25 August 2019

Cyberangels Go Up from the Land of Israel and Go Down Throughout the World


“A ladder was standing on the ground, and its top reached up toward heaven, and angels were going up and down on it.” (Genesis 28:12)  The preeminent biblical commentator Rashi teaches that the angels in Jacob's dream go up from the Land of Israel and come down throughout the world.                                                             

A proposal to Chabad Lubavitch to realize Rashi's words in the age of smartphones and social media

A global tribute to Rembrandt on his 350th yartzheit (he died on 4 October 1669, 9 Tishrei 5430, that falls this year on Yom Kippur) by flying cyberangels from the Kfar Chabad in Israel to the 770 headquarters of Chabad in New York and on to the 100 countries in which there are Chabad Houses.

My digitized homage to Rembrandt events on his 320th yarzheit.The Rebbe was enthusiastic about my bringing Jewish thought into the world's mainstream. 

The photo below is from the 1989 Annual Report of AT&T sent to the 3,000 AT&T shareholders.  My event was watched by ten million people in TV broadcasts on all the major networks. See Rembrandt Inspired Cyberangels Circle the Globe via AT&T Satellites


At the Rebbe's prompting when I was head of the art department at Pratt Institute and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, I had a one-man show of my computer generated artworks at the Chassidic Art Institute on Kingston Avenue. At the same time, my exhibition "LightsOROT: Spiritual Dimensions of the Electronic Age" that I created at MIT filled the Yeshiva University Museum. The exhibition catalog features my dialogue with Rabbi Norman Lamm, president of YU, "Light, Vision and Art in Judaism." The ARTnews critic wrote "Rarely is an exhibition as visually engaging and intellectually challenging. 
    

Catalog for exhibition of Mel Alexenberg showing serigraph of "Ascent of Computer Angels from the Land of Israel" in the collection of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

The same image for the smartphone generation appears on the cover of my 2019 book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media. In my book are nine quotations from the Rebbe. It is a more popular version of my two academic books published by Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press: The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (2011) and Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at Intersection of Art, Science, Technology and Culture (2008)When I was head of Emunah College School of the Arts in Jerusalem, I wrote in Hebrew the book Dialogic Art in a Digital World: On Judaism and Contemporary Art (2008).  
  

07 July 2019

My Encounter with the Rebbe: Creating a College in the Desert

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

See my interview about my encounter with the Rebbe in the new book My Encounter with the Rebbe  
http://jemedia.org/email/newsletter/My_Encounter/12-27-14.pdf

The interview "HaRuach Shebechomer" (The Spiritual in the Material) is published in the Hebrew version of the book titled Hasipur Sheli (My Story).  I told the story in my Hebrew lecture at the book launching event in Tel Aviv on June 28, 2019.
 
My grandson Or Alexenberg's photo of spring in the Negev desert near Yeroham where he grew up 

Also see my featured article that in the Times of Israel.  "A Hasidic Story: From New York to the Negev - On the advice from the Chabad leader, he moved to the polar opposite of New York City, and founded a college
https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-chasidic-story-from-new-york-to-the-negev-2/

13 June 2019

Praise for "Through a Bible Lens" from Jewish and Christian Leaders and Experts on Digital Culture

See praise from Christian and Jewish leaders and experts on digital culture for “Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media" at https://mailchi.mp/israel365.com/make-the-bible-come-alive-and-transform-your-photography-buy-your-book-now?e=a5ad410914

 

THROUGH A BIBLE LENS provides the perfect model for the best usage of smartphones and socialmedia to encourage greater appreciation for the Bible and the Land of  Israel.” Rabbi Tuly Weisz, editor The Israel Bible


THROUGH A BIBLE LENS will be a joy to any lover of the Bible, Christian or Jewish.  I not only endorse it, I look forward to integrating these ideas into my personal encounter with Scripture." Dr. Jim Solberg, USA National Director, Bridges For Peace.

THROUGH A BIBLE LENS offers profound insights about meaning and purpose in contemporary life in a brilliant and sustained expositionGREAT BOOK!” Dr. Ron Burnett, president, University of Art and Design, Vancouver. 

THROUGH A BIBLE LENS is a unique and fascinating book. Who would have thought that there would be a way to connect smartphones to the ancient world of the Bible?” Prof. Gerald R. McDermott, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama. 

THROUGH A BIBLE LENS’s wonderful synthesis between spirituality and technology, heaven and earth, is exciting and thought-provoking.” Rabbi Chanan Morrison, author of Sapphire from the Land of Israel. 

THROUGH A BIBLE LENS is an intellectually exciting book that stimulates the sensory palate. Shares in-depth, meaningful insights about encountering God in the creative process through photography.”  T. Mandel Chenoweth, head of Art Education Department, Oral Roberts University. 

