Curator: Nurit Jacobs Yinon
Advisor and Catalog text: Emily Bilski
Participating Artists: Nurit Jacobs Yinon / Ken Goldman / Mira Maylor / Andi Arnovitz
"No one misbegotten shall be admitted into the congregation of the LORD; none of his descendants, even in the tenth generation, shall be admitted into the congregation of the LORD" (Deut. 23:3)
Mamzerim: The Misbegotten is a collaboration between artists Nurit Jacobs-Yinon, Ken Goldman, Andi Arnovitz, and Mira Maylor, highlighting the tragic plight of those defined as illegitimate according to Jewish law. A mamzer is someone born as the result of a sexual relationship forbidden in the Torah. Among these are a child born to a married woman fathered by a man other than her husband, a child born from an incestuous relationship as defined by the Torah, and the descendants—in perpetuity—of a mamzer. Jewish law forbids mamzerim from marrying other Jews, except for other mamzerim or converts, a prohibition that cannot be rescinded. Thus a mamzer is ostracized as the result of the behavior of parents, grandparents, or previous forebears. This ongoing human tragedy taking place within Jewish and Israeli society remains largely unknown.
Today the problem has been exacerbated due to technology, big data, and the lack of separation between religion and state in Israel, with repercussions for Diaspora Jewry as well. In order to prevent the assimilation of mamzerim into the general Jewish population, the Rabbinate, which functions as an arm of the Israeli State, maintains a computerized data base—a blacklist—of those prohibited from marrying.
Working in a variety of media, the artists tell the stories of mamzerim and confront the issues presented by their circumstances in contemporary society. Nurit Jacobs-Yinon’s video installation, Mamzerim: Labeled and Erased is grounded in her experience as a documentary filmmaker and is based on the testimonies of mamzerim and their families. In DNA Huppah, Ken Goldman synthesizes contemporary issues of mamzerut, big data, and biotechnology within a single powerful object. Andi Arnovitz’s The Black List makes visible and concrete, each of the individuals—including mamzerim—who are registered by the Rabbinate as those forbidden to marry. Mira Maylor’s series of glass sculptures, Transparents, expresses the fragility and pain of the mamzerim in our midst. Stigmatized by the circumstances of their birth, mamzerim live with a terrible secret that forces them to keep silent. The works in this exhibition give voice to their stories, and challenge us to find a solution to alleviate their pain.
The exhibition was possible thanks to the generosity of Eric and Orly Herschmann
Venue: Bezeq Building