Care in the Afterlife
The photo essay Care in the Afterlife records my experience of caring for my mother-in-law, Ada Rapoport-Albert (26.10.1945 – 18.06.2020), in the last weeks of her life. Through auto-ethnographic observations of her end-of-life care, I reckon with the affect of Ada’s shame in dying and how it mirrors events in Ada’s life. While scholarly tributes to her as an eminent academic in the field of Hebrew and Jewish Studies are forthcoming, this curation of text and image preserves her legacy within the domestic sphere. Artistic documentation of her iconic home and extensive library act as key to unlocking this interior world. The essay juxtaposes extracts from its books, notably Ada’s work on Kabbalistic mysticism and women within the Messianic tradition, with anecdotes from her personal life and her story-telling of the Hebrew bible. Connecting these narratives to the advent of Jewish modernism, interspersed citations from writers of the German-Jewish dialectical tradition (Scholem, Kafka, Benjamin, Arendt) figure as intersection points with the ostensible contradictions bound up in Ada’s person – as a Zionist sabra and self-exiled Israeli emigre, a scholar of women in Jewish Orthodoxy and unorthodox mother, and an atheist living the life as an ascetic. The text traces the reconciliation of paradox in Jewish modernism through concepts such as messianism, exile, and remembrance with narrative themes in Ada’s biography, illustrating the intertwined traditions of intellectual and family lineage. Narrated from my position as an outsider within the Jewish family and as the mother of her grandson, this intimate portrait of a dying woman seeks to fill the void of death by looking to an afterlife of care.