This painting was inspired by an event that took place in a synagogue that
I attended where my wife was the congregation’s spiritual leader.
During a morning service I had become aware that I was the only male who was
present, and I was observing a service run entirely by women.
My immediate thought was to the astonishing contrast this scene made to
Max Weber’s 1934 painting ‘The Talmudists’ , which recalled his experience upon
visiting a New York Lower East Side synagogue and observing a group of elderly
orthodox men studying and debating the Talmud, and to the remarkable turnaround
of events in our religious life that led to my witnessing the event that enfolded
I then asked myself, “Where are the men?” As I considered the consequence of what
I had witnessed, I realized the underlying reality of this scene. Apart from myself,
there were no men present. It is a documented fact that men are retreating from
responsibility and involvement in religious, secular, social and cultural activities
and women are filling the void.
Upon further reflection, I drew a comparison to the biblical story of the five daughters
of Zelophehad (Numbers 26 and 36), who appear in the top right corner of the painting.
This story includes elements that raise the issue of the feminist aspect and
acknowledged discrimination against women in a patriarchal tradition.
Within our contemporary Jewish paradigm the daughters have become symbols of
feminist consciousness and the struggle of women to affirm their rightful place in all
facets of our communal life.
'The Daughters of Zelophehad: Where Are the Men?', 2010
Oil on Canvas 74"x 60"