Yaakov Kaszemacher

A Hassidic Artist

The population of Tzfat is roughly one-third Ultra-Orthodox, one-third Centrist-Religious, and one-third "secular".

Among the Ultra-Orthodox, there are often celebrations centering around holidays, members of the community and their Rabbis, and life-cycle events. Almost anyone living in a Jewish neighborhood with a large Orthodox population can describe seeing masses of black-hatted Orthodox men gathering around their Rabbi, dancing, singing, learning and celebrating.

In Tzfat, these gatherings often included one other figure, Ya'acov Kaszemacher, the well-known artist and photographer whose unique images of these festivities are fascinating to view, and offer one an opportunity to peek into the community during its most joyous moments.

Kaszemacher was raised in Paris, and joined the beatnik artists of the '50s. He migrated to New York City in the '60s, where he easily melded with the counter-culture artists of the Greenwich Village. During his time in New York, his art flourished as he experimented with the psychedelic styles and special effects which were becoming popular. While in New York he also began to work with photography.

Art Develops in Tzfat

When Kaszemacher's interest in traditional Judaism began to rise, he decided to try life in Tzfat. He gravitated to the Ultra-Orthodox style of the Hassidic Jews, and as a member of their community, he had a unique ability to photograph their lives, their celebrations, and their life cycle events from within. Kaszemacher passed away in 2011 but his art lives on in the Old City of Tzfat where his son continues to exhibit his work.

Kaszemacher was a multi-talented artist whose paintings are still on display. It is, however, his photography, in particular his computer-enhanced photographs, which immediately catch the eye of visitors who walk down the street near his gallery in Tzfat's Old City. Few are able to pass without stopping in to admire the images of Tzfat, the nature of the North, and the people whom Kaszemacher captures in his photos.

Kaszemacher looked like an old-world Hassid, but his art remains pure 21st century. He created multiple images through double exposure and experiments with computer graphics to create unified images and concepts. His greatest pleasure was in talking to visitors in his gallery, using his art to educate them about Tzfat and about his Hassidic community. He was one of the first artists in Tzfat to combine his study of Kabbalah with his art, and many of his works have deep mystical meanings. He is deeply missed by all who live in Tzfat and by the many visitors who had the privilege to meet him.

For more on Ya'acov Kaszemacher, click here.

Ya'acov Kaszemacher's gallery is located on Yosef Caro Street, near the Yosef Caro synagogue.