THROUGH A BIBLE LENS one of those books that other thinkers will wish they had somehow thought about how to write, and to which readers of diverse sorts will simply respond by saying: wow!” Dr. Ori Z. Soltes, professorial lecturer of Theology and Fine Arts, Georgetown University.

"THROUGH A BIBLE LENS is a mystical computer program for spiritual seeing. Mel Alexenberg is a wonderfully accomplished worker on a great project to make art a conduit for the Divine." Rabbi Dr. Shimon Cowen, Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization, Victoria, Australia.  

12 June 2019

Growing Up Jewish Where the Amazon Jungle Reaches the Atlantic Ocean

I invite my readers to get to know my wife Miriam by having her share with you this article she wrote about growing up Jewish in Suriname, the former Dutch colony on the northern coast of South America before her family’s aliyah to Israel when she was nine.

Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname

You know her as my partner in creating the “Bible Blog Your Life” blogart project http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.com Each week for a year, we studied the Torah portion read in synagogue and documented how it reflects our life together with photographs and Tweet texts. These 52 articles published by The Times of Israel became the core of my latest book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media http://throughabiblelens.blogspot.com.

Growing Up Jewish in Suriname    
By Miriam Benjamin Alexenberg

Paramaribo, Suriname

The trap-door in my school’s floor flung open to swallow Rieke into a black void.   Rieke screamed in horror.   She kicked and thrashed as our first-grade teacher dragged her by her arm toward the underground dungeon.  Another teacher grabbed Rieke’s other arm to help shove her into the pit that my classmates were sure was filled with snakes that slithered into our school from the jungle. My teacher slammed the trap-door shut. 
I returned to our classroom with the other children.  Our teacher closed the door to mute Rieke’s desperate cries while she resumed her teaching.  I avoided the dreaded dungeon during my year in primary school in Paramaribo, Suriname, where the Amazon jungle reaches the Atlantic Ocean. 
The teacher, a wooden ruler in her hand ready to strike, walked between the rows of seats to enforce silence.  She taught us to write words and numbers on slates with a chalk-like stylus that made an unnerving screeching sound.  If a stylus broke while one of my classmates was writing, the teacher hit him on the back of his hand with the ruler.
My worst punishment was being put in the corner in front of the classroom facing the wall.  I suddenly felt the sting of the teacher’s ruler striking my backside.  I shivered in pain.  The whole class laughed.  Raw sores that covered my body from my waist to my ankles magnified the pain.
I had suffered from the sores for months.  A yellow salve that our Chinese doctor prescribed didn’t help.  The gooey salve excluded me from family trips in my father’s open-top car to prevent me from staining the seats.  An African healer wrapped in lime green and pink striped cloth appeared at our house to sell remedies made from plants in the rain forest where she lived.  When she saw my sores, she told my mother to stop feeding me oatmeal and peanuts.  My mother took her advice.  The sores disappeared in a week.
The healer came to Paramaribo in a dugout canoe riding the rapids from her village deep in the jungle.  She told of how her ancestors from Africa were brought to Suriname as slaves to work on the sugar cane and coffee plantations.  They escaped into the jungle joining other runaway slaves in establishing a new and unique culture made up of people from diverse West African tribes.
Mommy liberated me and my left-handed sister Channa from school.  She could not tolerate that Channa was swatted with a ruler on her left hand every time she attempted to write with it.  All children had to write with their right hands.  No exceptions.
Channa was a year older than me.  We never return to the Paramaribo primary school.  We stayed at home until we flew to New York with our two pre-school brothers, Joop and Hans, on our way to Israel a year later.
Every Shabbat, my father locked his office door.  He was free to sit with Channa and me on the couch to tell us stories that came alive.  We found ourselves inside the scenes he painted with his words.   The rise and fall of his voice created tension and anticipation.  We loved listening to his storytelling. 
He told us about the evil people of Sodom who could not tolerate individual differences.  When a person came to their city, they forced him to fit into a single mold.  If he was too short, they devised a machine to stretch him.  If he was too tall, they cut off his feet.  It was clear to us that our teachers were descendants of the people of Sodom.
It wasn’t strange to me that my home became my school and my mother my teacher.  She taught me to read Dutch and used an abacus of red, blue, green and yellow beads to teach me arithmetic.  Our home was already Paramaribo’s Hebrew school.  Mommy taught Channa and me along with the other girls in our community to read the Hebrew prayer book.  We all sat around a large round table where we saw each other’s faces rather that the backs of our classmates’ heads.  We read aloud the Shema, the core of the Jewish liturgy, where Moses instructs parents:  “You shall teach Torah values to your children through discussions with them when you sit at home and by your actions when you walk on life’s pathways.”
My father had his business office in our house. I was never allowed to disturb him although I could see him working through the open door of his office.  I remember when he ran into the living room when he heard an earsplitting crash coupled with the sound of shattering glass.  He saw a hand-cut crystal bowl, a wedding present, on the floor in a hundred pieces.  Papa’s surprise look turned severe.  I stood facing him with a guilty look that said that I had knocked it off the credenza.  I said, “Can the bowl-breaker have a candy?”  He burst out laughing.  I don’t remember getting a candy.

