time.” — Hamodia

The Polish Cultural Institute of New York is proud to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Monday, January 27, 2020), which also marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of World War II..

On this occasion, and in partnership with the Palm Beach Synagogue, we are honored to present a special exhibition, Bracha/Blessing. Back to Polish Shtetls by the renowned Polish art photographer, Agnieszka Traczewska. A special closing event on Thursday, January 30th will feature Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz, the plenipotentiary of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in dialogue with the Jewish diaspora, Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Synagogue, PCINY Director Adrian Kubicki, and the artist Agnieszka Traczewska .

The exhibit features stories of Hasidim returning to Jewish heritage sites in Poland. Since 2006, Agnieszka Traczewska has been given rare access to the world of Hasidic Judaism, a community often inaccessible to outsiders. This unique and historic access has produced an intimate portrait of people experiencing the mystery of faith. Traczewska’s collection, which appears also as a photo album entitled Returns. Hasidic returns to not-to-be forgotten places, is a testament to her artistic passion and long-standing involvement with the Hasidic community in Poland. Traczewska’s photography portrays survival and homecoming in the devastating aftermath of World War II, which has special significance and relevance at this moment.

Equipped with a camera and modest attire, Traczewska has managed to capture the hermetic, Hasidic rituals and customs and their day-to-day life, in a most intimate manner. As a contemporary Polish artist born after the war, Traczewska,seeks to rediscover a ‘lost world’ – that is, the traces of those Polish Jews who for centuries lived side by side with their Gentile neighbors and who were vanished from the Polish world she was born into.

The fact Traczewska is a woman as well as a non-Jewish photographer, necessitated a high degree of mutual acceptance and flexibility and the resulting images reflect the bonds of trust and respect formed between photographer and her subjects.

Hasidism has been deeply ingrained within Polish society, since the 18th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and by the mid-19-century formed into an epicenter of the religious, cultural, and social life of Eastern European Jews. Tracing this heritage has been the passion of the Polish artist, photographer and filmmaker, Agnieszka Traczewska. Her staggeringly beautiful photographic series capture Hasidim travelling to Polish graves of Tzadikim. Hasidism flourished in Poland until the 20th century and has since reestablished itself in Israel, the United States and Western Europe. In recent years, the Hassidic community has begun returning to Poland to revisit its heritage and history. Traczewska’s exhibition presents the Hassidic pilgrimages to the gravesites of the Tzadikim on the anniversaries of their death, a tradition maintaining that miraculous events occur during these observances.

Agnieszka Traczewska is a Polish documentary producer and photographer for many years now, has been accompanying Hassidim around the globe. Since 2006, Traczewska has developed a series of photos devoted to Hassidic pilgrimages to the Tzadikim gravesites in Poland. Her work has re-imagined the world of Orthodox Judaism, which, for centuries, has existed alongside Catholicism in Poland. Traczewska’s photography also captures Jewish communities in Israel and the United States. In 2104, she received second prize in the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest for the photo “First Time.”

Agnieszka Traczewska, film producer and photographer.
Since 2006 she has been creating a series of photographs devoted to Hassids travelling to Poland to visit the graves of Tzadikim. While this is the main theme of her work, she also portrays the world of Orthodox Jewish communities living in Israel and the United States. In 2014, she received the National Geographic Traveler Photo Award for her work “First Time”.
“On my very first journey to Lezajsk (Yid. Lizhensk), Poland for Rebbe Elimelech’s Yohrtzeit (anniversary of death), I had no idea that photography of Chassidim will become my lifelong passion. All I knew was that there are men there that are part of my countries story, part of my history, and so I had to see, learn, capture and connect.
My childhood memories were dotted with images of men dressed in black praying on holy sites throughout the landscapes of my country. I’ve seen them in storybooks as well though I never fully grasped their meaning. Both, between them and their rituals and between them and Poland.
As the saying goes, it’s not where you are, it’s the direction you’re going. I am now in my 11th year of photographing, interviewing and fostering friendships with my subjects. There have been many struggles and obstacles on my way in coming through to this insular community. Against all odds though, I’m still here, still traveling, shtetl to shtetl, reconstructing a panorama of former Jewish presence in all its glory with the clinging memory of its descendants. It is my hope that these photographs will give the world a glimpse of a shared people with a shared past, and dare I say… a shared future.” www.agnieszkatraczewska.com

Palm Beach Synagogue
In January 1994, a small group of dedicated people started holding traditional Shabbat services at Temple Emanu-El in Palm Beach. This gathering was transformed into a community with the arrival of Rabbi Moshe and Rebbetzin Dinie Scheiner. Based on the philosophy of outreach and inclusiveness, the Scheiners were passionate in their desire to “make a difference.” From its humble beginnings, Palm Beach Synagogue has blossomed into a flourishing center of Jewish life and activity that prides itself on being a place of warm welcome for Jews from all walks of life and all levels of Jewish observance, while maintaining its abiding adherence to traditional Jewish law and observance of mitzvot.

With its inviting spirit, the synagogue is a place where people are committed to the love and support of our fellow Jews, religious traditions, the community at large and the State of Israel. PBS is housed in a beautifully renovated edifice in the heart of Palm Beach, two blocks north of the Breakers Hotel and is the recipient of the American Institute of Architects 2016 Religious Art and Architecture Award for Liturgical Interiors. PBS offers unique programs in Jewish education and communal life, numerous youth activities, holiday services and celebrations, daily morning and afternoon/evening minyanim and weekly Shabbat services. www.palmbeachsynagogue.org

The exhibit is organized by the Polish Cultural Institute New York and the Palm Beach Synagogue, with the support of the Consulate General of Republic of Poland.

© Agnieszka Traczewska Bracha Blessing. Back to Polish Shtetls-Courtesy of the artist


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