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Mamaroneck Photography Exhibit To Explore Jewish Identity, Diaspora

French photographer Frederic Brenner spent 25 years exploring 40 countries in his bid to portray the Jewish diaspora. An exhibit of his work opens at the Westchester Jewish Center of Mamaroneck on Thursday, Feb. 4.
French photographer Frederic Brenner spent 25 years exploring 40 countries in his bid to portray the Jewish diaspora. An exhibit of his work opens at the Westchester Jewish Center of Mamaroneck on Thursday, Feb. 4. Photo Credit: Frederic Brenner/Courtest Westchester Jewish Center of Mamaroneck

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- “Diaspora and Identity,” a show of works portraying Jewish life in more than 40 countries, will open at the Westchester Jewish Center of Mamaroneck, at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4.

The new exhibit of images by world-renowned French photographer Frederic Brenner will take place in the center’s Rabbi Irving and Marly Koslowe Judaica Gallery.

The center is located at 175 Rockland Ave.

The photographs – a soaring and stunning collective portrait of Jewish life, woven over 25 years -- are on loan from the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York.

The images cut a wide swath from merchants in India and Tunisian brides and grooms, to Portuguese Marranos secretly observing Passover, Chinese Jews, and a tobacco worker in Azerbaijan.

They show, the gallery said, a people “alternately transformed by and transforming the societies where they live.”

What this photographic exploration reveals is, the show’s organizers said, is that there is not one Jew, but a myriad people of varying faces, influences and cultural assumptions with a common heritage.

With the help of local guides, Brenner sought out Jews who defied any stereotype of Judaism, observed them going about their daily tasks, and drew out all manners of assimilation and cultural embrace.

For example, he saw the black strip on men’s trousers in Tunisia for what it was -- a memorial of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Educated at the Sorbonne, where he studied Social Anthropology, Brenner, who has Algerian and European roots, has spent a large part of his career documenting Jewish communities around the world, exploring what it means to live with a portable identity and adopting the manners of one’s home country while still remaining part of the Jewish people.

Brenner has shown his work at the Jewish Museum, the Brooklyn Museum and countless other museums and galleries around the world.

His opus, “Diaspora: Homelands in Exile,” was published by Harper Collins in 2003 and won a National Jewish Book Award for Visual Arts in 2004.

For more information, call (914) 698-2960, or contact curator Amy Levine-Kennedy at amyruth67@aol.com, or communications director Pat Tinto, at communicationdir@wjcenter.org.

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