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February 28, 1986 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-02-28

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Friday, February 28, 1986


Jewish," he said. "Their situation was so precarious.
They've held on against such tremendous odds. I
came back from Cuba thinking, 'If they can keep
their Jewishness alive, what can I do?' This feeling
was reinforced when I went to Russia in 1981."
In the late 1970's, Aron was a member of a New
York chavurah. Now a resident of the Fairfax
section of Los Angeles, he occasionally joins the
store-front minyan around the corner from his home'
and regularly attends a shabbat minyan less than a
mile away. The New York group allowed him to
photograph its rituals; the Los Angeles group forbids

hen Aron first began to take his photo-
graphy seriously, he realized he had to overcome his
fear of "pointing my camera at strangers. It's
almost an invasion of their private space." Old ladies
on the Lower Eqpt Side have hit Aron over the
head. Disciples Sf chasidic rabbis have yelled at him
not to photograph their spiritual leader.
But as Aron's courage increased, so, too, did the
tolerance of his subjects. A torah scribe on the
Lower East Side repeatedly spurned Aron's requests
to photograph him. But one day, recalled Aron, he
saw the photograph he wanted to take just as he
was about to leave. "With the slightest hesitation,"
he said, "I took advantage of the situation. At one
point, Rabbi Eisenbach raised his eyes over his
glasses, then quickly looked back to his work. For
several weeks afterward I was bothered by the
incident. I finally made a print and took it to him,
holding my breath, of course. He looked at it for a
very long moment and then smiled and said, 'It's
very nice. Thank you.' "
And in a Leningrad synagogue, Aron reached for
his camera, then paused when he feared that he
might offend those who were praying. Some
objections, in fact, were raised when Aron finally
mustered the courage to take a few pictures. But
when the Russian Jews learned that Aron was an
American, their objections gave way to a desire to
have their story told.
"One old man came up to me," said Aron, "and
said, 'Please, take my picture. Show my face. Tell
everyone I am still here.' "
Aron did just that.
And more.
By telling the world that an old Jew still prays in
a Leningrad synagogue and that young Jews go to
the Hudson River for tashlich on Yom Kippur and
that Orchard Street on the Lower East Side is still
teeming with merchants and noisy hagglers, Bill
Aron is also telling the world that the Jewish spirit
is thriving. His photos signal that the Jewish family,
far-flung and forever squabbling, has a stunning and
sometimes bewildering cohesion, one that confounds
its enemies and that continually rejuvenates and
binds an ancient people that flourishes — somehow
— in the corners of the earth.

Fairfax Kosher Market, Los Angeles.

Bargaining for fish, Lower East Side.



Canal and Essex Streets, New York.


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