Gan Izzy. Silver Edition.

I’ve been reading a lot (relative to not reading a lot). Mostly books on education and child rearing, a bit of Roald Dahl, some Calvin & Hobbes, “The Boys of Summer” an amazing book about baseball (but more about life) by Roger Kahn (who seems to be a master of the run-on-sentence, a trait which I respect immensely), and the “Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” (though I’m unsure about the “the” before that one).

I started that last one because it was free (woohoo!), and am still reading it because it’s awesome. And unlike the Lego theme song, I don’t think everything is awesome, but awesome things are.

I just finished Chapter IX “Plan for Attaining Moral Perfection”

Now normally such a title, and probably the ensuing text, would elicit major eye-rolling and much sanctimony.

Not this one. He writes at the end about how he tried curbing his Pride, and, in his words, “I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it… for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”

I imagine his recipe for dialogue should be a prerequisite for all social crusaders.

“I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fix’d opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive, I apprehend, or I imagine a thing to be so or so; or it so appears to me at present. When another asserted something that I thought an error, I deny’d myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear’d or seem’d to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engag’d in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I propos’d my opinions procur’d them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevail’d with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.”

I may as well just copy and paste the whole book, so here goes… just kidding! sheesh!

But this one paragraph really spoke to me. He was talking about his once-upon-desire to start a Society called “The Society of the Free and Easy: free, as being, by the general practice and habit of the virtues, free from the dominion of vice; and particularly by the practice of industry and frugality, free from debt, which exposes a man to confinement, and a species of slavery to his creditors.”

And he ends of with (emphasis added): “and I was not discourag’d by the seeming magnitude of the undertaking, as I have always thought that one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes, and accomplish great affairs among mankind, if he first forms a good plan, and, cutting off all amusements or other employments that would divert his attention, makes the execution of that same plan his sole study and business.”

I’m gonna paint that on my wall. Make it my desktop. And if I still had a screensaver I would put it there as well.

We can all do great things, if we just put our minds to it.


Last year I had the privilege of documenting the local Gan Israel Day Camp, where both I and my wife we campers and later on counselors (it's part of the largest Jewish network of Summer Camps started by the Lubavitcher Rebbe). It’s a wonderful camp , on a huge campus. We look at these organizations and programs and think “that’s amazing! I could never start something like that.” But we are just selling ourselves short… 

for “one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes”…

May we all work great changes and accomplish great affairs among mankind.

Unplug that Childhood, yo! January edition

In which we played in the leaves, all got sick (with the flu! yuck!), got haircuts, bought a 3/4 guitar and started guitar lessons (online and free of course), bought binoculars (actually Zevi did), went tar-pitting and discovered that it was actually a saber-toothed cat not tiger (I'm still ticked about that, I mean tiger sounds much scarier than cat), went hiking in a legally grey zone, put together a large lego house held together with mud, went birdwatching, and got Zevi's eye's examined, wrote run on sentences, and were too lazy to write something deep and meaningful! Woohoo!

Check out the rest of the unpluggers!
childhood unplugged instagram here
and my instagram here

Write here...

in which Yossi and Chana Saraleh hang out under the chuppah

When all is said and done here is what you have to remember. Yossi (the groom) flew in from Australia. AUSTRALIA. Where it is now summer. And he flew to New York. NEW YORK. Just to marry Chana Sara’leh. Now that is true love.

I had the privilege of photographing her brother’s wedding (you could check that out here if you feel so inclined), and it’s truly an honor to work with this wonderful family again. Clients that “get it” and understand why I shoot the way I do, and AGREE! That is a blessing :)

So sit back, grab some kombucha and kimchi, and enjoy this beautiful day (not like, today, I don’t know where you live (actually I do, but I don’t want to scare you) or on which day you are viewing this (see above), but like this wedding day).


I wrote that all last week, before this whole thing with Paris went down, and now it feels a bit trite. 

Weddings are real, deep, and meaningful. I mean they happen all the time, and as part of the wedding-industrial-machine, I can fall into the cynical camp.

We tend to view things on the global scale as “big”, and “world-changing”, and we often direct our attention as such. But truthfully the world changes slowly as people work on themselves, their family, and their community.

One of the odder happenings by Jewish weddings is the custom of breaking the glass. At the end of the Chuppah the groom with a quick (sometimes practiced :) ) leg movement, smashes a glass (hopefully wrapped), after which everyone says “Mazel Tov!”, the band often starts playing and the solemness of the ceremony is quickly overrun by the joy of the family and friends. 

The custom is there to remind us that no joy is ever complete while our Holy Temple is still unbuilt and we are still in exile.

So why is that the cue for everyone to go all ballistic with joy?

Well here’s the deal. The Talmud tells us that G-d allowed for the the destruction of the Temple due to “baseless hatred”. The petty rumor mills, the class distinctions, the arguing, the bickering. Which all might start out as small and innocent, but it’s like an avalanche, gaining speed and intensity as it rolls past the generations.  

Marriage is the opposite of that. It’s one person promising the other that even though life isn’t perfect, that there will be little things that annoy us, bickerings that can degenerate into arguments, doghouses and worse. But we won’t let that happen. It’s a promise to focus on the good in each other, and, even when it doesn’t make sense, to love each other. In a word baseless love. 

And that’s the beginning of the redemption.

Mazel Tov! Cue the band…


Makeup by Sary Farkash
Hair by Salon Leah
Florals by Mimulo 

Special thanks to the awesome Aga Matuszewska from Storytellers and Co. for shooting this with me. 

Childhood Unplugged. September Edition.

So somehow it has come to pass, in the year two thousand and fifteen, towards the end of the ninth month, that I, Zalmy Berkowitz, have been drafted into the worldwide denomination of "unpluggers". What are these unpluggers you ask? Wonderful question. 

Unbeknownst to all ye proles (of which I was one of just one short month ago), or maybe beknownst, there is a nefarious group of mom and dads (mostly moms, which is why I need to grow my beard extra long), who, through the use of their photon-capturing devices, plan separate, using force if necessary, a child from the screen.

(Pause. Stop. If you are interested in some rocking family photos and you haven't seen my new documentary session offering, please do so now. no seriously. now. Click. Here. And Here.)

Yes, it is horrible, the thought of a child separate from his computer, device, tv, or wii. The sheer terror!

Be it as it may (whatever that means), I'm totally on board. I mean we do it too often, when things get tough, we dump the kids in front of some sort of mesmerizing hypnotic machine. But we really do try to minimize that dumpage. Until hopefully we eradicate it completely. Kids separate from screens come alive. Their imaginations run free with their own fantasies instead of this co-script from some sort of show. They slow down, have more patience, and learn about the actual world. Like you know the real one. With air and stuff. 

Part of my draftification is posting a monthly post of my childhood unplugged images. So here you go!

For more on this awesome project see the instagram account and their website,

Starting with a few (okay maybe more than a few) from our trip from Idyllwild (the highlight of which was finding a treasure trove of beer bottles for recycling)...

And then some in and around, you know. Then a few from a trip to my sister's house for a new Torah celebration (that deserves a blog post of its own), followed by some Kosher Ice Cream in LA, some readage, and finally some minecraft studyage with uncle. Wait, what minecraft?! yeah. shut up, I ain't perfect. Yet. 

Oh, and one from the beach. What's interesting (for me) is that this photo reminds me not so much of this instance, but of the fact that this wa re-enacted a few minutes later but with a whole bunch of birds flying around. I was going to get my phone again (this wa taken with an iphone) but I had already decided that I wasn't going to take any more photos. So I didn't. And I was very proud of myself for that. You know, trying the whole Adulthood Unplugged thing myself :)