At Home in Russian Jewish Space

Photo exhibit by Ira Krakhman and Eva Gurevich

Thursday, May 16th
Space with a Soul
281 Summer St. Boston, MA

The photography project by Ira Krakhman, BGI fellow, Hornstein/Near Eastern and Judaic Studies graduate, 2013 and Eva Gurevich,  a first-year Ph.D. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, brought a diverse gathering to explore Russian Jewish Culture in Boston's Space with a Soul. Fitting comfortably along the views of the Boston skyline were images from Brighton Beach (NY), St. Petersburg (Russia), Uman (Ukraine) and Kiriat Ono (Israel). The exhibition opened visual doors into the lives of Russian Jews in both their private lives and public spaces. Photographers Ira and Eva, used the opportunity to probe into their Russian Jewish heritage in both intimate yet universal way. Photographing daily rituals, meals, work, leisure, and material culture of Russian Jews on three continents, the collection is part an ethnographic report and part meditation on negotiating the complex interplay of Russian and Jewish cultures in their respective diasporas.

Even though the exhibition is devoted to exploring the Russian Jewish identity, it raises broader issues of belonging and self-representation-- what are the subtle, material and non-material aspects of the identity and weather we, as humans, are all agents of a certain cultural habitus-- our cultural DNA? This project also seeks to pose a challenge to the post-identity notions that we are citizens of some vague universal collective. It puts to question whether we are entirely self-constructed and independent of our heritage and our roots. It seeks to distill the tension between cultural influence and self-assertion within the specific context of Russian-Jewish experience. 

The evening was made magical with a performance by Zisl Slepovitch's Klezmer Trio with Patrick Farrell and Jim Guttmann, featuring original compositions inspired by the works in the exhibition. Space with a Soul is part of a start-up co-work space owned by Stas Gayshan whose Russian Jewish roots brought him to the event full of curiosity. The artists are enormously grateful to Bill Morse of William Morse Editions, the fine-art printmaking Studio that produced all of the images for the exhibition.  Bill Morse came out to support the show he helped produce: "My ex-wife is Jewish and so are my children."

This project is sponsored by the Brandeis-Genesis Institute with a generous support from the Genesis Philanthropy Group.