Saturday, October 11, 2014
In a recent episode of the podcast “Love + Radio,” the artist Annie Berman pursues an unlikely relationship. Ms. Berman placed an ad on Craigslist asking someone in the Hasidic community in the southern half of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood to help her understand and perhaps locate the area’s eruv.
An eruv is a ritual boundary that very religious Jews construct in their neighborhoods to allow them to carry objects on the sabbath. It often demarcates a particularly observant community and, for that reason, can sometimes raise controversy.)
Ms. Berman gets an answer to her ad. Over the course of 31 minutes, Ms. Berman speaks with “Marty,” a 25-year-old Hasidic man who quickly disappoints Ms. Berman: He tells her that the eruv’s location is a closely held secret that only certain religious leaders in the community can locate.
Marty is less interested in talking about his neighborhood’s eruv, however, than he is in comparing his daily experience with Ms. Berman’s. He agrees to let Ms. Berman record their conversations. Ms. Berman is in the process of moving apartments and, she tells Marty, she will soon live several blocks away from him. Despite their proximity, the pair’s perception of the world is starkly different. The two discuss college, the Internet, marriage and sex over the course of several recorded phone conversations. (Ms. Berman also made a film that animates a slightly shorter version of the audio.)
Marty is willing to share his experiences but is just as eager to ask Ms. Berman about hers. He accepts her proposition to take photographs of his neighborhood and hopefully of the eruv; in exchange he asks her whether she is in a relationship and why men who are not bound to women by marriage remain faithful. It’s a question Ms. Berman struggles to answer, both for Marty and for herself.
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