With Greenfield stop for ‘Humans of Israel’ exhibit, rabbi looks to provide discussion platform

  • Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener of Temple Israel in Greenfield, pictured next to a collection of jackets that will be delivered to Springfield for distribution to immigrants in need. Starting Dec. 18, Temple Israel will host “Humans of Israel,” a nationally touring photography exhibit by Erez Kagnovitz. STAFF PHOTO/Mary Byrne

  • A quilt made by Sara Cohen will be raffled off at the Dec. 18 opening of the photography exhibit “Humans of Israel” at Temple Israel in Greenfield. The quilt is pictured at The Textile Co. where it is on display. STAFF PHOTO/Mary Byrne

Staff Writer
Published: 11/25/2022 6:23:53 PM
Modified: 11/25/2022 6:23:43 PM

GREENFIELD — A photography exhibit making its way around the United States will make a stop next month at Temple Israel on Pierce Street, providing a platform for discussion on the subjects of Israel, home and safety, but also the controversial Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Humans of Israel,” an exhibit by Erez Kagnovitz, is a project that aims to tell “the Israeli story as a whole,” according to a description on the photographer’s website. The exhibit’s visit to Greenfield has been coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, said Temple Israel Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener. It was previously in Amherst and is now on display in Brattleboro, Vermont.

With the theme, “finding home,” the exhibit captures the “diversity of the population,” she said.

“Israel is a home for emigres from all over the world,” Cohen-Kiener said.

According to a description on Kagnovitz’s website, photos will include images of ultra-religious Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Christians, as well as Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, American, Russian and French Jews — “all the ingredients that make Israeli society one of the most diverse in the world.”

Cohen-Kiener said the exhibit’s Dec. 18 opening will be a chance for guests to engage in facilitated conversations around the subjects of Israel, home and safety, but also the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Our community has a wide range of comfort with criticism and praise of Israeli policies,” Cohen-Kiener said. “It’s very wide; we don’t have one opinion about it. With that being the elephant in the room, I’m going to want to make space for safe conversations around that for people to hear personal experiences.”

Cohen-Kiener said rabbis tend to avoid the topic of Israel because it’s “hard to find a consensus.”

“I’ve been accused of being too conservative and I’ve been accused of being naively anti-Semitic,” she said. “I thought this would be a way to point at both the achievement of the state and the important role it’s played in Jewish history, but also leave the conversation open to include some of the current challenges with Palestinians who also call that place home.”

Cohen-Kiener said the Jewish community is particularly sensitive to the topic of migration.

“That’s going to be one of the discussion topics — stories of where we came from, what has been the history of migration in someone’s life, and survival, in some cases,” she noted.

The hope, Cohen-Kiener said, is for people who visit the exhibit to have their eyes opened to what they previously didn’t understand.

“It’s a very diverse place — racially, religiously, ethnically,” she said. “And Jewish people care about the safety of migrants. I think people already have that idea, and this will be a good time for them to be generous in their support of this particular project.”

Although admission to the “Humans of Israel” exhibit itself is free, Temple Israel is selling raffle tickets at $5 apiece or five for $20 for an 80-by-80-inch handmade quilt, with proceeds going to Team Brownsville, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian assistance for asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. Other prizes include tickets to a show at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, two of Shelburne Falls glass artist Josh Simpson’s mini planets, and a breakfast and birding adventure with a local family.

Tickets can be purchased during office hours at Temple Israel (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) or from The Textile Co. on Power Square.

After the Dec. 18 opening, to be held from 4 to 6 p.m., guests can view the exhibit by stopping by the temple during office hours through Jan. 4.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy