This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

Eighth Night of Hanukkah, 2017

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 21, 2017


I wandered for a couple hours through the Nachlaot neighbourhood of Jerusalem on the eighth night of Hanukkah (Dec. 19, 2017). Nachlaot is a warren of alleys and courtyards, gentrified houses beside crumbling apartment buildings. Most of the buildings date from the 19th century. It was surprisingly crowded that night. There were two Hebrew-speaking tour groups and a lot of hanukkah parties.

In one of the alleys, a family set up a large table with nine glass boxes and oil-burning hanukkah lamps. They brought out an electric keyboard, a guitar, and a row of chairs. Then each family member lit in order of age. I photographed the youngest boys lighting their lamps (above). I was about 2 meters away and took this with a 16-50mm lens on a Sony Alpha 6300 mirrorless camera. While the lens doesn’t have a long reach, it is fairly small. The fact that the camera is silent is a big advantage when doing any kind of street photography where the noise of a shutter would be intrusive.



Right across the alley from the hanukkah party was this small hanukkiah tied to the bars of a window.


Another hanukkah party, with guitarist and harmonica player, was winding down by the time I got close enough to photograph the large hanukkiah. When it was in full swing the alley was filled with people singing and it was impossible for me to see over people’s heads.


A much smaller party, in an alley that was only about 2 meters wide.


This was one of the more bizarre hanukkiot I saw. A wheeled cart decorated with plastic fruit, streamers, and flashing green and red lights was parked in an alley outside a house. I strongly suspect that the cart is actually used to bring a groom to the chuppah. I’ve seen similar contraptions at kibbutz weddings, pulled by the groom’s friends, instead of the traditional tractor.


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Rama 18, Jerusalem

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 31, 2015

Rama 18, Jerusalem

I photographed this doorway a couple days ago for a book cover, at the request of a small publisher in the UK. The book is about house numbers (what else?). The house is on Rama Street in the Nahlaot neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The alley is quite narrow and I wanted to include the door and window; I almost regretted not having brought a wide angle lens, but in the end I managed to get the shot. The photo was taken around 9 a.m., so the numbers were in the shade and the light wasn’t too intense (just before we moved the clocks to summer time).

Hebrew numbers are represented by letters, and the number 18 is considered auspicious because it represents “chaim” or life. Blue is also an auspicious colour in Mediterranean cultures, so this is a very lucky doorway!

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The Vort (Engagement Party)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 10, 2014


My son is engaged! Here are some photos from the Vort (engagement party). The mothers break a china plate (inside the pillow case) to symbolize the finality of the commitment. We broke an ordinary side plate, not the painted one in the photo above. Full photo set is on Flickr.




Power failure in the middle of the evening. They’re used to it.


The young people sat outside in the heat, while the oldies (like me) were inside with the air conditioning.


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Rainy Day in the Old City

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 26, 2014



These photos were taken in mid-March during a heavy rain. The first four were taken at the Western Wall.


A group of Nigerian Christian women wore skirts made of this orange fabric. Peter Obi, the man whose face is strategically positioned on the back, was governor of Anambra State in Nigeria. This photo was taken about a week before the end of his second term of office.


Church of the Holy Sepulchre, photographed from the roof of the Petra Hotel near Jaffa Gate.


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Happy Hanukkah!

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 4, 2013

8th Night of Hanukkah

I haven’t had much time lately to take photos, so I’m posting photos taken in years past. Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. I was really looking forward to having sufganiyot (donuts) and latkes (even if they are cold and greasy) at work, but instead I’m waiting at home for a delivery to arrive.

Hanukkah Street Lights

Sufganiyot (Donuts)

Hanukkah 2012

Sufganiyot (Donuts)

Pirsum haNes (Publicising the Miracle)

Finished Hanukkah Lamp Paper-Cutting

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More on the Altneu Synagogue

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 3, 2013


Here’s the view from the women’s section. I read somewhere that these slits in the wall were made in the 17th century. The acoustics within the synagogue are not great and if you’re more than a few inches from the openings, it’s very difficult to hear. If someone is chatting, it’s nearly impossible to follow the services. I discovered the radiators only at the end of the service. It was cold in there.


