Building bridges through Jewish Culture

Teens with special needs find meaning in Tu Bishvat photo exhibit

Abed Mahjana with his mother and sister, and photo tour guide Shivi Isman. Photo credit: Sonia Chaim

Certain incidents demonstrate that Neve Schechter has become an urban oasis, a bridge between Neve Tzedek and Jaffa, between Jews and Muslims, between arts and Jewish wisdom. The following story of our Tu Bishvat Art & Community program is one moving example of the junction of all these bridges.

Abed Mahjana comes from a Muslim family in the neighboring area of Jaffa and attends the arts track at a school near Neve Schechter that brings together people from different religious, social and economic backgrounds.
Last year, he and some of his classmates joined our Tu Bishvat community program: a short session on Jewish sources about trees and ecology, a guided photo tour of urban nature inspired by these texts and the subsequent exhibition of the photographs.

This year Abed asked his teachers to register him once again. His love for taking photographs had become stronger and this time he was more confident and knew what to expect from the program.  He wasn’t wrong. Due to the excellent artistic quality, composition and connection to the text, one of his photographs was selected to introduce the exhibition and it was printed on the invitation to the opening evening.

Two program participants and their picture at the exhibit opening. Photo credit: Sonia Chaim

The formal opening was scheduled for the annual Tu Bishvat event at Neve Schechter’s synagogue. All participants were invited along with their friends and family. Even though Abed’s family had never entered a synagogue before, this occasion merited a visit. Abed’s mother shyly entered the building and was surprised to see her son’s name on the large photograph opening the exhibition.

When she looked up, she saw Abed standing proud and tall next to his work, she could not hide her emotions. His teachers at the special education school congratulated him and promised to make sure that he will participate in many more exhibitions.