22.12.2019 - 20.01.2020 Events, Polish-Jewish Relations, Visual Arts

Hanukkah in Mea Shearim (Jerusalem) by Agnieszka Traczewska

December 22, 2019 – January 20, 2020

Opening reception: Sunday, December 22 @ 6:30 PM – 8:30PM

The 14th Street Y | 344 East 14th Street | New York | NY

Photography exhibition Hanukkah in Mea Shearim (Jerusalem) by Agnieszka Traczewska portrays Hasidic residents of Mea Shearim, in Jerusalem, during festivities of Hanukkah. The exhibition opened on December 22, the 1st day of Hanukkah hosted by the  14th Street Y, as well as during the commencement of the Yiddish New York (YNY) the nation’s largest yearlyfestival of Yiddish culture which is returning to NYC and will be run through December 26. During the six-day gathering, YNY features  klezmer music, folk dance, theater, lectures, performances, visual arts, language workshops, and film. The Hanukkah in Mea Shearim exhibition will be on view until January 20, 2020.

Jewish culture has been deeply ingrained within Polish society since the Middle Ages. Hasidism, which began in the 18th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, formed the epicenter of the religious, cultural, and social life of Eastern European Jews by the mid-19-century.

Tracing this heritage has been the passion of the Polish artist, photographer and filmmaker, Agnieszka Traczewska. Her staggeringly beautiful photographic series captureHasidim travelling to Polish graves of Tzadikim, as well as Hassidic and Orthodox Jewish communities living in the United States and Israel. A special focus of interest for her has been the Hassidic community of the Ultra-Orthodox district of Jerusalem, Mea Shearim, during Hanukkah between 2014 and 2019.

Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees, a small band of Jewish freedom fighters, from the clutches of their Greek oppressors under the rule of emperor Antiochius IV, in the second century BCE. While there are many ways Jews celebrate this eight day holiday, none is more central than the lighting of the Menorah, as according to legend the sacred Temple candelabra stayed miraculously lit for eight days, despite a tiny supply of oil. After dusk each day of the festival, Hasidim in Mea Shearim light their Menorahs in the narrow, winding streets to illuminate this miracle.

Another central theme of Hanukkah is Pirsume Nisa – Publicizing the Miracles. It is for this reason that Menorahs are lit at the front-facing windows of one’s home or outdoors. It is also the reason why the entire family is required to be present during the kindling of these signifying lights. Traczewska chose to shoot these scenes in Mea Shearim for several reasons. Family is a core and dearly held value in this old world community. Additionally, the cobblestone alleyways and quaint buildings create a particularly picturesque scene. Most of all though, it is the human connections that she has made behind these Jerusalem stone walls that have produced this warm & intimate series.

Program for Sunday, December 22

5:30 PM—Lighting of the Menorah candle by the Yiddish New York organizers

6:30 PM—Opening reception of the Hanukkah in Mea Shearim (Jerusalem) by Agnieszka Traczewska exhibition preceded by opening remarks. Wine and refreshments will be served.

7:30 PM—Theater play MOLLY! YNY’s Celebration of Molly Picon, at the neighboring Town and Village Synagogue, 334 East 14th Street. Presented in partnership with the Yiddish Artists & Friends– Actors Club

The exhibition is organized by the Polish Cultural Institute New York, in partnership with the 14th Street Y, the Yiddish New York, and the support of the Consulate General of Republic of Poland.

Polish Cultural Institute New York is pleased to be a partner in Yiddish New York (YNY), the nation’s largest workshop/festival for Yiddish music, language and culture, taking place from December 21-26, 2019 around the East Village/Lower East Side. More than 80 leading figures in Yiddish culture are on the faculty, and lectures/workshops are held daily at the 14th Street Y in everything from klezmer music to Yiddish theater, history, literature, films, walking tours, Yiddish lessons and a wonderful kids/teens program. Evening events feature concerts, folk dancing, jam sessions and more! Full six-day passes and single day passes are available, as well as tickets to individual evening events. To receive a 10% discount on 6-day registrations, enter the code “YNY10” when registering online. Go to www.yiddishnewyork.com for more information.

Yiddish new York (YNY) is sponsored by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, a NY-based 501(c)(3) charitable Organization, and is the nation’s largest workshop/festival for Yiddish music, language and culture, taking place from December 21-26, 2019 around the East Village/Lower East Side. More than 80 leading figures in Yiddish culture are on the faculty, and lectures/workshops are held daily at the 14th Street Y in everything from klezmer music to Yiddish theater, history, literature, films, walking tours, Yiddish lessons and a wonderful kids/teens program.


14th Street Y

The mission of the Theater at the 14th Street Y focuses on social awareness and change through big picture narrative.

Inspired by works that welcome artists of all backgrounds, we place artists as the heart of our community and seek to create an inclusive cultural experience for all.

The Theater at the 14th Street Y honors the edgy, diverse and rich history of innovative culture making in the East Village. Each year, we curate a provocative season of Theater, Dance, Music and Film from independent New York artists in dialogue with our residency program of LABA: A Laboratory for New Jewish Culture.

The Theater supports the creation of new art and culture by placing artists at the heart of the 14th Street Y community, and specifically by providing the space, time and resources needed to create new work. We are inspired by works that welcome artists of all backgrounds, seeking to create an inclusive and open cultural experience for all.

In our 2015-2016 Season, the Theater at the 14th Street Y had over 205 performances and 12825 audience members.

In July of 2016, the 14th Street Y launched its first ever, fully curated Theater/Dance Series, moving away from a strictly “rental” model and into an organization that co-presents work.  The 14th Street Y endeavors to be true incubators of artists and hopefully reduce the financial strain NYC independent artists feel in producing their work. https://www.14streety.org/

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 Leżajsk (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

THE POLISH CULTURAL INSTITUTE NEW YORK was founded in 2000. It is a diplomatic mission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, operating in the area of public diplomacy. The PCI is one of 25 such institutes around the world. The Institute’s mission is to disseminate around the world comprehensive knowledge of Poland, Polish history and national heritage, as well as to promote Poland’s contemporary contributions to the success of world culture. The Institute does so through initiating, supporting and promoting collaboration between Poland and the United States in the areas of art, education, research and in many other aspects of intellectual and social life. The Institute’s main task to ensure Polish participation in the programming of America’s most important cultural institutions as well as in large international initiatives. www.polishculture-nyc.org

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