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Brooklyn, NY - Art Book Sheds Light on Different Types of Chasidic Garb

Published on: July 23, 2013 11:17 AM
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In this July 22, 2013, Brooklyn artist Michael Levin at 1oh9 Gallery In Williamsburg, holding up in his hands 'Jews of Today', a book he penned exploring the nuances and contradictions of Hasidic ritual dress through a series of elegant drawings and explanations. (Photo: Stefano Giovannini/VINnews.com)In this July 22, 2013, Brooklyn artist Michael Levin at 1oh9 Gallery In Williamsburg, holding up in his hands ‘Jews of Today’, a book he penned exploring the nuances and contradictions of Hasidic ritual dress through a series of elegant drawings and explanations. (Photo: Stefano Giovannini/VINnews.com)

Brooklyn, NY - A newly released book by a Brooklyn artist attempts to explore the nuances and subtleties of an unusual topic:  the clothing worn by chasidic men.

Jews of Today, an 83 page book containing 45 illustrations and explanations penned by 28 year old Williamsburg artist Michael Levin, is a project that was several years in the making, and attempts to demystify both a mode of dress and a culture that appears foreign to the outsider.

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Levin, the son of a Jewish father and an Italian mother who converted to Judaism before his birth,  was raised in California and lived in South Chicago for four years before moving to Brooklyn.

“I grew up in Los Angeles, so apart from a few Lubavitchers, I had never really seen or come in contact with the kind of Jewish culture that exists in Williamsburg,” Levin, who was bowled over by the sartorial customs of his new neighbors, told VIN News.

“I’d simply never seen anything like it,” explained Levin.  “What’s more, what I had seen of the chasidic culture was only in old pictures and some scenes from movies and TV shows. I had no idea of the magnitude and the reality of a chasid as a living breathing entity.”

Levin’s first interaction with a member of Williamsburg’s chasidic community came when he spoke with a chasidic landlord about renting an apartment and found himself mesmerized by the age old attire that he saw all around him.

One of the Drawings on display in the Gallery and in 'Jews of Today' illustrates the dress codes of the Satmar Rebbes, the two brothers Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum,(R) and Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum (L). (Photo: Stefano Giovannini/VINnews.com)One of the Drawings on display in the Gallery and in ‘Jews of Today’ illustrates the dress codes of the Satmar Rebbes, the two brothers Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum,(R) and Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum (L). (Photo: Stefano Giovannini/VINnews.com)

“I started making a lot of artwork just relishing in the haunting beauty of the clothes,” recalled Levin.  “The most fascinating element of the dress is its endless variety, a world of difference so slight as to go unnoticed by almost everyone outside of the community and often by some within it.”

Levin says he spent over four years researching his book and another year doing the actual writing and illustrating.  Levin admits that he knew nothing about Orthodox Judaism or the chasidic culture before relocating to New York.

“There are already so many books on other aspects of the culture but, arguably, apart from the Israel Museum catalog from last year’s show, there is no book, at least not in English, that covers the clothing in any depth,” said Levin.  “The clothing is the first sense any outsider gets about what it means to be chasidish and even in some sense what it means to be a Jew.  I wanted this book to be a way for outsiders to get a glimpse of this world, how many layers of meaning it has.”

On his website, Levin describes Jews of Today as “the world’s only illustrated primer on hasidic dress.”  Among the illustrations in the book are a guide to the types of hats worn by different chasidic sects, chasidim rejoicing as they sing Lecha Dodi and a chasid attempting to speak with a Rebbe.

Not surprisingly, Levin did not find his subjects to be particularly approachable.

“I can understand why on a personal level,” said Levin.  “I always think about how the chasidim must feel being constantly gawked at on the street and on the subway.”

Jews of Today was officially launched this past Saturday night at the 109 Gallery, located in the shadows of the Williamsburg Bridge, with an exhibit that also featured similarly styled drawings and paintings by Levin.

Ryan Krause, co-founder of the 109 Gallery, reported that approximately 60 copies of the book were sold at the at the event which he estimated attracted a crowd of over 150 people and was originally scheduled to run from 7 to 10 PM.

“We made a point of staying open later to accommodate the religious community and we stayed open until about midnight,” said Krause.

The Jews of Today are on exhibit from July 21-31 at the 109 Gallery, located at 7 Dunham in Williamsburg and is open weekends from 3 to 6 PM and by appointment.

Online:
http://mikelev.com/work/ 

Below photos a sample from the display in the gallery, and pages from the book.

