Luis Roberto Burgos, a photographer who recently produced a photobook Haggadah retelling the Passover story in modern-day images, was selected as one of the New York Jewish Week’s 36 to Watch (formerly 36 Under 36). This distinction honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community. Burgos, who helps arrange ritual and holiday observances for Manhattan’s “artist-driven, everybody-friendly” congregation Lab/Shul, lives in Brooklyn.
For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.
New York Jewish Week: Tell us about yourself and the work you do.
Burgos: I am a Black, Queer, Jewish, neurodiverse earthling based in Bushwick, Lenape land. Born in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and raised throughout the boroughs of New York City, I lived in Los Angeles from 2013 to 2018. My photography is often based in literature and my writing is visual and sensory. I tell stories using photographs and poems. My most recent accomplishment is creating and printing my first photobook, “Moses of the City.” This photographic, fully functional haggadah went out to a few hundred families and was the centerpiece at Lab/Shul’s 5782 seder. I also received a grant from the Jews of Color Initiative to make said seder the first Jews of Color-centered seder there.
What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?
I have run three marathons, most recently in Big Sur 2022.
How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?
Judaism permeates everything I do. I was taught that every generation is tasked with making the Torah their own, so I actively work to see what lessons our texts have to offer today. I read and learn about what we did well and about mistakes we made, so I might avoid them in future. This is seen most explicit in my photo work, as I tend to base my images on sacred text.
Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?
The most formative Jewish experience I have had so far was my first Soul Spa at Lab/Shul. This is their Shabbat afternoon experience and they often hire artists to do artistic interpretations of Torah. After I witnessed my first artful Torah portion, I went up to their creative director, introduced myself and told him that all of my work is based in literature and that I’d love to do a photo-story based on a Torah portion. This led to what I call my “Art Mitzvah,” a visual interpretation of Vayakhel. I went on to do several more stories for them, which ultimately led me to my first book, “Moses of the City.”
What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?
Breads Bakery. Their sufganiyot are my favorite of all time.
What’s your favorite place in New York to take an out-of-town guest?
Marsha P. Johnson State Park — it has a beautiful little beach on the East River with epic views of the Empire State Building and the Manhattan skyline.
Want to keep up with stories of other innovative Jewish New Yorkers? Click here to subscribe to the Jewish Week’s free email newsletters.