Loubavitch 770

Today, for the vast majority of non-Jews, by default Orthodox Jews symbolise ‘Jew’. On the other hand, Orthodox represents an obscure, extreme or even sectarian practice of religion for a large part of the Jewish community. Most of the time, people perceive these ‘men in black’ suspiciously. A certain ignorance regarding different movements within Orthodox Judaism and their respective practices, distorts reality and fuels fantasy.

The Lubavitch movement stands out however very clearly from other Orthodox movements, given its openness to the outside world, its strong desire to respect the Almighty’s decrees in a spirit of joy, enthusiasm, sharing and self-sacrifice.

The 770, in Brooklyn, New York, is a symbol of this large family. It’s the global centre for community activities. It is home to the synagogue of the great Rabbi Mena’hem Mendel Schneerson, the movement’s spiritual guide, who died in 2002 and has not been replaced since. It was a logical decision to take these two series of photos here.

Both Ben Bensimon, my co-author, and I wanted to show an alternative vision of Judaism, at a time when anti-Semitic speech is rife once again. Through these images we wanted to cast a positive, political, spiritual and sometimes humorous eye on the Jewish religion, a way of resisting received ideas…

By photographing these men and women who are subjected to so much prejudice, we were able to observe their self-mocking ability and their aptitude to share their joy.

The 770: Lubavitchs of Brooklyn was shot on black and white film. The photos were traditionally developed by hand in a dark room.

In addressing different practices such as prayer, the skullcap, tzedakah (justice), the mezuzah, tefillin, family, transmission and the relationship with books amongst the Lubavitchs of Brooklyn, we have sought to express the Jewish religion in general.

Some images express more specifically Lubavitch traditions such as wearing hats, the omnipresent Rabbi and beards…

This series of 40 unique shots reflects the fervour and fantasy emanating from them.