In the current climate of hate in the world, a story in the news last week is a reminder that brutishness didn't start with Trump. The Art Newspaper reports that a sculpture made in the 13th century describing Jews drinking from a sow's teats was found carved into the facade of a Lutheran church - the Unesco World Heritage in Wittenberg, Germany. What's more, this house of worship is far from the only one bearing openly anti-Semitic imagery. Some 300 such sculptures mark churches throughout Europe, and the question is, should something be done about it?

Confronting an unsavory past

Art scholars and church leaders are trying to decide whether these sculptures should be removed. I vote 'no.' History makes known they were created in Medieval times notorious for negative thinking about the Jewish people. Should we be re-writing history by clearing away these sculptures? Should heritage be protected even if we don't like it? We're in the same quandary now about whether to take down pro-slavery shrines left over from the Civil War, as if history can be erased. What happened, happened. But another recent news story about anti-Semitic art warrants discussion.

In your face

One of Virginia's school districts bestowed a prize on a student's drawing of a male figure with a hook-nose hauling a bag of money, titled “Jewish People.” What explains such a revolting development? The school district had its reasons, but like the little-read Mueller report, few will clue into the pedagogical rationale for prizing an openly anti-Semitic image. As the Washington Post reported the story, the winning drawing was part of a 12th-grade art class assignment in a Fairfax County high school, and was intended to send the message that “exaggeration of stereotypes spreads ignorance.” The question is, how many got the message.

The drawing was exhibited in the Northern Virginia Community College and the “artist's statement” explaining the context did not accompany the exhibit.

Is narrow-mindedness in the eye of the beholder?

Clearly, an exhibit of the drawing concerned the Country School Superintendent, Scott Brabrand, who penned an apology to the community, saying, “I understand how, out of context, this piece of art was offensive in that it appears to portray Jewish individuals in a negative light.

It is my understanding that it was not the intent of the artist to offend anyone.” I don't know about you out there in reader-land, but I'm bothered by him saying the drawing “appears” offensive. In other words, if the offense is taken, it's in the minds of the viewer. Also, his term “Jewish individuals” irks. The drawing title points to an entire race. But hey, maybe that's just me, a member of that race.

I'm left now to wonder why the rationale for the bigoted drawing was left out of its exhibition.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!
Click to read more