It’s the beginning of autumn and also the season for a sequence of Jewish holidays – the new year aka Rosh HaShana, followed by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and Sukkot, a harvest festival. These holidays are sometimes represented by symbols, such as apple and honey for the new year, or a citrus fruit and palm branches for the current harvest festival. One thing you will never see in orthodox Judaism is a physical anthropomorphised representation of God as this is considered taboo and linked to the prohibition of idolatry. In fact, I was even taught as a child in Jewish primary school to write G-D, and omit the letter O as a sign of respect, a extension of the idea of not taking his name in vain. There is also a tradition that any written Hebrew text featuring the name of God is supposed to be preserved and not discarded. I’m proof of the “give me a child until he is 7*” school of thought as I still feel a bit uncomfortable when I don’t use the hyphen!
The above photograph was taken in Jerusalem back in 2014. The plea for help, carved into the tree illustrates the aforementioned prohibition.
I’ve gathered some photos I’ve taken that include the word GOD. Below, more recently at a bus shelter in London’s Pimlico I saw the following graffiti:
The word NOT has been crossed out so the resulting text states that GOD IS GREAT.
Next a series of signs in the UK that have caught my eye:
Above, it was quite a surreal experience dancing salsa in front of version of Leonardo’s The Last Supper. The location is St. Mary Moorfield, the only Roman Catholic Church in the square mile of the City of London. But on my recent visit to Girona in Spain the ubiquity of Catholic iconography is much more apparent. I’ve also chosen examples of Catholic iconography where the image Jesus is used in commercial ways that strike me as bizarre.
Below, layers of text and torn posters featuring Christian iconography in Jerusalem:
Next, some examples of subverting religious iconography:
On the subject of returning – although Judaism prohibits the physical representation of God, there seems to be a plethora of imagery when is comes to the Messiah.
In the last few years I’ve amassed a collection of images that to me connote human religious iconography despite being associated with orthodox Judaism. These photographs were taken in London, Venice, New York, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Many of these images reference the Mashiach or Messiah, and feature the face of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe who apparently is considered by some to be the Messiah, even though he died in 1994:
Below, a few images featuring Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser, a spiritual leader of the movement devoted to the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslow. Visually, I originally mistook the Rabbi for being the same one as featured above but on closer inspection he is different. The image of this long bearded rabbi, depicted with his arms up in elation, is usually accompanied by some Hebrew letters spelling a Kabbalistic play on words which sounds sounds like /spells Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman.
*’Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man’, a quote often attributed to Aristotle.
Also published on Medium.