Jews of Today art shof by Michael Levin. 10h9 gallery 7 Dunham place Williamsburg Brooklyn NY.Jews of Today art shof by Michael Levin. 10h9 gallery 7 Dunham place Williamsburg Brooklyn NY.
Jews of Today art shof by Michael Levin. 10h9 gallery 7 Dunham place Williamsburg Brooklyn NY.Jews of Today art shof by Michael Levin. 10h9 gallery 7 Dunham place Williamsburg Brooklyn NY.


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Read Comments (24)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jul 23, 2013 at 11:23 AM PaulinSaudi Says:

My first thought is I would like to buy this book. I know nothing of the subject and would like to learn. Besides it would be amusing to bring into Saudi Arabia. Then I saw the text is in either Yiddish or Hebrew.

Well, I guess will not be buying it after all.

2

 Jul 23, 2013 at 12:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Um, if you don't think there are chasidim in LA besides Chabad, you are mistaken.... We have a chassideshe Kollel, chassideshe schools where Yiddish is the language f choice (4+ schools, elementary and high school for each: boys and girls), chassideshe Shuls...
That's all besides the Chabad schools, the MO type schools, the Bais Yaakov type schools (only one named BY but there are others- they each have a different name), and so many more! There are so many options here- it's no wonder we are THE biggest frum community (and biggest Jewish one) outside the NY area. New schools open all the time and we always need more!!! I can't even begin to count the number of schools we have here... And we have the biggest single elementary school outside the NY area.
If you want to live in a warm, friendly place where you know your neighbors and when you walk into a shul people introduce themselves after davening is over- visit LA! Beautiful weather, impressive choices of schools and yeshivos and Shuls, friendly people, a yard to play in, all the amenities of NY but nicer living.... Try us out!

3

 Jul 23, 2013 at 01:25 PM Babishka Says:

Reply to #1  
PaulinSaudi Says:

My first thought is I would like to buy this book. I know nothing of the subject and would like to learn. Besides it would be amusing to bring into Saudi Arabia. Then I saw the text is in either Yiddish or Hebrew.

Well, I guess will not be buying it after all.

There is English text there.

4

 Jul 23, 2013 at 01:26 PM MarkTwain2 Says:

Needed next: Grammar Book to Shed Light on Different Types of Chasidic Garble

5

 Jul 23, 2013 at 01:55 PM OyGevald Says:

Are there Kugel recipes on the back sides of each Chasidus?
Now that would be interesting!
:)

6

 Jul 23, 2013 at 12:53 PM Anonymous Says:

Wow i didn't know i will get an answer so fast. I was on the subway on July 10 saw a guy with a pack of print outs of chassidic B/W art he was reading the book "A life force" was scratching my head what he is doing with does pictures now I know, that's him in the picture.

7

 Jul 23, 2013 at 01:29 PM Nedivah Says:

I would love to have this book. My husband was often gawked at on the streets of Manhattan. Once a tourist jumped in his face to take a picture of his Shabbat attire. Another time someone calls to his friend " Look at that guy walking around in his bathrobe". Even here in Israel, I am often asked to explain the nuance of which side the button on the beaver hat is sitting, the shape of hat, shape of shtreimel, the way the unit buttons etc

8

 Jul 23, 2013 at 03:17 PM CHANA1 Says:

PRICEY! the book is $40 plus shipping

9

 Jul 23, 2013 at 02:47 PM festayid Says:

all chasidish levush is based on what the goyish polish nobleman wore 300 yrs ago not sure why there so into their rabbeini tamms when its based on goyish dress

10

 Jul 23, 2013 at 04:13 PM Shmilfke Says:

Why do the chasideshe boys in the sketches looks so spazzed?

I guess this guy is a really accurate artist

11

 Jul 23, 2013 at 05:10 PM cocoaman Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Um, if you don't think there are chasidim in LA besides Chabad, you are mistaken.... We have a chassideshe Kollel, chassideshe schools where Yiddish is the language f choice (4+ schools, elementary and high school for each: boys and girls), chassideshe Shuls...
That's all besides the Chabad schools, the MO type schools, the Bais Yaakov type schools (only one named BY but there are others- they each have a different name), and so many more! There are so many options here- it's no wonder we are THE biggest frum community (and biggest Jewish one) outside the NY area. New schools open all the time and we always need more!!! I can't even begin to count the number of schools we have here... And we have the biggest single elementary school outside the NY area.
If you want to live in a warm, friendly place where you know your neighbors and when you walk into a shul people introduce themselves after davening is over- visit LA! Beautiful weather, impressive choices of schools and yeshivos and Shuls, friendly people, a yard to play in, all the amenities of NY but nicer living.... Try us out!

if this guy is 28 and grew up in LA, we are talking 20+ years ago. were all the wonderful schools around then or only chabad? no wonder his first exposure to yiddishkeit was via chabad.

