Finalist / OpenWalls / Pilgrims coming back to their ancestors homeland

Pilgrims coming back to their ancestors homeland

© Gregory Michenaud, Poland, Finalist

This photo was taken in Leżajsk in south east Poland, which is an important Jewish pilgrimage spot. Each year a couple of thousand Hasidic Jews, mainly from USA and Israel, descend on the town to visit the tomb of rabbi Elimelech Weisblum, one of the founders of the Hasidic movement, on the anniversary of his death. On this date, it is thought that rabbi Elimelech Weisblum comes back to his grave to answer the prayers left on his tombstone.The barrack in the photo was installed on a parking lot facing the cemetery. It was made especially for Kohen (Hebrew word for priest) who are not permitted to enter cemeteries because they can not have “contact” with death. Thanks to this barrack they can pray while seeing the grave of rabbi Elimelech in a warm and dry place.

This photo is part of an ongoing project about Jewish identity, revolving around an old jewish tradition called Yibbum. It follows the story of a grandson of a ‘Yibbum child’ — this means a child of levirate marriage — in search of his identity. It touches on religion, family values, history and a sense of attachment to the land, all aspects that help to define what it means to be Jewish.