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In Search of Continuity

Azriela Jaffe

We all have questions, but not everyone is willing to spend five years schlepping across the United States to find an answer. Meet Dr, Saul Landa, whose question about how Orthodox Judaism managed to survive in a very unorthodox America has resulted in a moving photographic record of American Jewish life.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Dr. Saul Landa arrives at my home like a proud zeideh who can’t wait to show off his new grandbaby. He carries in his arm his beloved, and she is as gorgeous as I imagined her to be — his popular new book, A Timeless People: Photo Albums of American Jewish Life, which was released in May by Gefen Publishing and is already in its second printing.

After I take some time to look through it and absorb this enormous accomplishment — the coffee-table-sized book’s 380 pages include more than 1,000 photographs — I understand why he has been receiving so many accolades. This “baby” of Dr. Saul’s was in gestation for five years, and to call it a labor of love doesn’t come close to the intense commitment of time, resources, and money that he has given it since he began the project in 2006.

Yet Dr. Landa is neither a professional historian nor a professional photographer. Actually, he is a respected New Jersey cosmetic dentist who has practiced in East Brunswick, New Jersey for over thirty years. True, he is an enthusiastic hobby photographer — the kind you would want to invite to your simchah — and the fruits of his forty-plus-year passion can be readily seen in his thousands of photographs documenting the life he has shared with his wife, Marlene, and their three children. Another favorite artistic focus is the Jewish people and everything relating to Judaica.

But with this book Dr. Landa has taken his passion for photography to a whole new level. To understand why he invested so much in this project, we must go back to his roots and the legacy that he received from his father.

 

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