In the photograph of a Walnut Creek home, a man and woman sit across the table from each other. The room is lit only by Shabbat candles, which cast a reflection in the darkened windows.
“I’m pretty sure I went with the first one I took,” said the photographer, 14-year-old Talia Bruner. It may have been her first attempt to capture the moment, but the photo of her parents at their Shabbat table taken by the eighth-grader at Contra Costa Jewish Day School has won first place in an international competition for teens. The competitors were asked to capture their connection to Jewish peoplehood.
“It was quite an exciting surprise,” said Eden Bruner, Talia’s mother and director of development at CCJDS.
Bruner’s photo won the top prize in the international division (there also was a contest for Israeli teens), beating out entries from France, Brazil, South Africa and a host of other countries. Bruner’s photo and the other top 20 selections will be on display at the museum starting March 22.
It’s the second year that students from CCJDS have entered the contest. The school had a student trip to Israel planned for this month that would have included visiting the museum, but it has been postponed due to coronavirus.
“This contest was introduced to me by my Judaic studies teacher and everyone in my class participated,” Bruner said. “It was an assignment.”
The instructions were to use creative expression to capture what the museum calls the “pillars of Jewish peoplehood” — shared collective memory, Jewish values, multi-faceted connection to Israel, Hebrew or other Jewish languages, Jewish creativity and culture, or Jewish faith and lifestyle.
For Bruner, the choice was easy.
“Shabbat is something that’s really special to me,” she said.
The resulting photo speaks to her personal connection to Shabbat — and there was something extra, too, something that Bruner didn’t plan. After she took the shot, she realized that the reflections in the windows (from the candlelight) reminded her of all the past generations of Jews that also celebrated Shabbat just as she does now.
“It’s like the ancestors are the shadows in the windows,” she said.