Trying to Capture Still Moments of Jewish Time



February 28, 2024

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on Havurah. 

Moshe Sopher-Harelick is a photographer in his final semester at Parsons. He sees his art as a mechanism to show the world his Judaism through a medium that’s accessible to all. Havurah and Hillel sat down with Moshe to talk about his photography, being a Jewish student in 2024, and what he looks for in his images.

In my opinion, I’m just an all around pretty chill guy. I was born in New York and grew up here most of my life, except for a couple years when I was four when my family moved to Israel, which I am incredibly grateful for. I attended SAR for middle school and high school, although I did switch to TABC for my freshman year (go Storm!). For my gap year I spent an incredible ten months at Yeshivat Orayta where I learned and grew so much as a person, before getting sent home for “just a few weeks” due to Covid. I am now in my senior year at Parsons (The New School) and am preparing myself to take on the real world.

Art kind of runs in my family. Everyone from both my mother and father’s sides have some sort of artistic background or experience, everyone in my family has practiced some medium of art at one point or another, so sometimes I really feel like I was forced into this life… kidding I love it.

Although I started taking pictures pretty independently (I had an account on Instagram where I would photograph my sneakers and post them), I really took inspiration from my dad. He went back to school to complete his degree and enrolled in a photography course. He would take these incredible images which inspired me to photograph more than just my shoes. One summer I took my camera with me on a travel program across the west coast and I simply haven’t put it down since. Although I really do love to photograph everything, my focus is on journalistic and documentary work.

I am not such a conceptual artist and my work doesn’t usually take much effort to appreciate or understand, which I take pride in. That said, I would like to think that my images offer a peek into the beauty that I see in this world. Whether that’s a breathtaking view in a national park, or a rapidly fleeting interaction between two strangers in New York or Jerusalem etc…

Over the last few years Judaism has become more relevant in my artwork than it ever was before. Being a Jewish artist has given me a platform on which I can promote Jewish practices and values by using a medium that the majority of the world connects with. It almost serves as a translator in connecting with different types of people.

I find my images are increasingly revolving around Jewish life, especially as someone who is a member of very different communities and loves bridging the gap between them. These days I use photography as a spotlight to highlight people, places and experiences that bring me happiness and promote my values, which are often in line with my Jewish upbringing. 

Now, Havurah: I am honored to have known one of its founders, Daniella Messer, since we were young kids attending Kayitz BaKibbutz (Shluchot) and then SAR, so we go wayyy back. My first memories of Havurah, however, are from my sophomore / junior year of college when I started hearing whispers of this really cool collective of young Jewish artists that was being organized by Daniella and Eitan (who I didn’t yet know). Not long after they reached out to me and asked if I would show some of my work in a photography show that they were putting together in Brooklyn.

From the start I was incredibly honored and grateful and those feelings only increased when I saw that I would be showing my work alongside some incredible image-makers like Jackson Krule and Hana Mendel. The movement has only grown since and honestly it’s just a huge sigh of relief for me because an organization like this is soooo long overdue and I’m so happy to see Daniella and Eitan living their passion. Every artist they highlight is so deserving of the spotlight and I simply cannot wait to see what Havurah has in store for the next few years and beyond.

Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to promote kindness and positivity, not just within our community, but everywhere. Too often I feel unmotivated to get out and make work and I think it all comes back to the way we treat one another in this beautiful, absurd world we live in. Things as simple as smiling and saying good morning or holding the door open for your classmates etc. All these things have a domino effect that reaches way beyond what we see with our eyes. Be grateful and say “I love you” to your friends and family, make yummy food, listen to good music, GET OUTSIDE!!!! Our time here is so limited, just use it to do something good. Thank you to Havurah and Hillel for thinking I’m cool enough to be highlighted and I hope everyone finds some kind of value or meaning in my images.