We all are having our favourite and most favourite holidays in our annual circle of life. I am not sure if preferences are changed during one’s life. I doubt it. To me, these preferences are the marks of one’s character, poignant and tangible ones however subtle it might be.
Nothing beats Hanukkah to me. The magic of it, the revelation of it. The expectation of it, the joy of it. And – the endurance of its light. It comes as such because we are starting to expect that appearance of the first candle a few days ahead. It continues all eight days marked with a accelerating enlightening. And it stays over, quite powerfully, after the actual ending of the Hannukah because the process of celebration had been accumulated not only the physical light itself, but also our aspirations and joy. It is an energy shot amidst the darkest time of an year anywhere in the world.
More importantly, it is a mental energy shot, and this is a primary importance of Hanukkah for generations. There is no coincidence that the Talmud and other Jewish major sources of wisdom pays absolutely central attention to the concept of Light in our fundamental and general perception of the world.
Studying these sources, we are intrigued to think on the essence of Light – which is the Light of the Light, according to the Talmud. And we are relieved to discover that the essence of Darkness is Light, too. Such perception of the world explains our prevail over the circumstances not even daring, but impossible, as it happened throughout Jewish history, and as it is still happening today. It explains our endurance and our optimism, our strength and our code of survival. No, not survival, life. And Light.
In my art work, the concept of light has a central position. It is a nucleus of what I do. Maybe, that’s why Hannukah is a super-magnet for me . When I started to work as a fine art photographer, my first independent direction of work was the one which is known as Lux Sei Photo Art ®, the direction in the art photography that provides psychological help to anyone who is in need of it due to various reason. The idea worked well, and the collections were applied very usefully at hospices in Finland and United Kingdom, cancer clinics of Spain, Jewish elderly houses and Jewish pensions for orphans in Ukraine, and many other places world-wide. A special collection of these works has been donated by us for the cardiology department of the Rambam hospital in Haifa, to cheer patients there and to calm them down. Our friends at the hospital are saying that it works very well.
Art Ways of Examining Tradition
In the direction of Jewish art, one is blessed to have the Talmudic concept of Light as a starting point. Many of my art collections on various Jewish themes are based on this solid – and shining – ground: my collection on the unknown places connected to the Schneerson family in Ukraine is called Legacy of Light; my other collection on the Judaica symbolism, the one which is on permanent display at the Vilnius Public Jewish Library in Lithuania, the first Jewish library opened in that country since the end of the WWII in the end of 2011 is called Power of Light. My new collection on modern interpretation of the Judaica Symbolism due to the round of the international exhibitions soon, is called Smile of Light.
As an artist, I was examining my favourite Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, meticulously, during several years. In that search, I was trying to answer an inner call: what is that magic, special, inviting and enduring light? What is the essence and the dimensions of the magic?
The reflections on Hanukkah in this 30 – piece collection goes in chronological order, from the first candle to the mighty feast of all nine of them, eight plus one. In many works I am using a rare and delicate silver Hannukiah hand-made in Venice in the intricate filigrane style more than a century ago, in the end of XIX century. I like to think that when we are lighting the candles in that special Hannukiah a year after another, the light of it warms up and brings to life the energy of the people who did it by their hands, with their thoughts and inspiration more than century ago in the magic city , the Jewish ghetto of which was full of incredible masters, great talent and very resilient Jewish spirit. The same goes for the festive dreidel, also with filigrane and enamel, made by the masters not only with a skilful hands, but with a Jewish soul. In several works, the light of Hannukah is reflected in rather special small Venetian mirror, also a century old, modest, beautiful, with its own message to convey.
That mirror and its reflection did help me to express that unlimited sorrow back in July 2014 when the three boys were kidnapped. The work called Memory Lights had been created for our art solidarity campaign with their families that our Foundation did run at the time. This work which I cannot take away from the wall, always reminds me on them and all the other tragedies alike – which are mounting, as we all know. The theme of memory is also set in the other work of the collection, In the Memory of Six Million. What else can we do except to remember the souls of those Six Million? Every single one of them.
The light plays an ultimate voice during our eight days of a Miracle in the end of every Kislev of our lives. In my collection, there are different, beautiful Safed candles – which also bears the warmth and genuinity of our Land and our tradition. During the Hanukkah time, we are bathed in the warmth, light, beauty and memory. This is the treat. And it fills one with gratitude – however dark it is outside.
The short art film The Light of the Light demonstrates my artistic reflections on Hannukah.
Sparks of Memory
The film and the collection are dedicated to the memory of both of my grandfathers, Abram Elovitch and Eliahu Bujanover. They both were strong in character, quite-essentially Jewish men. They both were living very difficult lives full of struggle to keep their and their families’ Jewishness, first under the tough realities of the Russian Empire, then under the negating realities of the Soviet Union. The brother of my Eliahu grandfather, Haim Bujanover, who looked like a movie star and who was a talented and aspiring student of math and physics, was beheaded by the Ukrainian Petljura villains when he was returning from a date with his fiancee in Ekaterinoslav in 1918 – because he was a Jew. The family of my Abram grandfather was annihilated by the Ukrainian pro-Nazi enthusiasts in Nikolajev in 1941 – because they were Jews. Both my grandfathers, highly qualified and well-educated engineers, were arrested by the KGB in the 1950s, in the midst of the Stalin’s anti-Semitic hysterical repressions, as if the Holocaust was not enough.
Not for a second of their long lives my grandfathers faltered on their and their families’ strong and pride Jewishness under none of the stormy winds of the XX century. Quite to the contrary, they both were resolute and trustworthy men, equipped also with great sense of humour, our indispensable armour. They were the guardians of our Jewish world, the Jewish world of our family, the world inside us. And how did they love our holidays! We were celebrating in the way which was possible in that life: with all traditional food and songs, and with memories. The connection was never interrupted.
I wish that my grandfathers were more relaxed in their uneasy lives, that they have had more reasons to be serene, that their holidays were more and fuller, that they could attend the synagogue without being afraid to being seeing there. I wish that they would enjoy more lights of Hanukkah. But I hope that they are seeing these ones, in my works. And they both are smiling, with no worries in their minds any longer.
© Inna Rogatchi