 Neveh Shalom Synagogue in Paramaribo

I loved when my father took me with him to the synagogue.  The entire floor was covered with sand to remind us of the trek of the Israelites across the desert to reach the Promised Land.  I rushed to be the first person in synagogue on Friday evenings after the sand floors were raked smooth so that my footprints would be the first to show.  On Shabbat mornings, my father often volunteered to chant the weekly portion from the Torah scroll in either the Ashkenazi synagogue Neveh Shalom or the Sephardi synagogue Tzedek Ve-Shalom.

Tzedek Ve-Shalom Synagogue, Paramaribo, reconstructed in The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

More than a half-century later in Jerusalem, I envisioned him on the raised bima in the center of the Tzedek Ve-Shalom synagogue that was dismantled, transported to Israel, and reconstructed on the campus of the Israel Museum in 2010.  I created an artwork My Synagogue Came on Aliyah that documents this story for the exhibition Silent Witnesses: Migration Stories through Synagogues Transformed, Rebuilt, or Left Behind in Detroit in 2012.
Every evening, Channa and I stood around mommy’s piano with our cousins, Flip and Dekie, as she played Dutch children’s songs and sang with us. Often Judy, a relative from Israel, joined us. We loved to sing the song, “Three little toddlers were sitting on a fence/On top of the fence/On a beautiful warm day in September.”  We also enjoyed a song about the ice cream man. The lyrics made sense to mommy who was born in Amsterdam and grew up in Holland.   They made no sense to us kids who grew up in the tropics where it is hot all year around and where we had no ice cream. 

On the left is my mother and father with my sister Channa on his knee.  I'm sitting on my uncle Jacques' knee.  In the front are my cousins Flip, Dekie and Judy.

