Hot Tub Torah



HOT TUB TORAH, the “photo-ritual” series by Oregon photographer, Phil Decker, began on a crisp December weekend in 2009.   While in his back porch hot tub, Decker was drawn to the geometry of the bare branches of three trees converging around parallel utility wires.  Deciding to photograph the “same frame,” Decker returned monthly to the hot tub to document the seasonal and time changes he viewed.

Decker’s photographs highlight the ever-changing beauty of creation and the miraculous within the mundane, encouraging and reminding viewers to take time to examine and appreciate our everyday life and its surroundings.

Decker’s images (one per month) are accompanied by excerpts from Tehillim, The Book of Psalms, as selected by Rabbi James Greene.  Tehillim is unique in that it represents a first person account of our ancestors’ experience of God in the world.  These psalms are read in times of strife and joy, but also each morning before tefillah as a meditative practice in a continuing search for God. As they are an individual’s search for God’s presence, Decker believes they compliment his site-specific, but evolving photographs; both psalms and photographs marking the changing seasons, holidays and ritual moments.

Phil Decker studied at the International Center of Photography in New York City.  He works in Salem, Oregon as an elementary school principal and continues to create exhibits and photo essays.   His recent work focuses on his immediate environment, with the challenge of noticing what’s extraordinary tucked within everyday life.  He is experimenting with photo rituals, such as “Days of Awe,” where he commits himself to discovering a moment of awe, each of the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

He has exhibited at several synagogue museums, the Oregon Jewish Museum, the Salem Art Association and several other regional forums in Oregon as well as in his home state of Maryland.

Phil is a member of the Temple Beth Sholom community.

Rabbi James Greene is a 2008 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is the Director of Programs at the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley.  In his free time, Rabbi James is an avid outdoorsman and leads programs in Jewish wilderness spirituality around the Bay Area.  He lives in San Jose, California.

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