These two stone structures originally held the money collected for taxes. The broken stone pillar in front originally supported the lectern of the prayer leader. If you look closely, you can see the letters “shin” and “tsade,” for “shaliach tsibbur”.


The stone Torah ark was elaborately carved.


Details of the parochet (curtain in front of the ark).



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Spanish Synagogue

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 27, 2013


The Spanish Synagogue is a Moorish revival building built in 1868. It is used as a concert hall and is part of the Jewish Museum. Despite its name, the congregation is not Sephardi. It’s actually a Reform congregation. The photos are a bit wonky and don’t do it justice because (a) photography wasn’t allowed, so I had to take these photos quickly, (b) I was exhausted by the end of our 3-hour tour of the Jewish Quarter, and (c) I find Moorish revival architecture rather boring. If you like lots of gold and Moorish arches, you’ll love the Jubilee Synagogue, which I photographed on another day.


View of the organ loft on the second floor:


Partial view of the dome. It would have been fun to stand directly underneath it with a wide-angle lens, but that would not have been possible without attracting attention.


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High Synagogue in the Jewish Town Hall

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 27, 2013


The High Synagogue wasn’t part of our tour of the Jewish Quarter. In fact, I didn’t know what it was when I photographed it, so I took only a few quick shots. We were buying cheese and meat in the store in the Jewish Town Hall. On the way out, I noticed a lovely synagogue and took these photos. Although it dates back to 1568 (the same year as the Jewish Town Hall’s completion), it was destroyed in the great fire of 1689 and rebuilt in 1883.




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Prague’s Klausen Synagogue

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 24, 2013


My favourite synagogue in Prague’s Jewish Quarter is the Klausen (= “small,” from Latin claustrum), because of its light and elegant interior. The original building was constructed in 1573 and destroyed by fire in 1689. The current building was built in 1694, although most of its current architecture dates from the reconstruction undertaken in the 1880s. The Nazis destroyed much of the interior and used the building for storage. Now part of Prague’s Jewish Museum, it houses an exhibit of objects associated with the life cycle and festivals. Normally I would have photographed this building with a much wider lens but since photography isn’t allowed, I used my normal zoom lens, shot from the hip and hoped for the best.

The shot below was taken from the women’s gallery and shows the baroque 17th century Torah ark.


Closer view of the Torah ark, taken from the ground floor. The spiral columns are typically baroque.




This gate leads to the Altneu synagogue. The emblem of the Prague Jewish community, a yellow hat within a Star of David, appears in many places.


Gothic gabled facade of the Altneu synagogue.


The Jewish Town Hall, built in 1586, has two clocks. The one with Hebrew letters runs counter-clockwise. If you need kosher food in Prague, the Jewish Town Hall has a small store. Just remember that it opens midday and that you have to allow time for the security interview.


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Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 15, 2013


Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery is a daunting subject to photograph. The sheer number of graves gathered in such a small area (although it’s larger than you might think) can be overwhelming. The cemetery contains around 12,000 tombstones, although the number of burials could be as many as 100,000. When they ran out of space, more earth was brought in, creating layers. It’s generally accepted that there may be as many as twelve layers of burials. The cemetery was in use from the late 15th century to the late 18th century. Rabbi Loew of Prague is buried here, along with other prominent Jewish residents of Prague, such as David Oppenheim and Mordechai Maisel.


The stones of cohenim (priests) are often adorned with carved hands, a symbol of the priestly blessing.


In these photos I was experimenting with colours and textures. The mix of cool blues and warm browns is an appealing combination.


The sun was bright that day and hit these stones at a diagonal angle.


The cemetery is a surprisingly peaceful place, if you can ignore the hordes of tourists crowding the paths, behind a rope. You’re not allowed off the outside paths, so I took a lot of photos with a zoom lens. This photo reminded me of people sleeping, with their heads resting on the shoulders of their neighbours.





In this photo I emphasized the bluish tinge of the stones and earth.


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