For our first assignment in Sketching Communities, we had to choose a community, sketch and observe it, and create a prototype of an object central to that community.
I belong to the community of fairly secular Jewish Americans. In my experience of this community, I’ve always identified more with the cultural markers—humor, movies, food, etc.—than the strict markers of religion, such as belief or ritual. New York has the second highest population of Jewish people in any city in the world (only after Tel Aviv), and, because of that, it has been responsible for the creating its specific brand of “ethnic” culture (think Woody Allen).
There are many different ways to be Jewish, and they’re all represented in this city, from the isolated Hasidic neighborhoods to the delis of the Upper West Side. I’m interesting in exploring some of these communities this semester, focusing on generational differences.
Going Back to the Roots
For the first assignment, I visited Eldridge Street Synagogue, one of the first synagogues in the U.S. and now a museum in Chinatown. It was interesting to see how Eastern European Jews a century ago had already begun forming their own identity—a hybrid of old and new—in objects such as a gavel for meetings and the synagogue “Constitution.” I sat in the sanctuary for a while and sketched. Though I didn’t create anything I liked, I enjoyed sitting there in the quiet drawing.
On my way back, I picked up a bagel and lox, a staple in my Jewish upbringing—and a staple of New York Jewishness—and decided to draw that. Every one of my Jewish contemporaries that I know has a particular way that they prefer their bagel sandwich, so for my interactive prototype, I created a customizable lox sandwich.