Barry Temkin, Musician

Resident at Westbeth since 1988

My Friendship with Joseph Wolins, Part 1

Around thirty years ago, my wife Diane was pregnant with our first child, Hannah, and I went out and bought my first single-lens reflex camera, so I could dutifully document my growing family. This was my first good camera, and I was just learning how to shoot. At the time, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), New York City’s gay and lesbian synagogue, was renting space on the second floor of Westbeth. CBST acquired a Torah scroll of the Hebrew Bible from the Westminster synagogue in London, which had been repatriating old Torahs that had been pilfered by the Nazis in World War II. So they decided to give the Torah a grand parade through the streets of Greenwich Village to welcome it to its new home in Westbeth. There was a big party in the courtyard, which then moved up into the CBST synagogue space, with food, dancing, drink and live klezmer music. Everyone was dancing under a chuppah (wedding canopy) with the new arrival, and I was snapping photos of the celebration with my new Pentax. An elderly stranger tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself as a Westbeth resident, Joe Wolins. He explained that he was a visual artist who liked to paint Jewish subjects, and asked if he could see my photos after I developed them. It turns out that we lived on the same floor, and I agreed to share my photos. When I got my photos developed, Joe said that they were not half bad, that he had a show coming up, and he shocked me by asking how much I would charge to photograph his art. When I explained that I was a rank novice and could not imagine charging anyone for my amateurish photography, Joe asked me if I would consider bartering photos for art. I agreed.

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