When I was a year old, my cousins Flip and Dekie came to live with us after their mother Saar, mommy’s identical twin sister had died.  As little girls, mommy and Saar looked so much alike that on Shabbat when they went to their grandfather’s house for his blessing, he asked, “Who is Annie?  “Who is Saar?”   Since Saar was born minutes before mommy, he gave Saar the first blessing.  Mommy’s grandfather was Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner, the chief rabbi of Holland who had the foresight to see at the beginning of the 20th century the bleak future for the Jews of Europe.    
As Hitler rose to power in Germany, Saar’s recurring nightmares about the Nazis ripping her children away from her prompted her to settle with Flip, Dekie, and her husband Jacques in Aruba, a Dutch island in the Caribbean.  She died from a botched gall-bladder operation.  Jacques, a busy businessman, was not able to raise his children alone.  My parents were happy to have them live with us in Suriname.   Mommy told that when Dekie walked down the stairs from the airplane and saw her, she cried out in joy, “Oh mommy, you’re all better now.”  Her older brother Flip explained to her that it was their aunt Annie she was hugging, not their mother.
On my fourth birthday, mommy gave birth to my brother Joop in our house.  My father told me to sit and wait for my special birthday present.  My mother set my newborn brother in a wicker basket on the floor in front of me.  They said, “Here’s your birthday present.”  I leaned forward to take him out of the basket when I was stopped. I was angry that I couldn’t play with my birthday present.
Seven months later, my uncle Jacques came with his new wife to take Flip and Dekie back to their home in Aruba. I only knew Flip as my protective big brother and Dekie as my spirited older sister rather than as cousins since they had come to Suriname when I was a year old.  They were suddenly gone.  I was struck by the absence of their voices when only Channa and I were left to sing with mommy as she played piano that evening.  Seeing their empty beds made the somber reality cry out.
My father drove to the Port of Paramaribo when ships arrived from Europe to see if any Jewish refugees disembarked.  Hundreds of Jews found refuge in Suriname escaping from the Holocaust during the 1940’s.  He invited them to our home to tell them about kosher food, mikveh, the Sephardi and Ashkenazi synagogues, and other necessities for Jewish life in their new home at the edge of the jungle.  Mommy and papa invited some to stay with us until they were settled.
Mommy and papa put me and Channa to bed before they talked to their guests.  They did not want us to hear the stories that the refugees told about the horrors happening to the Jews in Europe.  My bed was up against a wooden wall that didn’t reach up to the ceiling.  There was a full-foot gap between the wall and the ceiling to let air circulate between the rooms in the humid heat of our house. We overheard the stories floating over the wall.
I had a recurring nightmare that I was running between scorched trees scattered through an endless field.  I was searching for a place to hide. Terrified.  Out-of-breath.  No place to hide.  I heard them running after me.  I quickly glanced back.  I saw five or six Nazis coming closer and closer.   I picked up speed, not losing hope of finding a place to hide in the barren wasteland before they caught and kill me.  I suddenly found myself a hiding place caged under tightly-woven netting hanging over me from the ceiling, tucked-in under my mattress on all four sides.  I woke up from my dream safe in my bed covered with netting to save me from the toxic tropical insects.
For years, I could not understand how my mother had the strength to play cheerful children’s songs on her piano as she joyously sang with us every day knowing the horrific fate of her parents Yehuda and Devora.  She learned from the refugees how the Dutch Police rounded up the Jews in Amsterdam and shipped them off to the gas chambers of Auschwitz on Dutch Railway trains.  Her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews were herded onto some of the 65 non-stop, one-way trains from Amsterdam to Auschwitz.  All were killed.  Recently, it was pointed out to me that her giving us a happy childhood was the right thing to do since she was helpless to do anything about the Holocaust.  It was a heroic thing to do.
It was clear to my parents that the Jewish future for their children would be in the Israel yet to be born.  Mommy’s brother Jo and her sister Fie had been living there since the early 1930’s.  Jo was a farmer in Hibat Tzion (Affection for Zion), a moshav near Netanya.  Fie lived in Bat Yam south of Tel Aviv where she was a singer with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.  Papa’s mother came to live with us in Paramaribo and his brother Saul moved to New York before Hitler’s rise to power.  His brother Jules survived the Holocaust in hiding and moved to Paris.  His sister Devora and his other six siblings, their spouses, and all their children were murdered.  Devora was also mommy’s mother.  My mother married her favorite uncle, my father.
Our family’s active involvement in Zionism began four decades before Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress in 1897.  Mommy’s grandfather Yosef Tzvi Dunner wrote about his Zionist thoughts as a young yeshiva student in Krakow.  He was stabbed in the back by a fellow student, an anti-Zionist zealot typical of many yeshiva students in Europe. He was rushed from the hospital out of Poland in fear for his life.  He moved to Germany where he earned a doctorate in 1862 from the University of Bonn for his thesis on the philosophy and poetry of Abraham Ibn Ezra, one of the most distinguished biblical commentators born in Tudela, Spain, in 1089.
His creative ideas on the synthesis of Torah study and secular learning and of Judaism and Zionism prompted the Amsterdam Jewish community to invite him to head its rabbinical seminary.  He accepted the positon and was subsequently elected Chief Rabbi of Holland.  In his 1895 Rosh Hashanah sermon on the spiritual significance of the Zionist reawakening of the Jewish nation, he said: “Eventually the shofar will sound to the full return of those lost and dispersed to Israel, their homeland.”
Mommy realized her grandfather’s dream by beginning our journey to our homeland in February 1948, three months before the rebirth of the Jewish State after two thousand years of exile.  She was excited about joining her siblings Fie and Jo who she hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years.  Papa stayed behind to sell our house and move his business office to a rented space.  He drove us to the Paramaribo airfield where we boarded a propeller-driven KLM plane to New York where mommy was to arrange our passage on a ship to Israel.
When the plane landed at LaGuardia Airport, mommy hurried to dress us in alien long-sleeved garments and funny brown leggings that she had sewn for our trip.  I had never worn more than a thin cotton dress.  We were the last passengers to leave the plane.  I walked out of the plane onto the staircase with Channa.  Mommy followed us carrying Hans and holding Joop’s hand.  I was suddenly attacked all over my body by pins and needles piercing my skin.  I had never in my life felt cold.  I quickly turned pushing mommy aside to return to the plane.  Channa followed.  Mommy’s makeshift clothes were no protection against winter air blowing across the airfield.  Since the stewardess began closing the airplane’s door, we had no choice but to run down the stairs and race into the airport building.  The New York sky fooled me.   It was as blue and bright as a steaming Suriname sky.
I was so frightened and disoriented on the drive from the airport without papa that I don’t remember going over the Triborough Bridge or seeing the Manhattan skyline.  The taxi drove through dreary grey streets past naked trees stripped of their leaves.  There were no wooden houses painted in bright white surrounded by green foliage dotted with ripening mangos.  The driver dropped us off in front of a towering grey stone building.  We walked up wide steppingstones into a cavernous windowless lobby lined at one end with doors.  We clung to mommy as she searched for the door of our Dutch host family.  The family’s two children Leo and Blanch greeted us warmly.  The bright light coming through the high windows in their apartment added to the warmth of our temporary home on Riverside Drive.
Mommy arranged for Channa and me to go to the yeshiva elementary school where Leo and Blanche studied.  An unsympathetic teacher sat behind her desk babbling in Yiddish accented English.  She never smiled.  I didn’t understand one word of her non-stop chattering.  Mommy switched us to the local public school.  A soft-spoken woman with long blond curls greeted mommy in the school office.  She introduced herself to me, took my hand and led me to her classroom, offered me a seat near her desk, and introduced me to my new classmates.  Every day when I came to school, Mrs. McBride greeted me and made me feel that her classroom was mine.   I loved how she pranced around the room smiling as she spoke.  Her enthusiastic tone of voice often carried her message even when didn’t understand her words.
When I was in a store with mommy, I saw a barrette with two yellow doves facing each other with their wings spread upward.  They had tiny black eyes.  I loved it.  Mommy bought it for me.  The next morning, I gave it to Mrs. McBride.  She thanked me profusely as she clipped it into her curls in front of the class.  I was so proud and happy on every day she wore it to school.
We had planned to stay in New York for only a few weeks until we boarded a ship to Israel.  When Arab militias intensified their attacks against the Jews living in Israel, my parents changed our plans.  Hordes of local Arabs joined by the armies of surrounding Arab states battled to annihilate the Jewish State at the time of its rebirth.  When Israel’s War of Independence dragged on into the summer, papa arranged for us to return to Suriname.


