Past Honorees

At Central Synagogue

Frédéric Brenner
2004 Photographer

“I believe that what Jews have in common is their differences. I spent 25 years going around the world from India to Sarajevo, from Rome to New York, from Beijing to Buenos Aires, and to Morocco and Ethiopia trying to understand what makes a people. I really see these portraits as a puzzle and each fragment is necessary and indispensable. Each place enabled me to express a part of myself and a part of what the Jewish people are.”

Frédéric Brenner is a French photographer who has spent the last 25 years traveling around the world chronicling Jewish life, often in surprising places. He earned many prestigious awards for his work, including the Prix Niépce and the Prix du Salon de la Photo when he was just 22, as well as the 1992 Prix de Rome. In 2003 he published the groundbreaking book Diaspora: Homelands in Exile, which contained 264 photographs of Jews from 40 countries on 5 different continents – the most extensive visual record of Jews ever created.

Born in Paris in 1959 to Holocaust survivor parents, Brenner was brought up in a family trying to distance itself from its Jewish heritage and painful past. However, the Six Day War served as a turning point for his family; he was sent to a Jewish school, and eventually joined a youth trip to Israel when he was 18. His travels in Jerusalem at that time inspired his search for the meaning and varieties Jewish identity, a search that later became his life’s work.

Before his most recent work, Brenner published five books on similar subjects:  Jerusalem: instants d’étérnite (1984), Israel (1988), Marranes (1992), Jews/America/Representation (1996), and Exile at Home (1998). He also directed the 1997 film The Last Marranos, about the descendents of Jews forced to convert to Christianity, and their Jewish revival. His art has been displayed in galleries throughout the world, from New York to Tel Aviv to Buenos Aires.  He currently lives in Paris with his wife, the poet and painter Myriam Tangi, and their two daughters.