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THE POSTHUMOUS LANDSCAPE:
Jewish Historical Sites in Western Ukraine

Photographs by David Kaufman

image
Yurij Davidovich in the Decaying Synagogue of Khotyn, Ukraine, 2016  © David Kaufman (Detail)

From May 2 to August 31, 2017

Beth Tzedec Reuben & Helene Dennis Museum, 1700 Bathurst Street, Toronto (entry at rear of building)
Sunday - Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday until 3 p.m.  Friday evening and Saturday open for synagogue attendees.

RECEPTION: Sunday, May 7, from 12 noon until 3:30 p.m.

More than seventy years after the Holocaust, western Ukraine is still replete with remnants of Jewish communal life, but the history of that community has all but vanished from popular consciousness. In a landscape once distinguished by its Jewish population, few survivors and few witnesses remain. However, the landscape is not mute and evidence of once-flourishing Jewish communities is everywhere.

David Kaufman’s interest in photographing the remains of Jewish life in Eastern Europe began as a result of his work in Poland directing and producing several documentary films about the Holocaust. Subsequently, from 2007 to 2014, Kaufman traveled to Poland eight times to make still photographs of Jewish sites. Last year, Kaufman extended this work into Ukraine and spent three weeks exploring the cities of Lviv and Chernivtsi and their surroundings, drawn to the area by its abundant Jewish material culture.

Lviv, part of Poland before the Second World War, and Chernivtsi, part of Romania, had at that time significant and large Jewish populations, as did the nearby towns. The massive destruction of both World War Two and the Soviet era, followed by two decades of neglect, left the many surviving Jewish historical sites in precarious condition. Whereas in Poland a fairly widespread interest in Jewish heritage began to develop before the end of the Soviet period, in Ukraine that interest has emerged only in the last decade and remains sporadic. Today, western Ukraine’s much-reduced Jewish population of a few thousand faces an overwhelming task as it struggles to preserve community sites and historical artifacts, even with significant help from abroad and some support from scholars and local civic and cultural authorities.

Like Kaufman’s earlier exhibition in 2013 that explored the Polish landscape, this collection of photographs depicts the physical remnants of Jewish life in western Ukraine: synagogues, cemeteries, memorials, public spaces and architecture, some functioning, some repurposed and some in ruins. Kaufman says his motivation for making these images is simple: He regards these historical sites and artifacts as treasured remains of a destroyed Jewish civilization, and while all of these sites have been identified and catalogued, ongoing photographic documentation is valuable both for the historical record and to spur efforts at preservation, which remains an enormous and largely unfulfillable challenge.

David Kaufman began his architectural photography work in 1984. Recent exhibitions include: Architectural Devolution: Industrial Buildings in a Post-Industrial Age (2016), Built to Last: Montreal's Enduring Architecture (2015), and Early Sunday Morning (2013) on Toronto heritage buildings. Other work on Jewish themes include: The Posthumous Landscape: Jewish Sites of Memory in Poland Today (2013) and Vessels of Song: Faces of New Jewish Music (2014). Kaufman is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker. His last film was the feature historical documentary, Song of the Lodz Ghetto, released in 2010.


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The Crumbling Funeral Hall at Chernivtsi’s Zelena Street Jewish Cemetery, Ukraine, 2016 © David Kaufman

CONTACT:

DAVID KAUFMAN
Email: dkaufman@sympatico.ca | Tel: (416) 398-0007
Web site: www.davidkaufmanphotography.com

BETH TZEDEC REUBEN & HELENE DENNIS MUSEUM
Curator: Dorion Liebgott, Tel: (416) 781-3514 x232, dliebgott@beth-tzedec.org


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