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Joanna Sidorowicz: Hasidim

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photography exhibition
opening: November 30th, 18:00-20:00

30th November 2023 – 11th February 2024

"Hasidim" is the story of Hasidic pilgrimages to the places where their ancestors, the tzaddikim, were buried, to the places of their roots. In 2009, encouraged by a friend from Częstochowa, I went for the first time to Lelów for a yortzait, the anniversary of the death of the tzaddik David Biederman. Hasidim believe that on this day the tzaddik descends from heaven and takes their requests for an intercession with Hashem - for health, offspring, prosperity in business, etc. They make their requests in the form of slips of paper (kwitełe). A few years later, I went to the yortzait of Tzadik Elimelech in Leżajsk and have returned there many more times. I also attended yortzait in Częstochowa, Radomsko, Nowy Sącz and Dynów. I had the opportunity to observe the Hasidic world in Jerusalem, including in the Mea She'arim neighbourhood. I am planning to attend yortzaits of tzaddikim in Galicia.

The word 'chasidim' means pious, devout, pure disciples of the tzaddikim. Hasidism is a mystical religious movement born as a counter to ossified rabbinic Judaism (mitnagdim). It emerged at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries in Podolia, which at that time was part of the eastern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During this time, there was considerable interest in mysticism and the teachings of the Kabbalah.
Hasidim worship God through dancing and singing, and prayer leading to a state of joyful elation. They are headed by a tzaddik (pious, righteous), a charismatic leader, also known as the rebbe. The tzaddik is a model of piety, humility and righteousness, and is also revered because of his attributed ability to perform miracles.
The first tzaddik was Israel ben Eliezer, known as Ha Baal Shem Tov. He was born around 1700 in Okopy Świętej Trójcy and died in 1760 in Międzybóż. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Hasidic dynasties lived in Galicia, the Kingdom of Poland, Podolia and Volhynia, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania. A thriving centre was Chernobyl.

During World War I, many Hasidic Jews emigrated to the United States, Palestine and Western Europe. Hasidism functioned on the territory of the Second Republic only until the Second World War. As a result of the Holocaust, it virtually disappeared from Central and Eastern Europe. After the war, it developed and thrived in the United States, Western Europe and Israel, becoming a symbol of orthodoxy.
Over the years I have observed, experienced, and documented the festivities that are yortzait. I collected quite a number of photos on the subject and decided that it was worthwhile to present the customs of the Hassidim, their uniqueness, to a wider audience. I am under the impression that, as a society, we know very little about the cultures and people who lived in the former eastern part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. I think this should change. My exhibition (under this and other titles) on the Hasidic community has so far visited Radomsko, Lelów, Częstochowa, Zamość, Tarnów, Leżajsk, Zielona Góra, Wrocław, Nowy Sącz, Starachowice, Chmielnik, Gliwice, Lublin, Łódź, Łomża, Kraków, Janów Lubelski, Lubaczów, Orla, Dobczyce, Katowice, Szczekociny, Wieluń, Siemiatycze.

Now the exhibition is presented in Białystok. It consists of photographs from Lelów, Leżajsk, Częstochowa, Radomsko, Nowy Sącz and Tarnów.
In Lelów, the tzaddik David Biderman (1746-1814) is buried.
In Leżajsk, Tzadik Elimelech Weissblum (born in Tykocin in 1717, died in Leżajsk in 1787).
Tzadik Pinchas Menachem Justman of Pilica (1848-1920) is buried in Częstochowa.
Several tzaddikim of the Rabinowicz family are buried in Radomsko: Tzadik Salomon Rabinowicz, Tzadik Tzvi Meir Rabinowicz, Tzadik Abraham Isachor Daw Rabinowicz, Tzadik Ezechid Rabinowicz, Tzadik Moses Elimelech Rabinowicz, Tzadik Shlomo ha-Kohen Rabinowicz.
Tzadik Chaim Halberstam and Tzadik Yitzhak Towie are buried in Nowy Sącz.
Tarnów is the resting place of Tzadik Chaim Eliezer Unger, Tzadik Yechiel Horowic, Tzadik Arie Lejbusz, Tzadik Menachem Mendel Leser from Strzyżów, Sowa Smochos.

Joanna Sidorowicz, 2023


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