“Pious Jew,” Leah Raab, 2020, digital photographic print, 12″ x 14”
Jerusalem and, more broadly, Israel, presents a constant assault, and delightful visual twists, on our expectations. On the one hand, Jerusalemite Leah Raab’s photograph, “Pious Jew,” presents a perfectly expected paradox: an ultra-Orthodox Jew—with a substantial tallit katan spilling out from under his black coat, and his formal hat and long, well-curled pe’ot (earlocks), focusing intently on a religious text—forming his own island of calm, sacred concentration in the chaotic maelstrom of the airport. Traditions established, in waves—between the commandments of Torah-based rabbinic Judaean-Palestinian antiquity (the pe’ot: based on the discussion in the Babylonian Talmud’s tractate Makkot 20a of the injunction in Lev 19:27 not to “round off the edge—pe’ah—of your head”) and the customs of seventeenth-century Eastern Europe (the sort of head-covering)—are embedded in a pre-eminent symbol of modernist transportational possibility. Such juxtapositions are endemic to Israel.
Leah Raab was born in Trenton, NJ, began her studies at the University of NH, received her BFA from the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem and completed her MFA at the New York Studio School. Leah’s work depicts her environment and her reactions to her surroundings. She paints scenes and moments in time that are significant to her, reflecting internal tensions in a seemingly tranquil landscape overlaid with a sense of impending danger that may explode at any moment. Her most recent preoccupation is with photographing and painting unusual gatherings of people wearing masks or of those dressed in intriguing and striking garments. Having moved back and forth many times between Israel and the US, Leah now resides and paints in Raanana, Israel. To learn more about Leah, check out her website www.leahraab.com. You can also view her work on Instagram @artwork_by_leah.