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Posted in: Anti-Semitism, Arts, Film & Culture

Published on May 15, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Consolation in a Time of Madness


Hate tirades against Jews and "Zionists" demonically dominate the airwaves throughout the Islamic world; mosque sermons, demonstrations, UN meetings, and university lectures around the world keep up the steady drumbeat: Pigs have descended from Jews—which is why Muslims cannot eat pigs; Israelis are to blame for Palestinian suffering and, until that specific suffering is alleviated, the President of the United States cannot ask Iran to halt its nuclear progress.

I grow weary, disconsolate.

More than seven years ago, when I first sounded the alarm about the new anti-Semitism, I was given a massive brush off by some of the same Jewish organization leaders who are, only now, screaming "gevalt" from the rooftops.

I was certainly not heeded by the Jewish Left which instantly demonized me as a traitor and heretic for having exposed the betrayal of the truth and of the Jews by the world's progressivist intelligentsia. But then, this group has never met a terrorist they didn't adore.

Moderate, fashionable American Jews—you know, the kind who risked nothing to protest the recent persecution of innocent AIPAC officials, the obscene imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard, the even more treacherous kidnapping and disappearance of Gilad Schalit, the perpetual shelling of Sderot from Gaza—some of these Jews have now begun screaming for a "two state solution," as if signing on to this mantra will truly save and redeem us.

Well, perhaps—but only if that "two state" solution includes the huge, uninhabited land of both Jordan and Egypt. Apparently, the West Bank and Gaza do not have enough land to support the number of Palestinians (who have been refused citizenship in every Arab country) who would flood the too-tiny region. However, neither Jordan nor Egypt really want the Palestinians; every Arab knows that they (their terrorist and gangsta leaders, now backed by Iran and Syria) spell Big Trouble. They brutally take over, civilian populations and ruling regimes alike, and are currently advancing an Islamist agenda.

I am weary.

And, the evil at hand is far bigger than what happens only to Jewish Israel. As I've written many times: Israel and the Jews are the symbol for all that Islamists fear, hate, and long for in the West. Israel and the West, however imperfect, stand for life, the rule of law, compassion, progress, women's freedom; al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban stand for death, and the desire to return to the Middle Ages and/or to a new world Caliphate.

While infidels are definitely in the cross-hairs of Islamist desire, their lifetime practice targets are other Muslims. Islamists are honor killing Muslim girls and women; the Islamist Republics of Iran and Saudi Arabia are stoning, whipping, amputating, and hanging Muslim women who allege rape, Muslim women who march for women's rights, and any Muslim suspected of being gay.

The Muslim Taliban in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are poison-gassing Muslim schoolgirls, beheading their opponents, blowing up innocent Muslim civilians hither and yon—and yet our very charismatic Christian President Obama bows to the Saudi King, (yes, the very man who bankrolls hate propaganda against America and allows the worst human rights abuses to proliferate in the Kingdom), and the Pope insists that he respects Islam, Muslims, and Palestinian leaders. Yes, even as Pakistani Muslims, West Bank Muslims, and Lebanese Muslims are slaughtering and persecuting Christians who are indigenous to the region, the Pope says this, perhaps as a way of trying to save them.

Oy, am I disconsolate.

Where is my consolation? Of course, the very words lead me to my answer: God, music, books, nature, (how old-fashioned can I be?), art, and congenial, soft-spoken, cultured people.

Thus, the other evening, I attended a magnificent art exhibit curated by the Dutch-Jewish artist, Yona Verwer, who founded the Jewish Art Salon together with Holly Wolf, Laura Kruger, Richard McBee, and David Wander. Yona is a friend and a shul-mate.

Yona arranged for a small group of us to have a tour of the intimate, "haimesche" Stanton Street (Anshei Brzezan) Synagogue which welcomed its first members in 1913. By the way: A "synagogue" or a "temple," is also known as a "shul," a word which retains more of an Eastern European family feeling.

The wooden benches are incredibly small and worn—used, scratched, faded—remarkably dear. I tried out one of the tiny single seats in the women's balcony and wondered whether our early twentieth century ancestors were that much smaller than we are. There are stained glass windows and at least twelve wall murals which are faded and decomposing—but, with the help of conservators from the Metropolitan Museum, will be carefully restored. So sayeth our excellent tour guide, "Esther Malka," aka Elissa Sampson. And what unusual wall murals they are!

They are known as "Mazoles" (as in Mazel! Luck), and consist of Jewish Zodiac renditions which were once prevalent throughout the Lower East Side and all over eastern Europe. They represent a nearly two thousand year old tradition and date back to synagogues in Roman times. Such murals may be found in synagogues near Tiberias, Hebron, Nazareth, Turkey, and in Poland and the Ukraine, often in small towns. Most were destroyed in the Holocaust. The human form is never shown. But, in addition to the scales, two birds, a bull, an archer's bow, a goat, a fish– a decidedly non-kosher lobster is, amazingly, depicted! (Some say that the artist believed this was what a scorpion looked like). For more information, you may visit Elissa Sampson's website.

The art exhibit took up two floors and was simply splendid. It distracted me from my gloomy contemplations of politics and human destiny. By the way, not every artist is Jewish but the themes are. The Akeida (near-sacrifice of Issac) is depicted in unexpected ways, as is the story of Adam and Eve, Ruth and Boaz, Judah and Tamar, the death of Cain, etc. Yona's "Temple Talismans: Stanton Shul Amulets" are beautiful and the concept appealing, perhaps even practical.

For my part, I have begun to wear a beautiful, artistic engraving of the "Sh'ma," (a prayer central to Judaism), on a gold chain around my neck. Can't hurt.

Information: The art at the Stanton Street Synagogue is for sale and if I were you, I'd hurry down to 180 Stanton Street between Clinton and Attorney Streets. The exhibit: "Tzelem: Likeness and Presence in Jewish Art" will be open Wed, Thurs, and Sunday through May 17th and is presented in conjunction with LABA, the National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y.


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