Marc Berkowitz: If You Save One Life, It Is as if You Saved An Entire Universe
The boy in this picture is a survivor of Auschwitz and one of the twins experimented on by “Dr.” Joseph Mengele. The iconic picture of him when found, standing with other twins waiting to be saved, haunted me growing up and even until today. Myself the child of a Holocaust survivor, I always wondered who he was; what happened to him; what were his dreams and aspirations; did he survive or die soon after; what dreams haunted him at night? Did he end up thriving or just surviving?
One of my first paper cuts is of the child in this picture.
However, now, the boy is no longer a nameless haunting face.Marc Berkowitz passed away in the US after a long fruitful life. He left behind children and grandchildren.
After an amazing series of circumstances, I spent a blessed and precious 3 hours with his daughter Bonnie Leopoldo and feel so whole afterwards. We instantly became soulmates. As if she was the sister I always wanted. We were finishing each other’s sentences. Giving expression to thoughts the other was searching in vain to articulate.
Bonnie filled me in on his life-after-“death”. He can be viewed on YouTube and his lecture by typing in his name. His lecture is absolutely uplifting and extraordinary considering what he had to endure. What a wise man!
No longer a nameless wraith looking out at me, Marc Berkowitz and his life are now filled out and real in my mind. He survived, grew up, grew old, built a family, and had the chance at a life, and spent his life well.
So what could I do but send this paper cut to Bonnie! She treasured having this paper cut I sent her of Her father.
Bonnie past away from stage-4 cancer only 4 months after we met. Her beloved husband and daughter now have the picture to pass down.
I can’t think of a better use for my art.
The Gemara says that all of our constructs and paradigms exist as a result of suppressing information. From chaos, the sum potential of all that is possible - physicists call it white noise; statisticians call it raw data - we must push away that which is unwanted. We are left to work with our visions and patterns of reality. The big question is, how well do those visions match up to what reality actually is in all its inter-related complexity and detail.
On Yom Kippur, we come face to face with the reality that "The hidden things belong to HaShem our God, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, that we might fulfill all the words of this Torah." (Deuteronomy 29:28). God's ultimate and uncompromising reality must hold us accountable even for paradigms we are NOT aware of! Many refer to this as "The law of unintended consequences."
This is why what I hold dear is not answers, but an endless path of growing awareness that attempts to come closer and closer to reality as it really is - not the "reality" that is just a projection of some inner solipsistic construction within my brain. The questions- not the answers - lead me on that path. I have become deeply committed to a life long journey of learning, growth, change, love, discernment, service, play, commitment, questioning, and valuing disagreement. At my core is the notion that without self-doubt and without valuing difference and differing opinions, one cannot develop a fulfilling and meaningful life.
My art starts as a white sheet of whole paper, which represents chaos - all the possible pictures that one could create on it - onto which I impose order. Simultaneously destructive and defining, my paper-cutting adds meaning to the paper. Cutting pieces out is a creative process that graphically reveals before me my deeper paradigms so that I can scrutinize them - so that I can better understand the limits and characteristics of the space in which those paradigms work and gain insight as to where they are no longer valid. But it is not just a discovery of my internal landscapes. It is a process of becoming aware of myself within relationship and covenant. It is my simultaneous love and awe of and participation in the splendor of God's continued creation. It is my Avoda.