Kate Wagle Hitmar is not Jewish and has not been to Israel, but after being surrounded by the diverse faces depicted in the photographs of Erez Kaganovitz, she is ready for a trip to Tel Aviv.
Hitmar, the creative director of the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh — the 10,000 square foot arts and cultural center featuring local art, music and food, in Mt. Lebanon — was charged with hanging the center’s exhibit Humans of Tel Aviv, a collection of 33 images by Israeli photojournalist Kaganovitz, widely known for his project inspired by the blog “Humans of New York.” Since founding Humans of Tel Aviv in 2012, Kaganovitz has amassed a worldwide following of more than 45,000 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He has shared more than 900 photos of the residents of Tel Aviv, along with their stories.
Kaganovitz’s photographs show the authentic cultural and human diversity of Tel Aviv and the country of Israel, with the portraits revealing a city openly embracing individuals of different faiths, skin colors, sexual orientations and lifestyles. In 2016, Classrooms Without Borders created the exhibit, using photographs and text from the project.
“This exhibit has expanded my understanding of the region, and how Tel Aviv is different from other parts of the Middle East,” said Hitmar. “There is obviously an openness there, and welcoming of the full spectrum of ideas and ideologies, and I’ve gained an appreciation of the journey the Jewish people have been through.
“There seems like there is a thirst for understanding and knowledge in Tel Aviv,” she continued. “A lot of the people [in the photographs] have a real gratitude for life and making the most of every moment. When you live that way, there’s not a lot of room for hate.”
The one-man exhibit opened at the Artsmiths on Jan. 28, with an evening reception that drew more than 100 visitors from the South Hills community and beyond. The exhibit will run until Feb. 24.
Brought to the Artsmiths by South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh and presented by CWB, the exhibit is “a great way to educate not only the Jewish community, but the broader community, about the wonderful diversity of Tel Aviv,” said Rob Goodman, director of SHJP.
This is not the first collaboration between SHJP and the Artsmiths, which is located in the barn-like building on McFarland Road that for many years housed Rollier’s Hardware. In the fall, SHJP presented a lunchtime “Nosh and Know” series with Rabbi Danny Schiff, the Foundation Scholar at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, at the venue.
Artsmiths is more than happy to collaborate with the South Hills Jewish community, said Kate McGrady, managing owner of the Artsmiths, which opened just six months ago.
“We thought this was an interesting exhibit and represented a community outreach event,” McGrady said. While most exhibits featured at the venue are created by local artists, McGrady had no qualms about deviating from that protocol for Humans of Tel Aviv.
“This is an important exhibit about tolerance and getting along with others,” McGrady said. “There is diversity everywhere, and the world is now a smaller place. The exhibit is about embracing people who are different. That’s what America is all about. We are interested in sharing interesting things in the South Hills.”
The Humans of Tel Aviv exhibit had made several other stops in Pittsburgh before its showing in Mt. Lebanon, including at Rodef Shalom Congregation, Seton Hill University and Upper St. Clair High School.
“Bringing this exhibit to the Artsmiths continues to build on our strength of bringing things to the South Hills that you would normally have to go to the city to see,” Goodman said.
CWB partners with SHJP “whenever possible,” noted Melissa Haviv, assistant director of CWB. “We’re about engaging and educating the community, so our missions overlap. We are trying to bring people together. This exhibit is a way for Rob [Goodman] to bring his diverse community together, as well as the non-Jewish community.”
For Hitmar, the exhibit carries with it a message “of people living in harmony, the best they can.”
“The people seem to be making the most of every day,” she said.
CWB will be taking the exhibit to two venues in West Virginia in March, and it will also be displayed at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh in April.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.