(New York Jewish Week) — When Andrew Mandel dreamt up a new Jewish ritual object known as a “tzedek box,” he was admittedly most interested in the “tzedek” — the social justice — aspect, and less so the “box” part.
Mandel, a fifth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College in New York, envisioned a new Jewish holiday, Yom HaTzedek (Day of Justice) back in 2018 as a way to make acts of social justice an integral part of religious life. To reinforce the themes of the holiday, Jews would write reflections on each effort made to help the world throughout the year, and save them in a box. “This action is not meant to self-congratulate or to rack up a record of good deeds,” Kveller, the New York Jewish Week’s partner site, wrote in 2021. “Rather, it provides a moment to reflect on the work and develop accountability around consistently being ‘shomer tzedek,’ a guardian of justice.”
When he first conceived of the holiday, the box itself was an afterthought. “I have to confess, at first, the actual box wasn’t particularly relevant to me,” Mandel, 44, told the New York Jewish Week. “It’s like — find a shoe box, find a jar. It was shortsighted, but that’s where I was.”
But as Yom HaTzedek shifted from concept to reality — the day is now officially commemorated on Pesach Sheni, or the Second Passover, observed on the 14th day of Iyar (this year May 5) — so too did Mandel’s thinking on the box itself. Conversations with renowned Jewish artist Tobi Kahn and Jean Bloch Rosensaft, director of the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum at HUC, led Mandel to believe the aesthetics of the box could help enhance the users’ spiritual exploration of justice.
And now, these conversations have inspired a new exhibit, “Tzedek Boxes: Justice Shall You Pursue,” which will open at the Heller Museum on Thursday. The exhibit features 29 tzedek boxes created by contemporary Jewish artists. They include one of Kahn’s series of seven wooden tzedek boxes, “Zahryz III,” and Eli Kaplan-Wildmann’s customizable cardboard “Pop-up Tzedek Box,” which has been massed-produced for 8,300 participants and two dozen synagogues that have all participated in the new holiday.
The exhibit’s aim, said Rosensaft, echoes the museum’s mission “to encourage the interpretation and renewal of Jewish values, tradition, and practice through the creativity of contemporary artists in works that will advance justice in our world.”
If the tzedek box sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard of its cousin — or version 1.0, if you will: the tzedakah box, a receptacle for collecting coins to be donated to charity. The words “tzedek” and “tzedakah” have the same Hebrew root: justice.
“It’s not just that we don’t really use coins anymore,” Mandel said. “There’s more ways of making change than [just] philanthropy — whether it’s advocacy, whether that’s direct service and volunteer work, whether that’s just listening and learning. A tzedek box creates an umbrella for all those different actions so we can all live out our values together to improve the world.”
In the exhibit, the artists’ tzedek boxes capture different facets of social justice: in Jewish tradition (images of doves, or flowing rivers); motivation for social action (references to heroes and past injustices such as the Holocaust); the causes people care about (the environment, food insecurity) and symbols of generous behavior (an open heart, an open mind).
“I’m not an artist myself,” Mandel said. “But now I have seen these contributions of wildly diverse, often quite moving representations of justice and righteousness, it really opens things up to how multifaceted this process [of tzedek] is. Your box really matters.”
In Reva Jane Solomon’s “Mommy’s Justice,” the tzedek box takes the form of a purple jewelry box, an homage to her mother’s love meant to encourage small acts of compassion and justice. Holly Berger Markhoff’s “Justice Knows No Other” is a wooden box featuring an interactive scroll on which to record one’s deeds, creating a continuous chronicle of righteousness.
Kahn, whose cityscape-inspired tzedek box evokes the Jewish obligation to care for humankind, said he hoped the exhibit would inspire all Jews to adopt the ritual. “If you believe in something you should actually do it,” he said. “I’m thrilled that many people are making their own because that’s how ritual starts.”
This isn’t the first new Jewish ritual object that the Heller Museum launched into the mainstream. In 1997, it featured an exhibit of Miriam’s cups — a goblet filled with water that’s placed alongside Elijah’s cup at Passover as a call to include women and their stories in the seder. The exhibit helped introduce the now widespread practice to Jews around the world.
Rosensaft sees the tzedek box exhibition as a similar call to action. “One of the pillars of Judaism is the notion that we, as a people, have been affiliated by horrific episodes of injustice, intolerance and genocide,” she said. “We cry ‘never again,’ but we know we cannot say that if we are not prepared to work towards the causes of human rights and freedom in our own time.”
To this end, Rosensaft paired the tzedek boxes with a concurrent exhibit, “One Nation,” in which artists of all backgrounds were invited to create works that comment on the state of America past, present and future.
“A lot of that hope for the future hinges on individuals taking action to solve the problems afflicting American society,” Rosensaft said.
“Tzedek Boxes” and “One Nation” are on view at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum, (1 West 4th St.), from Jan. 26 through May 18. Or you can download the free Bloomberg Connects App and visit the Heller Museum page to virtually visit all the museum’s exhibitions, including “Tzedek Boxes” and “One Nation.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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