'Challenging expression of modern-day Judaism'
Photo: Index Open
For the first time in Israel, 14 gay religious artists belonging to the Orthodox community will present their work at an art exhibit.
The art show, titled “Yots’im me’aron ha’kodesh” (a play on words in Hebrew literally meaning “getting out of the holy ark” but also hinting at “getting out of the closet,”) deals with the intersection of the artists’ Jewish and sexual identity, while seeking to show that co-existence between them is possible.
Avi Rose. "The paintings express questions on war, coexistence and masculinity, issues that shaped my identity as a gay Jewish man."
Some of the work at the exhibit may no doubt provoke anger among rabbis and conservative elements in the Orthodox community. However, the exhibit may also serve as another step in recognizing the existence of gay religious Jews and the difficulties they face in coping with their sexual orientation within the framework of religion.
Exhibit organizers note that “seemingly, the artist’ religious and sexual identities are supposed to contradict each other, yet the works at the show illustrate how they create complex and sometimes even complementary interactions.”
Emily Yaakobi and Roni. "I created these photos as part of a process I went through to accept myself as a religious Lesbian."
“The discussion of sexual and gender identities in the framework of the modern Orthodox discourse in Israel may be the most subversive, refreshing and challenging expression of modern-day Judaism,” art researcher David Sperber told Ynet. “We are dealing with a dramatic move – an issue that in the past had been repressed and marginalized from the religious public sphere has become, within a few years, a legitimate issue being discussed at various forums.”
‘Exhibit marks a breakthrough’Sperber says the public visibility of religious lesbians and homosexuals, as well as religious transgendered and bisexual individuals followed the Internet’s introduction into Israeli society. Forums and discussion rooms at leading Israeli portals were the first ones to let the secret out: There are religious lesbians and gays out there.
Zohar Weiman Kalman. In her artistic and academic works Kalman explores the concept of family dynasty. She appears in the photos as an East European drag figure during the period between the two world wars.
However, Sperber notes that despite the increasing openness to the issue in terms of rabbinical discourse, the local Jewish artistic scene has remained indifferent or resistant to the issue.
“Unlike feminist issues, which are already being discussed and presented here, the queer-religious discourse is not featured at institutes that regularly display art in a clear Jewish context,” he says. “Therefore, the current exhibit marks a breakthrough.”
The show was scheduled to open Tuesday at 8 pm at the Hadassah art gallery in Jerusalem, located at 7 Dor Dor VeDorshav St., in the heart of the German Colony.