The House of Life
In August 2008 I travelled to the Ukraine to visit Odessa, the birthplace of my father. My two-week visit became an exploration into the history of the once vast community of Eastern European Jews and the relics they had left behind.
This odyssey started in Kiev at the ravine in Babi Yar, and took me to the tombs of Rabbi Nachman in Uman and the Ba’al Shem Tov in Medzhybizh, two historic Hasidic pilgrimage sites associated with the Kabbalah. I crisscrossed the heartland, over 2000 kilometers, to visit cities, towns, and shtetls, and to photograph the carved tombstones in cemeteries dating back to the 1400’s.
The BET HAYYIM that survived the destruction of the pogroms and the murder of the local Jewish community during the Holocaust have been abandoned to the elements for more than half a century. Yet these “houses of the living” powerfully remind us of the centuries of life, art and ritual which thrived here. For me, a first-generation American, an artist, a photojournalist, and a historical preservation photographer, they have become a portal to rediscovering my own Jewish heritage.