Suede backcloth, dye, laser prints on kozo paper, wood stands
70 x 12 x 25 in each
Site specific project at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, Lower East Side, New York. The Eldridge Street Project celebrates Congregation Kahal Adath Jeshurun/Anshe Lubz, the oldest synagogue in this country built by and for Eastern European Jews. "Nephesh" is the Hebrew word for "soul" or "spirit." Five handmade books, representing the Five Books of Moses, or Torah, stand open on movable wooden stands. The text in each, gathered from various sources including archives of the synagogue itself, corresponds to aspects of Jewish life and culture, specifically the culture of early immigrants living on the Lower East Side of New York. The themes of the books are: Genesis: Philosophy; Exodus: History of the Lower East Side; Leviticus: Prayer and Ritual; Numbers: Biographies; Deuteronomy: Memory. The stands are movable to represent the Jewish people's reliance on the Torah for generations when they wandered in the desert without a home. The book covers are dyed in various skin colors to suggest the diversity of the Jewish people in diaspora. The Torah is read in very specific portions through the year- when it ends, the readings start again from the beginning. In this way the Torah can be seen as symbolic of the circular and ever-renewing nature of life and spirit.
All images copyright Donna Ruff