Wooden houses in Paramaribo

I did not return to the Suriname that I had left.  Papa had sold our house with all our furniture in it.  We moved into a rented space on the top floor of a three-story wooden house. The two spinster landladies lived on the second floor.  Papa rented the ground floor for his offices.  He ran an import-export business that had been in his family for generations.  He said that his company sold everything except airplanes.  He also had offices in Amsterdam. 
I was sent to a new school since the primary school I left only went to the second grade.  My parents hoped it would better than the school with the dungeon.  When mommy was standing on the balcony of our third-floor apartment and saw children chasing and throwing stones at Channa and me, she took us out of that school, too.  She hired a private teacher, Miss Bulop, to teach us reading and writing Dutch and arithmetic.  We walked to her house every day except for Shabbat.  Hefty Miss Bulop was as wide as she was tall.  She was always dressed in a drab brown dress that matched her dour face that never smiled.       
One of the first of mommy’s old friends who came to visit was Visha.   She was of West African descent like the healer from the jungle who cured the painful sores covering my skin.  But her ancestors were not slaves who escaped into the jungle.  They were among those slaves freed by edict of the Dutch government in the 1870’s.  Mommy first found Visha as a young woman running away from an abusive household.  She was homeless and pregnant.  Mommy, also pregnant with her first child, took Visha into our home and set up a nursery with two cribs next to each other.  Channa and Visha’s daughter, both born in November 1939, were raised side by side.  Visha lived in our home until she married.  She continued to visit mommy until we left for Israel ten years later.
In the Amsterdam market a quarter of a century later, Visha saw Channa shopping and recognized her.  She called out her Dutch name “Hanake, Hanake” in her deep melodic voice.  When Channa heard a familiar voice, she turned and saw Visha’s cheerful face.  They ran to each other and hugged.  Both were living in Holland with their Dutch husbands and children.  When mommy was 90 in 1997, Visha visited her at Queen Julian Home for Parents in Israel.  Mommy drove Visha along the Route 5 high-speed freeway from Herzliya to Petah Tikva in her red Volva to visit Channa who also lived in Israel at the time. 
 Channa’s tenth birthday party stands out as a major event of my childhood.  We celebrated in a sundrenched clearing between cocoa bean trees and the dense growth of giant tropical trees flowing into our backyard from the Amazon jungle.  Channa and I sang with the girls from the Hebrew class that my mother taught.  In our colorful party dresses, we crowded around a block of ice waiting for paper cones filled with shaved ice smothered with red syrup.  I looked forward to my tenth birthday party.  It never happened.  We moved to Israel when I was nine.

About the writer Miriam Benjamin Alexenberg: I am an artist who has created Jewish ceremonial objects and clayscapes inspired by the forces of geology and erosion in the Negev desert. I also created Legacy Thrones, three monumental artworks made in collaboration with elders from different ethnic communities of Miami and art students in Jerusalem. My artwork has been exhibited in galleries and museums in New York, Miami, Washington D.C., Detroit and Honolulu. I studied at Columbia University, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Arrowmont School of Crafts, Massachusetts College of Art, and earned my M.F.A. at Pratt Institute. I was artist-in-residence at the South Florida Art Center and have taught at colleges in Israel and New York.
This blog post appears in two parts at The Times of Israel and LinkedIn.

06 June 2019

Bible Cure for Smartphone Addiction Revealed in New Book "Through a Bible Lens"

Research at MIT, Columbia University and universities in Israel by Dr. Alexenberg is revealed in his latest book  


A spiritual cure for the global epidemic of smartphone addiction is revealed in the highly acclaimed book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media by Dr. Mel Alexenberg http://throughabiblelens.blogspot.com. 

