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Art is a Camera

Ever since the Second Commandment, with its prohibition of "images," Judaism has been an un-, or even anti-visual culture. Or so we are told. While there is some truth to this notion, it is a very limited truth. The realities—historical, philosophical, above all aesthetic—are much more complicated and much more interesting. After all, the Bible itself tells us that at Sinai the people "saw the voices."

Relevant Links
Not for Its Own Sake  Kalman Bland, The Artless Jew. Throughout the ages, Jewish thinkers were hardly anti-visual, but neither did they subscribe to the modern view of art as its own religion.
Images Everywhere  Judaism: A Way of Being. Understanding some of Judaism’s most basic themes as deep and multilayered images.
The Gift to be Simple  Jenna Weissman Joselit, Forward. In their architectural modesty, two 100-year old synagogues demonstrate the emotional and religious value of the understated and classic over the sprawling and monumental.
The Spiritual, in Art and Judaism  Zachary Braiterman, The Shape of Revelation. In the thinking of Vassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and the Expressionists, Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig found an echo for their ideas of how God and human beings turn to each other in open, passionate encounter.

Scholars have demonstrated the rich visual culture at work in Jewish history, as well as the role of the visual imagination in theology and mysticism—and in the daily experience of those for whom Judaism is "A Way of Being." And it is well known that Jews have richly participated in the making of modern art.

Art is not only a vehicle of expression, it is also a window onto the lives of its creators and its audience, offering metaphors and analogies relevant to other contexts. For one historian, Jewish institutional architecture provides a comment on communal values. For a student of Jewish thought, a deep dialogue can be seen between early-20th-century aesthetic theory and the work of prominent Jewish philosophers.

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