Saturday, May 03, 2008

Religious Scratchiti

If you’ve been on New York City’s subways recently, you probably noticed the absence of spray-paint graffiti, long a symbol of urban decay though with its defenders in the art community. New York authorities have managed to defeat subway graffiti by using graffiti-resistant materials on subway cars. A new form of graffiti has emerged in its place: scratchiti, graffiti formed by scratching marks into glass.

This afternoon I observed some unusual scratchiti on the R train. It appears to be a Hebrew abbreviation. The first (right) letter is Bet. The second letter is He. It is an abbreviation for the phrase Baruch HaShem, which translates to “Blessed be God.”

Among some Orthodox Jews, it is customary to write this abbreviation in the upper right hand corner of letters. What it’s doing as subway scratchiti, however, is a mystery. Perhaps the scratchitist was trying to bless the train?

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