We asked the artists how they interpret the concept of tzedakah, and how their work expresses it.
Jason Talbot, Our Family Tree
For me Tzedakah is about bringing forth justice by giving to the less fortunate to balance the scales so we can all have our fair share of freedom and happiness. This family tree bound by handcuffs represents the unjust burden put on families by our racial bias criminal justice system and the need for all of us to work to relieve that burden.
Carolyn Lewenberg, Vital Organs
Vital Organs is about having a deep culture of caring for those we share land, air and water with. These relationships will give meaning to our lives and determine our ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Tzedakah is about investing in these relationships via whatever resources are available to you.
Caron Tabb, Heart
Tzedakah for me is deeply rooted in its Hebrew root, Tzedek, justice. In many ways, the action of tzedakah can lead to justice, but requires much more intent. Too often one can get away by donating: giving charity, filling the food bank bin, giving away a coat. But if I walk away understanding the root cause of hunger or why poverty exists and can support action that creates systemic change, we get closer to creating a more just society.
Nayana LaFond, Zoongid’e (She/he is brave, in Ojibwe)
My interpretation of tzedakah was to create a safe space. Instead of placing money into a box, I’m asking viewers to become participants and enter the space I created. It is a Wetu (wigwam) with benches inside. Inside there are words and phrases of compassion and understanding for domestic abuse victims and survivors; on the outside are QR codes for human rights organizations and more. The Wetu, called Zoongide’e (Ohibwe – to have a brave heart), asks participants to give through those QR codes, just as a tzedakah box asks for donations. It is a call to action through the experience of reading the words and scanning the codes.
Samuel Mendoza, It’s Giving
Tzedakah for me is an act toward justice. Tzedakah boxes, which inspired my piece, are an opportunity, in particular during the beauty and rest of Shabbat, to recognize the needs of others even during our own joyous moments. In this custom, tzedakah is taking action, however small, to acknowledge that justice is when we can all have what we individually need to live healthy, prosperous, and joyous lives. My piece is offering you some beauty while serving as a reminder to give. We should all be more involved in the struggle for justice for trans people, especially those most marginalized by their intersectional identities; contributing financially to local organizations doing this work is just a small act toward justice everywhere.
Ngoc-Tran Vu, Garden of Light
I interpret the concept of tzedakah to embody the idea of giving and paying it forward toward the greater good. My work addresses mental health, trauma, and healing and it is through our acknowledgement of our struggle(s) we find growth, solace, and sanctuary in honoring ourselves and one another.
For information about the exhibition, the artists, and the programs, visit jartsboston.org/bethechange
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