It is based on his research on the interrelationships between digital culture, creative process, and biblical thought at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and as professor at Columbia University and universities in Israel. See http://biblecure.blogspot.com.

The intensity of this plague becomes evident in a Google search “smartphone addiction” that yielded 51,100,000 sites, and 8,380,000 sites for “cures for smartphone addictions.” Scientific papers in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions and other journals of psychology and public health claim that smartphones are the biggest non-drug addiction of the 21st century.

In the language of digital culture: Dr. Alexenberg wrote Through a Bible Lens in the language of digital culture to reach millennials, the most addicted population, while teaching all generations the most up-to-date thoughts on how the Bible offers fresh insights on the impact of new technologies on contemporary life.  His book offers resources for The Bible Cure as a three-step program:

Turn off, tune out, unplug: The first step found in the words of the Ten Commandments, “On six days do all your work, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of compete rest, holy to God,” invites you to turn off, tune out, unplug once a week. Make every seventh day different from the other six days of the week. Enjoy family and friends, walk in the forest and fields, and watch the sunrise and sunset.
 
Reboot your smartphone for spiritual seeing: The second step of the cure does not ask you not to use your smartphone, but rather to redefine how you use it.  Reboot your smartphone for spiritual seeing so that you see beyond the digital world of the screen. Experience the real word by transforming your smartphone into a camera for photographing your everyday life from biblical perspectives. 
 
Bible blog your life: The third step teaches you how to use your smartphone to build a personal Bible blog for creating a vibrant dialogue between your emerging life story and the enduring biblical narrative that you can share with others.  The Bible Cure is equally effective for preventing smartphone addiction.

“The iPhone has changed our culture and our ways of thinking and acting in the world. The book offers profound insights about meaning and purpose in contemporary life in a brilliant and sustained exposition. Great book!” Dr. Ron Burnett, author of How Images Think; president, University of Art and Design, Vancouver

“A unique and fascinating book. Who would have thought that there would be a way to connect smartphones to the ancient world of the Bible?” Prof. Gerald R. McDermott, Beeson Divinity School, Stamford University, Birmingham, Alabama

“Offers a template, a guidebook on how to experience images of the Divine in every moment and use blogging technology to disseminate them. The wisdom found in this unique book invites us to share the story of our Divine journey.” Bishop Robert Stearns, Executive Director, Eagles’ Wings, New York

“A joy to any lover of the Bible, Christian or Jewish. I not only endorse it, I look forward to integrating these ideas into my personal encounter with Scripture." Dr. Jim Solberg, author of Sinai Speaks; USA National Director, Bridges for Peace 


Contact the author at melalexenberg@yahoo.com for further information, book reviews, interviews, and articles.

Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media is available on Amazon, other Internet booksellers and bookstores

"Phoneweek" Magazine Article on Dr. Alexenberg's Cure for Smartphone Addiction

The international magazine PHONEWEEK: Mobile, Tablets and Laptops reveals a Bible cure for smartphone addiction in the new book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media.

https://www.phoneweek.co.uk/new-book-reveals-bible-cure-for-smartphone-addiction/

This is one of the 50 photos in "Through a Bible Lens." It shows a young girl from the lost Israelite tribe of Menasseh that has returned home to Israel from India after 27 centuries of exile.

05 June 2019

Celebrating Shirel's Birthday on Jerusalem Day 2019



My granddaughter Shirel from Yeroham is on the left with cousins from Sderot and Dimona. The photo was taken on June 2, 2019 at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day, Shirel's 25th birthday. It is based on the iconic photo below of the first Israeli soldiers to reach the Kotel in 1967 when Jerusalem was liberated after 2,000 years of occupation by foreign powers from the Romans to the Ottomans.      



In creating the "Bible Blog Your Life" project, my wife Miriam and I invited our granddaughter Shirel to be the guest blogger for the post "Numbers 2: Jerusalem Means Seeking Peace." See the post at http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.com/2014/01/numbers-2-jerusalem-means-seeing-peace.html

The "Bible Blog Your Life" project forms the core of my book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media.

See my Time of Israel blog "Jerusalem Day is Shirel's Birthday" https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-day-is-shirels-birthday/

14 February 2019

New Book Engages Evangelical Millennials with the Bible through Smartphone Photography

But My servant Kalev, because he was imbued with a different spirit and remained loyal to Me—him will I bring into the land that he entered, and his offspring shall hold it as a possession.” (Numbers 14:24)
 
By Eliana Rudee

From Israel Breaking News/Israel365, January 14, 2019

In the context of a flourishing era for Jewish-Christian relations in the United States and abroad, Israel is witnessing a new level of passionate support from Evangelical Protestant Christians - a group that represents more than a quarter of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center.

