|Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname|
You know her as my partner in creating the “Bible Blog Your Life” blogart project 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 .
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
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.