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First Place
Carolyn Drake National Geographic Magazine / Blueeyes Magazine
"The Lubavitch"

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"The Rebbe" Morning light shines across a portrait of the revered spiritual leader Menachem Mendel Schneerson as women discuss methods of teaching religion to the secular world. Schneerson, who is commonly referred to as 'the Rebbe,' launched a program of 'Jewish outreach,' sending Lubavitch families to live abroad and promote Judaism around the world. The program continues today ten years after his passing.

The Lubavitch The Lubavitch are one of several groups of ultra-orthodox Jews spawned from the original Hasidic movement in Eastern Europe 300 years ago. The group found refuge in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn after fleeing the Holocaust, and has been headquartered there ever since. As in the past, song, dance, and storytelling, along with strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, form the core of the culture. New York City holds the world's largest concentration of Hasidic Jews. Nonetheless, after living there for eight years, I still knew next to nothing about how these people lived and why they chose to remain so insular. Pursuing a photo project on the Lubavitch of Crown Heights was an attempt to cross the invisible barrier that separated my secular world, which was also somewhat insular, from theirs. In Lubavitch Crown Heights, I discovered a rigidly gendered, family-oriented community - men and women live in virtual isolation from each other, even when married. This gender separation seemed preposterous at times, but I couldn't help but admire the bonds of friendship I found between women and between men in the community. And despite the surface of uniformity I encountered, I was awestruck by the intensity with which individuals embraced spirituality. I began this project while working as an intern at National Geographic Magazine and continued it independently afterward. The essay was published in Blueeyes Magazine in June 2004.



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