Israeli professor and author Mel Alexenberg says that Israelis value the support of such Zionist Christians, who have largely been credited with strengthening the political and spiritual bonds between Washington and Jerusalem, especially under the Trump presidency. Their bond to Israel relies on the Biblical mandate to bless Israel and the belief that the modern rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 and re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel represents fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

However, in light of studies that raise concerns that the younger generation of Evangelical Christians “may not continue the enthusiasm for Israel of their parents and grandparents,” their support should not be taken for granted, says Alexenberg. The professor of art and education saw the great potential of Evangelical support for Israel, as well as the challenge of capturing the interest of the next generation, and set out to engage the younger generation towards a more Biblical and pro-Israel mindset.  

“There are many fine books written by Christian Zionists that set out the case for Israel based upon the Biblical narrative,” he wrote in a blog post. “I have found, however, that none speak in the language of the ubiquitous digital culture shaped by smartphones and social media. It is the language that Evangelical millennials understand best.”

Alexenberg’s newest book, published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing and entitled “Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media,” fills this void in a new and creative way, urging the younger generation of Jews and Christians to translate the Bible from contemporary viewpoints. “It speaks to the millennial generation in the their language of digital culture, smartphones and social media,” he told Breaking Israel News, “creating dialogue between digital texts and images that teach how Biblical insights can transform smartphone photography and social media into imaginative ways for seeing spirituality in everyday life.”

AT&T as well as American Airlines have sponsored his innovative efforts about which he writes in the book, such as a visual commentary that conceptually linked wings to corners of a garment and to corners of the United States.

He writes, “While working on my continent-wide artwork, I began to see the four corners of America through a Bible lens. The Biblical Hebrew word kanfot used for the four “corners” of one’s garment and metaphorically as the four “corners” of the earth is the same word used for “wings.”  The preeminent Biblical commentator Rashi points out the links between corners and wings, “The fringes are placed on the corners of their garments, alluding to God having freed the Israelites from Egypt, as it states, ‘and I carried you on the wings of eagles.’”






It brought to mind four Biblical passages:
Speak to the Israelites and say to them that they shall make fringes on the corner wings of their garments for all generations. And they shall include in the fringes of each corner wing a thread of sky-blue wool.” (Numbers 15:37)

Before the Israelites received the Ten Commandments, God tells Moses to say to the Israelites:
You saw what I did in Egypt, carrying you on wings of eagles and bringing you to me.” (Exodus 19:4).

Forty years later standing on the east bank of the Jordan River, Moses reviews the laws of the Torah for the generation born in the desert before they enter the Promised Land. He again said:
Make yourself fringes on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.” (Deuteronomy 22:12).

Before donning his prayer shawl each morning, a Jew says,May the talit spread its wings like an eagle rousing his nest, fluttering over its eaglets.”  

The Biblical prophecy in Isaiah 11:12 is being realized in our day:
He will ingather the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

I created Four Wings of America as a visual commentary that conceptually links wings to corners of a garment and to corners of the land. I made white rope multi-strand fringes each with a sky-blue thread to attach to the four corners of America.”

Alexenberg’s book is informative and educational, not read as a traditional “how to,” but clearly sparking food for thought for the younger generation about how they can make their photographs spiritual. Chapters include content on the creative process, to linking personal and Biblical narratives, to photographing attributes such as compassion, strength, beauty, success and splendor. “This is especially useful for a young person who has planned a trip to Israel,” said Alexenberg. “So they will know how to experience Israel, not just photographing, but seeing everything from a Biblical perspective.”

As a professor of art and education at Columbia University, research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies and dean of visual arts at New World School of the Arts in Miami (in addition to his many teaching credentials in Israel), Alexenberg has previously written academic books on the intersection of art, digital culture, and Jewish thought: The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness and Educating Artists for the Future, both published by Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press, and Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Four Essays on Judaism and Contemporary Art published in Hebrew in Jerusalem.

 
After looking into who purchased and read his academic books, Alexenberg realized that they were being purchased and read by more Evangelicals than Jews. He thus sought to publish his next book with a Christian publishing company to “educate young Evangelicals for the future” where emerging art forms of the 21st century are “consistent with the Jewish view that spirituality is to be found in everyday life, embedded in everything we do.”

He explained that Judaism teaches us to strive to draw spirituality down into the world and into every part of our involvement with it, our work and our social life, until not only do they not distract from our pursuit of God, but they become a full part of it.  As the younger generation is constantly looking at the world through their smartphones, he said, this tool is the natural answer to the question of how to engage the younger generation in the goal of embedding Godliness into the world.

In his new book, Alexenberg shows creative ways to use a smartphone as a magic lens that lets you see your place of work and your fellow workers in a new light.  It invites taking selfies with your spouse, parents, siblings, and children so that you see them in ways you never saw them before. You can transform your old friends into new friends by focusing through a Bible lens.  

