Delta 400

Let not today be yesterday's tomorrow

It's 1:47 AM here in balmy Hancock Park. I'm sitting on a sheetless mattress in the back of my minivan, cushioned with a down blanket and pillow, propped against the sidewall, waiting for sobriety to make its beleaguered appearance.

There's a sort of battle being waged between my stomach and a slightly copious amount of aged fermented barley (single malt of course) from some far flung corner of Scotland. My anti-alcohol muscles have recently been suffering from atrophy. Shrinking, drying up, and generally falling into various states of disuse.

Yesterday was the third day of the Jewish month of Tammuz. On this day nineteen years ago, our Rebbe and leader left this physical world. Unlike the previous leaders, there was no successor. No child, no in-law, no prodigal student willing and able to fill the void. I was just a child, much more oblivious than most, but even I remember the feeling of confusion, the fear of uncharted waters.

As the weeks, months, and years went by, it became clear that the Rebbe, while physically gone, was very much here, still guiding and leading. He somehow left his essence in a prodigious amount of talks, letters, correspondences, lectures, and stories. And through reading, studying, and learning we can not only connect with him, but gain answers and insights to our current challenges.

There's this wonderful concept we have called a Farbrengen. In short it's a gathering of friends, where we talk about real issues, personal challenges, sing Chassidic melodies, and strengthen each others' commitment to keep on rocking the good fight. And there is always the the presence of some good 'ole alcohol to help open up (but drinking too much is strongly frowned upon). One of the concepts that we farbrenged about was the idea (something the Rebbe spoke about very often) that every single day was its own unit of time. Suspended between yesterday and tomorrow, it takes on its own meaning. Not limited to the mistakes and accomplishments of yesterday, nor a pawn to the plans of tomorrow. Yes, yesterday may have been an epic disaster, and tomorrow may be shaping up to be the bees knees, but today is an island. And wallowing or waiting is not an option.

So to all those who find themselves floundering in the narrow chasm between yesterday and tomorrow, I raise this glass of todayness, rich with opportunity, truth, and nowness. Bottoms up!


In my travels I've met some people deserving of all sorts of wonderful adjectives. One of these colorful folks is the inimitable Rabbi Shmuel Marcus and his merry band of the Mrs. and co. Living between yesterday and tomorrow, constantly pursuing new ideas, many of which succeed, some not (one of the successful ones is his band Eighth Day. I had the pleasure of photographing them some time back). Shmuel has been an awesome friend for us since we moved to Long Beach. I've worked for him in various capacities (running Jewish clubs, teaching high school students, adult classes, and currently I design his soulwise magazine) and he is always looking out for us, throwing ideas our way, and acting as a sounding board for my crazy plans. He's also insanely supportive of my photography. This here below is his family.

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Rachel + Yitzie // Los Angeles, CA

I have typers bock. It's a rare yet harsh malady where although one may have much to say, or even write, those tiny muscles in fingers refuse to translate the impulses sent by the brain into action. Instead somehow I end up in front of the fridge, wondering how long I've been there for.

So I grab a beer (or, if there isn't one in the fridge, I storm away fuming), head back to my computer and type with my toes. Yes, this blog was typed with my toes.

I also used seven cameras for this wedding. Seven. Why? That is a very, very good question. My back and shoulders would like to know the same.

Rachel and her family were part of our community since, well, I can't remember when we didn't know each other. It's amazing to see people grow up into truly unique and special people. Yitzi was always grown up. He may have been a child once but we only met a few months before the wedding, so I have no proof. I do know that he is über smart, witty, and kind. Not a bad combo. There's a lot to tell about this beautiful wedding, with beautiful friends, and beautiful families, but I'll let the photos tell the story.


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Ancient of Days

In certain circles I am considered to be hot stuff. The circles are quite small, but they exist. Now I'm sure you're scratching your head trying to figure out why in the world anyone would consider me hot stuff. Let me debefuddle you.

My mother (happy mothers day!) is a Carlebach. The Carlebach family is an old and pretty well known name in the Jewish world. Historically they had many great Rabbis in Germany and surrounding countries. My grandfather was quite the scholar and was twins with one of the most famous Jewish composers of all time, Shlomo Carlebach. "Uncle Shlomo", as we call him, was also a tremendous scholar and brought an excitement about Judasim to thousands of Jews. They even made a broadway musical about him "Souldoctor" (which I have not yet seen).

