The Baal Shem Tov Art Night at Maayon Yisroel
On January 18th, Maayon Yisroel Chassidic Center hosted the Baal Shem Tov Art Night, a unique art show and auction in the Hancock Park Jewish community. The event featured 20 limited-edition, museum-framed photographs by the former Bais Yaakov of LA art teacher, Mushka Lightstone. Her photos were captured in and around the resting places of the Baal Shem Tov and other chassidic rebbes buried in Ukraine. The photography is HDR enhanced and reminiscent of 19th century oil paintings.
Last year, Maayon Yisroel welcomed a new sefer Torah, dedicated to the Baal Shem Tov. The sefer Torah was written in Israel, but its last letters were completed during a trip to Ukraine, at the resting places of tzaddikim. Ms. Lightstone participated in the trip, documenting the journey with both still photography and motion picture. She is currently raising funds to complete the editing of her documentary, Where Light Begins: A Unique Road Trip to the Resting Places of Mystical Judaism. Some of the footage was shown at the art night.
Rabbi Reuven Wolf, the rabbi of Maayon Yisroel, spoke about a photograph’s power to capture an ordinary event and reveal the extraordinary in it. In the same way, explained Rabbi Wolf, the Baal Shem Tov “wowed us with everyday beauty that no one noticed; he walked around snapping pictures until the ordinary became exceedingly beautiful.”
At the auction, 15 photographs of the 20 were sold. “In the art world, this is considered a sell out,” explains Ms. Lightstone. “Everybody liked a different piece,” she says. “As an artist, I feel good that each person found something that spoke to them. People bought beautiful art, and everyone walked out happy.”
About 50 people across the religious spectrum attended the art night. “Both affiliated and non-affiliated Jews loved the spirituality in the pictures and learning more about their families’ roots,” says Ms. Lightstone. “We hear Chassidic tales all the time, and this was an opportunity to connect the tales with a picture.”
Rabbi Wolf hopes that the event will serve as a springboard for future events. He says, “Maayon Yisroel seeks to bring out the soul in everything – music, art, photography.” The art night was part of Maayon Yisroel’s vision.