We hope you can savor this offering as we pray for the time when the Kosel will again be not a final destination, but a gateway to Hashem’s presence on earth
The first brainstorming session for this supplement took place many months ago. Over the years we’ve learned that you can’t come to a brainstorming session with empty hands — you have to show up with at least three or four ideas, partially sketched out, to get the discussion going.
The discussion in this case was lively, and the consensus was that a Yom Tov supplement needs to be a “whole different animal” from the main magazine. The focus, the feel, the length of the pieces, the visual direction — all should feel fresh and novel, like a Yom Tov gift for our readers.
Ironically enough, an album that celebrates and explores the people of the Kosel was not one of the ideas on that original list. A different idea was the “winner” of the first discussion, which was transplanted to a group email, which was then taken up again in conversation with photographer Eli Cobin, who spun the winning idea toward the stones that tug at all of our hearts.
Eli has spent years haunting the hidden nooks and crannies of the Kosel, at all hours of the day and night (although he prefers early morning). Sitting in the office, he started describing the different personalities who’ve become part of the fabric of the place. Together we started visualizing a project that would feature Eli’s arresting photos along with text sharing the backstories of these “faces of the wall.”
We’ve seen in the past that our readers especially savor projects that give them a taste of Eretz Yisrael. Especially during Covid, when the country was closed for so long, the yearning became sharper and deeper. When we got back to our editorial team with the proposal of an album-style supplement dedicated to the people of the Kosel, the responses were swift: Yes. Grab it. Let’s do it. I love this.
As with all projects, we encountered bumps and challenges along the way. The people who were only available at 5 a.m. The people who didn’t want to talk. The people who were happy to talk about anything other than themselves. Eli and our writers returned to the Kosel, followed up with phone calls and questions, submitted draft after draft of their pieces.
When the material came into our graphics room, there was a buzz. Our designers gaped at the beautiful photos, the expansiveness of the design, the scope of the project. Laying out material is their daily job, and it doesn’t always spark excitement, but as they saw it all come together on their screens there was a palpable awe.
We hope you feel the same. Some readers report that they feel a certain energy or emotion when they page through a Yom Tov magazine. If we could name the underlying energies in this one, they would likely be devotion, reverence, continuity, connection. We tried to showcase the spectrum of humanity that finds expression and inspiration here, the vulnerability and the faith, the variety and the unity.
It’s never fully possible to capture the full vibrancy of human experience in paper and ink, and the limits of page and word counts mean that at best we have compiled just a slice of a much bigger landscape. But we hope you can savor this offering as we pray for the time when the Kosel will again be not a final destination, but a gateway to Hashem’s presence on earth.
With best wishes for a joyous Yom Tov,
Shoshana Friedman and Nomee Shaingarten
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 907)
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