His book is a practical guide for photographing the splendor of God by opening your eyes in wonder wherever you find yourself. Seeing with eyes of wonder is seeing for the first time every time.

10 February 2019

"Through the Bible Lens" Speaks in the Language of Digital Culture

Prof. Mel Alexenberg working in his lab/studio at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies

SPEAKS TO MILLENNIALS IN TODAY'S LANGUAGE OF DIGITAL CULTURE. It presents to all generations the most up-to-date thoughts on how The Bible gives fresh insights on the impact of new technologies on contemporary life. Christians and Jews should buy THROUGH A BIBLE LENS for themselves as well as for their children and grandchildren.

A MUST-READ BEFORE VISITING THE HOLY LAND! Learn how to share your experiences on social media and transform your smartphone photographs into biblical messages emerging from what you see. It's all in the book THROUGH A BIBLE LENS.

31 January 2019

My New Book Shows Trump's Wall through a Bible Lens


My latest book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media hot off the press from publisher HarperCollins arrived last week in Israel from Tennessee.  Nice to finally see it in print.  Thumbing through the book to see how my photographs appear in miniature matt, Trump’s wall jumped out at me.
 
The photo shows a steel wall separating the United States from Mexico where San Diego meets Tijuana at the Pacific Ocean.  In the photo is a giant ritual fringe (tzitzit) with a blue strand linking sky to sea that I had draped on the wall.  On the same page, there are photos of rope tzitzit flowing into the Pacific from a tree trunk at Washington State, and tzitzit flowing into the Atlantic Ocean from the coasts of Maine and Florida.  There are no walls at the Washington, Maine and Florida corners of USA.

When I moved from New York to accept the position as  dean of New World School of the Arts, University of Florida’s arts college in Miami, I sensed that I had come to live at one of the four corners of continental United States.  The photos in my book document my Four Wings of America environmental artwork linking the four corners of USA.  I created it for the City of Miami’s centennial celebration in 1996.  In 1996? Twenty-three years ago, Trump’s wall was already up at the southwest corner of USA.   

While working on my continent-wide artwork, I began to see the four corners of America through a Bible lens. The biblical Hebrew word kanfot used for the four “corners” of one’s garment and metaphorically as the four “corners” of the earth is the same word used for “wings.”  The preeminent biblical commentator Rashi points out the links between corners and wings, “The fringes are placed on the corners of their garments, alluding to God having freed the Israelites from Egypt, as it states, ‘and I carried you on the wings of eagles.’” It brought to mind four biblical passages.

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them that they shall make fringes on the corner wings of their garments for all generations.  And they shall include in the fringes of each corner wing a thread of sky-blue wool.” (Numbers 15:37)

Before the Israelites received the Ten Commandments, God tells Moses to say to the Israelites:

"You saw what I did in Egypt, carrying you on wings of eagles and bringing you to me.” (Exodus 19:4) 

Forty years later standing on the east bank of the Jordan River, Moses reviews the laws of the Torah for the generation born in the desert before they enter the Promised Land.  He again said:

“Make yourself fringes on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.” (Deuteronomy 22:12). 

Before donning his prayer shawl each morning, a Jew says, “May the talit spread its wings like an eagle rousing his nest, fluttering over its eaglets.”  The biblical prophecy in Isaiah 11:12 is being realized in our day:

“He will ingather the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth”

I created Four Wings of America as a visual commentary that conceptually links wings to corners of a garment and to corners of the land.  I made white rope multi-strand fringes each with a sky-blue thread to attach to the four corners of America. 

I contacted American Airlines, the largest U.S. corporation in the wing business, to request their sponsorship of my artwork.  They invited me to present my proposal.  I spread the rope tzitzit on the boardroom table to explain to the airline executives their biblical significance and why I wanted to create a visual commentary by placing them at the four corner/wings of America.  It became apparent my proposal was appreciated, when the airline’s vice-president said, “It is as if the United States is spiritually lifted up by its four corners as the blue thread of the fringes links the sea to the sky.”  They agreed to sponsor the project by flying me to the four corners of America to physically realize my spiritual metaphor. 

I attached tzitzit fringes to a swaying palm shading the beach of a balmy Florida bay and to a huge barnacle-encrusted boulder on the Maine coast. I flew to Seattle and drove to Neah Bay, an Indian reservation at the end of the Olympia Peninsula in Washington State, attached the tzitzit to a tree at the shoreline.  At the southwest corner, the tzitzit shuddered in the wind hanging from the steel wall that separates San Diego from Tijuana at the Pacific Ocean. 

My book with all fifty full-color pictures is available at Amazon and most other Internet booksellers as well as at your local bookstore.  See the book’s blog at http://throughabiblelens.blogspot.com.  

From Times of Israel, IsraelSeen, and LinkedIn