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  • ecological sculpture

  • performance installation

  • ancestral research


The Jewish Museum of Maryland, Baltimore, MD

In a time of ecological devastation when much of the natural world is in a state of hospice, Neshome Likht for Ecological Relatives reconfigures the Ashkenazi spiritual practice of grave-measuring to cultivate and honor relationships with ecological relatives in peril.


Grave-measuring or feldmestn is primarily practiced by women known as feldmesterin (grave measurers). The practice is traditionally performed during the Jewish month of Elul when the divide between the worlds of the living and the dead is thought to be more lucid. Feldmesterin encircle the graves of their ancestors or sometimes entire cemeteries with cotton thread that become wicks for hand-dipped ritual candles (neshome likht), traditionally to be burned on Yom Kippur.


The act of encirclement, in which cotton wicks come into contact with the earth, is believed to create a connection with deceased ancestors. The cemetery or grave becomes a portal between worlds. During the act of encircling, feldmesterin ask ancestors for guidance and forgiveness. Yiddish prayers known as tkhines are often recited throughout a grave-measuring practice. Historically, these spontaneous prayers and devotions were typically reserved for domestic use and shared from a personal, female point of view. Tkhines were a direct pathway for Ashkenazi women to foster their own relationship with the divine since they were often not taught Hebrew and excluded from community spiritual services held at synagogues.

In practicing kneytlekh-leygn (placing wicks) with more-than-humans entities, I utilize this practice to listen for guidance from the land, waters, and animals – all of whom have wisdom to share – about how to act in service to their longevity, care, and survival. It is a ritual reminder that any moment can be a holy one, and that our lineages hold tools for being with reverence and grief simultaneously. That we are part of a continuum between many versions of the world and have a responsibility to listen and care for all beings. 

This project is supported by the work of many Jewish educators, artists, and facilitators including Dori Midnight, Elana June Margolis, Noam Lerman, and Rosza Daniel Lang/Levitsky who worked with me on Yiddish translations and pronunciation.

You can read more about the history and process of grave-measuring through the resources below.

Making Soul Candles: An Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestral Folk Tradition

Ritual Guide

Yiddish Tkhines and Spontaneous prayer: An Unbroken Chain

neshome likht for ecological relatives (video) 

Documentation of the grave-measuring process offered at Chesapeake Bay and the creation of soul candles. 

Direction & Editing: Tyler Rai

Filmed by: Jesse LeMon & Tyler Rai

Music: "Mussel Memory" by Nils Frahm

a tkhine for the waters

אַ תּחינה פֿאַר די װאַסערן

לאָז אונדז סובֿל זײַן

מיר בעטן

גיב אונדז געדולד


לאָז אונדז מרחם זײַן

מיר בעטן

גיב אונדז גנאָד


הילף אונדז געדענקן

די צוזאַמענבונדן װאָס מיר טראָגן 

מיט אַלע װאַסערן פֿון אונדזער װעלט

נעכטן און הײַנט און מאָרגן

a tkhine far di vasern


loz undz soyvl zayn

    mir betn

        gib undz geduld


loz undz merakhem zayn

    mir betn

        gib undz gnod


hilf undz gedenkn 

    di tsuzamenbundn vos mir trogn

mit ale vasern fun undzer velt

    nekhtn un haynt un morgn 

a tkhine for the waters


let us be patient

            we ask/plead

                      give us patience / be patient with us

let us show mercy

            we ask/plead

                         give us grace/mercy / be merciful to us


help us remember

             the connections we carry

with all the waters of our world

              yesterday and today and tomorrow

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