Far From Zion: Jews, Dias­po­ra, Memory

Jason Fran­cis­co
  • Review
By – April 2, 2012

For some­one unfa­mil­iar with the works of Roman Vish­ni­ac and Frédéric Bren­ner, this slim wist­ful vol­ume will be an intro­duc­tion to nar­ra­tive pho­tog­ra­phy — of Jew­ish art and sym­bol­ism, por­traits of indi­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies, ceme­ter­ies, social life and cus­toms, on a Euro/U.S‑centered canvas. 

The book’s unusu­al and note­wor­thy sec­ond half is a Dias­poric Inves­ti­ga­tion,” a dia­logue, or per­haps a three-way con­ver­sa­tion among the read­er, the author, and his quot­ed sources. Here the sharp­ness of Francisco’s writ­ten obser­va­tions match­es his beau­ti­ful­ly print­ed, recent, and some­times icon­o­clas­tic pho­tographs. Exam­ple: the Jews leav­ing Bib­li­cal Egypt were rup­tured from their ori­gins,” unmarked mass graves in Poland are the pith of loss.” Among these words that pierce the read­er, how­ev­er, is a star­tling edi­to­r­i­al deci­sion, when the author quotes (fre­quent­ly) his own note­books, the text uses a low­er-case j in Jew­ish, an i for him­self, and t in Torah, a very 21st cen­tu­ry deci­sion, it would seem. 72 b/​w plates, notes, acknowledgement. 

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

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