12

 Jul 23, 2013 at 06:25 PM TexasJew Says:

Why is the Satmar guy soooooo FAT?

13

 Jul 23, 2013 at 08:21 PM I_Am_Me Says:

Reply to #9  
festayid Says:

all chasidish levush is based on what the goyish polish nobleman wore 300 yrs ago not sure why there so into their rabbeini tamms when its based on goyish dress

That's not completely true. The shtrieml was forced upon us like the yellow star, but we made it in to a minhag in order not to make us feel bad about being Jewish. I actually like that idea, we could have been made to feel bad about being Jewish instead we take pride in it

14

 Jul 23, 2013 at 08:27 PM I_Am_Me Says:

I wonder what AlterG has to say about this lol

15

 Jul 23, 2013 at 09:48 PM PaulinSaudi Says:

Well, it is not on Amazon yet. If I get a chance, I will pick it up.

16

 Jul 23, 2013 at 10:06 PM Anonymous Says:

Many more nuances that he is NOT even aware of. To us every detail has a lot of symbolism and you can detect many subtle messages from the various hints.

17

 Jul 23, 2013 at 10:26 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
cocoaman Says:

if this guy is 28 and grew up in LA, we are talking 20+ years ago. were all the wonderful schools around then or only chabad? no wonder his first exposure to yiddishkeit was via chabad.

So you are saying my frum relatives in LA didnt go to yeshiva/shul until 1990? Weird! It's strange cuz there are people who live here in LA, are over 28, and went to a frum school here- or did I just imagine seeing several yearbooks from Bais Yaakov that were dated before this guy was born? How come there are people who grew up here who have kids who graduated high school?

18

 Jul 23, 2013 at 10:41 PM angelinoyid007 Says:

I grew up in LA. Lived here all my life and I am 30 years old. I went to the chasideshe cheder only speaking Yiddish. There were always chasidim here. He obviously never spent 1 minute on La Brea Ave. Which is one of the main thoroughfares of Los Angeles

19

 Jul 24, 2013 at 12:15 AM bigwheeel Says:

On the fourth picture/illustration from the top down. I spotted a glaring mistake. The author is attempting to illustrate the attire of "Skvira" chassidim. While correctly showing the boots that Skvira Chassidiam tend to wear , the head attire being shown is completely wrong. The frisby-type hats are worn mainly by Satmar Chassidim, and some other groups. But never by Skvira followers.

20

 Jul 24, 2013 at 12:31 AM Anonymous Says:

What he should do is give you a good price on a Streimel.

21

 Jul 24, 2013 at 03:05 AM LAGIRL Says:

Reply to #1  
PaulinSaudi Says:

My first thought is I would like to buy this book. I know nothing of the subject and would like to learn. Besides it would be amusing to bring into Saudi Arabia. Then I saw the text is in either Yiddish or Hebrew.

Well, I guess will not be buying it after all.

The article clearly states that the book is written in English “There are already so many books on other aspects of the culture but, arguably, apart from the Israel Museum catalog from last year’s show, there is no book, at least not in English, that covers the clothing in any depth,” said Levin.

22

 Jul 24, 2013 at 08:06 AM PaulinSaudi Says:

Yes, I was wrong, and now I know it is in English. But it is not yet on Amazon.

23

 Jul 24, 2013 at 08:23 AM Reb Yid Says:

Reply to #7  
Nedivah Says:

I would love to have this book. My husband was often gawked at on the streets of Manhattan. Once a tourist jumped in his face to take a picture of his Shabbat attire. Another time someone calls to his friend " Look at that guy walking around in his bathrobe". Even here in Israel, I am often asked to explain the nuance of which side the button on the beaver hat is sitting, the shape of hat, shape of shtreimel, the way the unit buttons etc

"Even here in Israel, I am often asked to explain the nuance of which side the button on the beaver hat is sitting, the shape of hat, shape of shtreimel, the way the unit buttons etc ”
Don't you find this bizarre, to say the least? This is making up one's alternate shulchan aruch for clothing.

24

 Jul 24, 2013 at 11:32 AM PaulinSaudi Says:

I want to know where people buy these clothes. Some of them are so unique that they must be hand-made. Others (such as the large fur hats) are ... Well, I have no idea where one buys them.

25

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