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My Facebook Photography Group

Nearly two years ago I joined a group of photographers on Facebook. My son, Elisha, put me on to it. It was started by a guy he knew who is a photographer. The idea was that each week each member would post a photograph on a pre-set theme. These would be displayed on a public Facebook page and would be open to discussion, advice, and constructive criticism.

From what I could see when I joined, the group was made up of Israelis and a few people who lived in the diaspora, but seemed to have some connection with Israel, like children living here. As time progressed, especially in the second year, diverse people joined the group, but most of them were still in the initial category of Israelis or Jews. A small number of non-Jews also joined the group. I have no problem with that.

During the first year, many of the topics had a decidedly Jewish/Israeli theme, including Purim, Passover/Freedom (on the week of Pesach), Blue and White (on the week of Israel's Independence Day), Mourning (on the week of tisha b'Av), and Holidays (on the week of Rosh haShana, Jewish New Year).

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I don't think one can ever get away from the fact that is basically a Jewish and Israeli group. I think it's nice to have an international aspect, but this group was started in Israel and a large part of the group is here. If this were not the case then why did we unsuccessfully attempt to hold a gallery exhibition here in Israel at the end of 2011? And there is similar talk again this year to hold a physical exhibition.

We don't need to be embarrassed by anything I have written above, not in any way, and I think anyone who joined and had had a look at the photographs and the discussions, would have immediately seen the Jewish aspect of the group.

Everything went relatively smoothly, until the week on which the topic was "Bible". There were photographs of Bibles, scenes from well-known biblical narratives, and other similar interpretations. We also had a picture of a church (that would be ok if it was for purely artistic purposes -- I have photographed churches, mosques and buddist temple -- but not on the theme 'Bible'). The moderator chose this frame to represent the entire theme.

But what bothered me the most was that one of the non-Jewish participants posted a photograph of what was in totality a crucifix, with a plain cross and rosary set behind. It was entitled, "Saying Hell Mary's". Another [non-Jewish] participant posted a cover of an edition of Digital SLR Photography magazine on which was added a hand displaying a cross tattooed on it.

I found this way out of place. It affected my sentimentality. So I immediately posted the following, expecting some discussion from the group:

I am a Jew; I am an Israeli. I am a proud Jew and I am a proud Israeli. I make no apologies for either.

I think like a Jew, I talk like Jew, I walk like a Jew and I write like a Jew (e.g. Capos, Kapos and Nazi Murder Inc.). I put my shoes on in the morning like a Jew. I pray like a Jew. And I photograph like a Jew. My entire world view is Jewish.

Sure, I have non-Jewish friends, in real life and on Facebook, but they know who I am and accept me as such. I work in an international market and travel widely. I always tell people I'm Israeli and I always tell them I am Jewish. I have nothing to hide. On the contrary, I want them to know.

And yes, I am sickened by 2,000 years of christian anti-Semitism; I am offended when I recall the many Jewish communities accross Europe that were murdered, no obliterated, in the name of a cross; I mournfully remember the entire JEWISH population of Yerushalayim -- I don't call it Jerusalem -- who were rounded up in their synagogue and burnt by the ARRIVING VICTORIOUS crusaders to demonstrate the power of their god. I retain the memory of the inquisition, the ghettos of Rome, the expulsion of Jews from England, France, Spain, Portugal and many other catholic countries.

And yes I AM offended by photographs submitted to this group of crosses and churches. I find it horrid and hurtful that someone in this group, where it is obviously at a minimum Jewish and Israel orientated collection of individuals, that on a topic as rich as the bible, this is what people produce as their fine art.

And I am lost for words when "a nice Jewish boy", posts his photograph captioned with a total misquotation from the christian bible [referring to a picture on eye entitled "The eyes are the windows to the soul"].

I make no apologies.

The sole response was the following from the guy who started the group:

I've deleted the vitriolic comments by Menachem Kuchar [and another] on this thread. I couldn't disagree with you guys more. Nowhere in this group does it say it's 'Israeli' or 'Jewish' at all! This is a PHOTOGRAPHY project, with PHOTOGRAPHERS submitting from all over the world.. The only reason why there are more (not a whole lot more) Israelis in the group is because it was originally started by 2 Israelis (my friend and myself) and this is how social networking works. I'm not going to even dignify what you wrote with a lengthy response, so I'll just say that the only offense here is your utter disrespect for this community of photographers. I'm shocked that as a response to a post that specifically requested we keep the comments here related to photography, you feel the need to bring up a warped religious debate and disrespect our members here. If you have a problem with other people's religions then please leave the group. I'll help you do it, even, just ask.

If I told you I was angry, I'd be understating the way I feel right now.

At the risk of being the Jewish buzzkill here, I often hold myself back from commenting, but this is NOT a Jewish group, this is a GLOBAL PHOTOGRAPHY project and when you talk about heters and Dvar Torahs and refuah shelaimas, there are people in this group who have NO idea what you are talking about and they are really here to just discuss photography. If you insist on discussing Jewish themes here, please make sure that it is relevant to photography and that you word it as such so that everyone understands what you are talking about.. thanks. ;)

7th October, 2012    

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