Photojournalist Judah Passow's No Place Like Home at the Jewish Museum

By Jennie Gillions | 13 March 2012
A black and white photo of a woman in a wedding dress
© Judah Passow Photography
Exhibition: No Place Like Home, Jewish Museum, London, until June 5 2012

What does it mean to be Jewish and British in the early 21st century? Award-winning photojournalist Judah Passow spent a year seeking an answer to that question, and the result is this intriguing exhibition.

Passow set out to emphasise the diversity of Jewish life, examining the shared values of community, education and charity alongside differences in faith and tradition within branches of Judaism.

The black and white images are appropriately mixed up, with no discernible demarcation of geography or activity, Liberal, Orthodox or Reform. The monochrome offers the non-Jewish visitor a sense of them-and-us that I suspect is entirely deliberate, but Passow mixes his uniquely Jewish traditions with scenes found in all cultures, enabling both Jewish and non-Jewish viewers to relate to the pictures’ subjects.

One striking photograph shows a Second World War poster, now hanging in an elderly care home in Solihull, of Winston Churchill. The poster was produced for British Mandate Palestine and reads, in Hebrew, “We Shall Win – Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister”.

Passow’s unprecedented access to religious institutions, private homes, family celebrations and community organisations means we can peer into Orthodox weddings, Passover shopping trips, private moments of prayer and lunchtimes in residential care homes.

We also glimpse personal moments in public occasions – the punk in the Union Flag t-shirt at Klezmer Fest in London, the older gentleman looking suspiciously into the lens at a parade for Jewish Ex-Servicemen, and a gay couple dancing at a liberal synagogue.

The sense of them-and-us is therefore also present for Jewish visitors of different congregations, making this exhibition rich and multi-faceted.

One photograph worth mentioning (the one negative of this exhibition is that the sheer number of images, along with the linear layout, means you are likely to miss something fascinating) is that of Crumlin Road Prison, Belfast.

Somewhere in the photograph is the unmarked grave of Eddie Cullens, the only Jew to have been hanged in Great Britain. He was a circus worker who murdered a colleague and was executed in 1932.

Another to look out for is the poignant close-up of an officer cadet at Sandhurst, completing his training before being posted to Afghanistan.

There is no explicit political message in the exhibition, and certainly no aggrieved sense of anti-Semitism. However, Passow could not have given a comprehensive picture of Anglo-Jewish life without referring to Palestine and Israel; his gentle commentary is beautifully balanced.

The Israeli flag shows up in several of the photographs, as does the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. One arresting image shows a tattoo on the neck of a Maccabi League footballer – the tattoo says “Israel” in Hebrew – and another shows a woman laying out the words “Boycott Israel” in what looks like debris.

My Jewish friend thought No Place Like Home was a touchingly honest representation of the depth and diversity of Jewish culture. I, not Jewish, found the exhibition enlightening – a valuable perspective that I had not consciously explored before. These photographs deserve as much time as you’re able to give.

  • Open 10am-5pm (2pm Friday, closed Saturday, closed April 6, 8, 13 and at 2pm on April 12). Admission £3.50-£7.50 (free for under-5s, family ticket £18). Book online.

More pictures:

A black and white photo of a punk and a man in a park
Klezmer Fest, Regent's Park (2009)© Judah Passow Photography
A black and white photo of a young girl playing a small horn next to a duck in a park
A young girl blows the Shofar during a Tashlich service held at the pond in Kensington Park (2010)© Judah Passow Photography
A black and white photo of two men dancing
A gay couple dancing at the end of the Simchat Torah service at a Liberal synagogue in West London© Judah Passow Photography
A black and white photo of a small parked car with the message eat kosher always above it
Synagogue car park, Glasgow (2010)© Judah Passow Photography
A black and white photo of two ex-servicemen in military suits outside a civic hall
Annual parade of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen (AJEX) at Whitehall (2009)© Judah Passow Photography

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