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“I’ve been up all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud” – Tisha B’Av 2015

It’s midnight on a Saturday and despite utter exhaustion I don’t want to leave the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Something…remarkable…had happened to me over the last few hours. Perhaps, despite having been to the MJH more times than I can count, it was seeing the space in an entirely new way: dancers in front of the Warsaw Uprising sculpture, 

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sounds of Lament echoing against giant boulders and rustling leaves in Anthony Goldsworthy’s moonlit Garden of Stones,

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or the soaring Star of David skylight in the Rotunda Gallery, now a fractalized kaleidoscope image of me lying on my back and Neshama Carleback standing nearby, ready to begin an original poetic performance piece on my grandmother, Allen Ginsberg, and the Mourner’s Kaddish.

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Or perhaps it was the opportunity to see Tisha B’Av itself in a whole new way. I have always had a hard time connecting to the tragedy of the destruction of the Temple; it was just too distant and disembodied for me to feel imminently. And as a modern progressive Jew, “The Temple” as a concept has never had that much resonance. NINE changed that. While others might hide their pain, loss, and failure, as Jews we are curiously instructed to commemorate, memorialize, cherish, and embrace. 

I wrote three elegistic poems about four years ago after my grandmother died, only to tuck them away and share them with nobody. Creating a performance out of these poems for NINE, I experienced first hand the power of deeply personal memories of loss when shared communally, rather than kept buried in my heart (and computer). It is through memory that we have the ability to build what-will-be from what-was. It is through the communal embrace of brokenness that we can glimpse what wholeness might look like.

This is not just a lesson for a 2000 year old building or a select group of people. It is something that every single person can use personally and within whatever community they call home. From Zen Buddhist lessons on intimacy to the burning of historically African American churches, NINE was a cacophony of stimulating, challenging, and healing voices.

It was truly a “night to remember,” full of revelations that will last me a lifetime.

-Ezra Bookman
Lab/Shul Program Associate…and director, writer, and performance artist


All photos by Elena Olivio / Museum of Jewish Heritage

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