My mother's mother (happy mothers day!) is a Schneerson. The Schneerson family comes from Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (his son was called Schneur-son) also known as the first Lubavitch Rebbe. He started and was the first "Rebbe" (grand Rabbi) of the Chabad movement, which now has thousands of communities around the world. We come directly from the third Chabad Rebbe (known as the Tzemach Tzedek), as well as from another great Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitchak of Berditchov.

Also, my great grandparents ran an orphanage during world war two which was very instrumental in saving the lives of many many young Jews. I'll stop there :)

My mother (may she live to be well over a thousand) raised us to be aware of where we came from, but not think it made us in any way better than anyone else. A bit special, but no better. I fact I wasn't even aware of how awesome it was until some people found out about it in Yeshiva and were like totally in awe.

I have a point, I promise.

For the holiday of Purim, my Bubby (mother's mother, may she live a long and healthy life) came to California and brought a Megillah (a handwritten Book of Esther, which we read on Purim) which was written by the fourth Chabad Rebbe, known as the Rebbe MaHarash (Rabbi Shmuel). He only wrote three or four megillahs, one of which is in the Library in New York and the other, by Bubby has. It's a beautiful scroll, in remarkable condition for its age (around two hundred years old) with really wonderful handwriting. The Rebbe wasn't a scribe, but his doctor told him he should do detailed work with his hands. So he wrote one Megillah for each of his children.

One of his grandchildren had epilepsy, which in those days caused one to be shunned by most of the community. People tend to fear what they don't understand. Especially epilepsy, as it could look like you're possessed. My great grandparents (especially my great grandmother) took him under their wings, even as an adult. They fed him, bathed him, and treated him as one of their family. In gratitude he gave them his fathers Megillah (which he got from his father). Which made its way down the family and now belongs to my Bubby

Now, my Bubby is very protective of this Megillah. She does not publicize its whereabouts, or if she's going to travel with it or not. Unfortunately there are those who covet these types of objects (do they not read the ten commandments?!). And would go through great lengths to get their hands on it.

Before Purim, we went to the local Chabad Cheder (chassidic boys school) to let the kids see the Megillah and hear my Bubby speak about the Megillah and her family.

Here's how that went:

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One of the rules is that only family member can read from the Megillah. I did that for the first time and it was quite an experience.

Geekspeak: Shot with my Nikon F4, my 28mm, Delta 400 pushed to 1600, and a few with hp5 pushed to 800.

Mountains, Clouds, and 40 Years of Awesomeness

Driving to Temecula is a bit challenging. The drive is quite a beautiful one, with views ranging from rolling hills to towering mountains. The thing is my kids are currently obsessed with mountains and hills and which are which and the fine line between them (my kids don't understand grey areas). And Mendel doesn;t really know what we're talking about but he has to join in the questions. Chanale: "Look!! A mountain"

Zevi: "No, that's a hill. Right tatty?"

Me: "Grunt. Well actually..."

Mendel (looking at a cloud): "Look!! A mountain!"

Zevi: "Mendel's not letting me talk!"

Zusha: "hjdanerqo vfnqemqqp vneirmw?" (loosely translated: "Is it edible?")

And that goes on for an hour and a half. It's funny if you're awake, exhausting if you're not. But it's always good memories...

My brother in law, the Esteemed Chief Rabbi of Greater Temecula and Environs, and Overall a Pretty Darn Good Guy, was having his 40th birthday party. So inbetween eating, talking, and taking care of my mountain watchers, I used the event as an opportunity to try out some new film and work on some stuff (namely making an event where nothing really happens look interesting. Not that it wasn't, but the interest was mainly the good conversations and such. I also tried to stop down my lens as much as the light allowed).

Thanks for looking.

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Geek talk: I shot this all on my Nikon F4 and 28mm. Delta 400 (pushed to 1600) and stopped down as much as the light allowed (generally between f/5.6 and f/8).

Quickshoot Date + info. Get onboard!

We here at Zalmy Berkowitz Photography ("we" being me, my beer and my delicious cheese sandwich (which deserves a post of its own)) are very excited to announce our very first Quickshoot. Also known as "Hot Shots", "Portrait Marathon", "Family Photos by Friendly Folks", "Family Portrait Day", "Super Deluxe Supreme Photos" and other corny names, a Quickshoot is a great way to procure (as if anyone is anticure) some great family photos at a great price.

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