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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Cohen’

A Pair Of Pitchers… And Some Welcome Changes

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Craig Breslow and Jason Marquis will be wearing different uniforms this season.

The two pitchers also share a unique trait among those labeled “Jewish players” by the media: Breslow and Marquis both have two Jewish parents.

Most of today’s so-called Jewish players just have one Jewish parent (usually the father) and had no real connection with Judaism while growing up. Assimilation has taken its toll on baseball, too.

Marquis, pronounced Mar-kee, grew up in a family that attended a Conservative synagogue, and he had some Hebrew education and a bar mitzvah. Marquis made his baseball reputation playing ball in the Staten Island area and made his big league debut at 22 in 2001.

He dreidled around with six National League teams since then before signing as a free agent with his seventh – the Minnesota Twins. Last year Jason had a good start with Washington, going 8-5, with a 3.95ERA before being dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He didn’t impress his new team, losing his only decision and posting a high ERA of 9.53 before an injury shelved him for the rest of the season.

Breslow,31, has never started a major league game while with five big league teams. A valuable lefty reliever, he was traded by Oakland to the Diamondbacks, his sixth team. He’s equally tough against right-handed and left-handed batters, with righties hitting a combined .224 against him and lefties just .227

Breslow grew up in Connecticut and attended a Reform temple in Bridgeport before heading to Yale. He majored in biochemistry and molecular biophysics and is considered by most as the smartest player in the big leagues.

Breslow has talked about going to medical school after his playing career. He’s been particularly interested in childhood cancer research since his sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 14.

* * * * *

Baseball finally got it right: Fifteen teams in each league; three divisions of five teams each in both the A.L. and the N.L.

Moving the Houston Astros from the National League to the American League’s West division rights a longtime wrong. The A.L. West had only four teams and the American League had one fewer team than the National.

And Houston’s being in the same division with the Texas Rangers will create an instant rivalry in the Lone Star State.

MLB also created another Wild Card slot for the postseason, with a one game winner-take-all for the right to be the Wild Card team in the playoffs. The one game gives the division winners an extra day off. Sure, the one game means the team with the inferior record might beat the Wild Card club with a better record, but that’s why teams have to try harder to win the division.

Before, a team – such as St. Louis last season – just had to win the Wild Card to get into the postseason. Now managers have to shoot for winning their division.

It should translate into much more interesting Octobers. But we will have to wait until 2013 for its implementation.

Author, columnist and lecturer Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring in a front office capacity. Cohen, the president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Irwin Cohen

1951: A Great Year In Baseball

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I was one of 2,400 people at the recent Yeshiva Beth Yehudah dinner held in downtown Detroit.

That’s not a misprint – 2,400 people turned out at the annual dinner for the day school I attended decades ago and my grandchildren attend today.

It’s the biggest yeshiva day-school dinner in the country and has been for several years. The biggest names in local politics (such as Michigan Sen. Carl Levin) show up and the biggest names in national politics are guest speakers.

This year the guest speaker was Vice President Joe Biden. After a very pro-Israel speech from Biden, it was strolling dessert time and I ran into some familiar old faces from my early yeshiva days. After  talking politics, the subject turned to baseball, specifically the first full year we started following the game.

All of us could think back 60 years to 1951. What a baseball year it was.

It was the last season for Joe DiMaggio and the first for Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. It was the year the St. Louis Browns’ flamboyant owner Bill Veeck sent up a 3-foot-7 inch pinch-hitter (who walked on four pitches that would have been strikes to any other major league batter).

It was the year Ralph Kiner won his sixth consecutive National League home run crown. It was the year Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe won 22 games and lost only three. And, of course, it was the year the Dodgers blew the pennant.

The arch-rival New York Giants lost just nine of their final 47 games to tie the Dodgers for first place at season’s end, setting up a three-game playoff. In the bottom of the 9th of the final playoff game at the Polo Grounds, Brooklyn was ahead 4-2. With two Giants runners on base, Ralph Branca was brought in to pitch to Bobby Thomson. Thomson homered to left in the late afternoon gloom to send Brooklyn into mourning. Thomson’s memorable homer became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

 

But 60 years ago Jewish baseball history was made in Detroit. And our young class was there. In those days the Tigers gave away tickets for some May and June midweek games against bad teams like the Philadelphia Athletics.

 

It was May 2, 1951. The Tigers had their Jewish battery working at the time – Saul Rogovin pitching and Joe Ginsberg catching.  Rogovin was pitching a no-hitter when he yielded a hit with one in the seventh inning. In the ninth, with Detroit leading 3-1, Lou Limmer came to bat in a pinch-hitting role. Rogovin, Ginsberg and Limmer had two things in common – they were born in New York and were Jewish.

 

When Limmer reached the batter’s box, umpire Bill Summers stated, “I got me three Hebes, let’s see who wins.” Rogovin eyed the runner on first base and aimed his pitch for the target Ginsberg presented with his glove. However, Limmer lined the pitch into the lower right field seats to tie the score and send the game to extra innings and Rogovin to the showers.

 

The Tigers went on to win the game and less than two weeks later Rogovin, who would go on to become a teacher in the New York public school system after his baseball career, would be traded to the Chicago White Sox.

Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds were the center of the baseball universe in 1951.The Harlem River separated the homes of the American and National League champs and hosted the World Series.

 

As May was nearing its end, Cal Abrams of the Brooklyn Dodgers had a 14-for23 streak to lead the National League with a .470 batting average. Abrams’s hitting inspired a headline in the New York Post that went, “Mantle, Shmantle, We Got Abie.”

 

Abrams cooled off as the weather warmed up and was used less frequently. When the season ended for Brooklyn, Abrams totaled 155 at-bats and posted a .280 batting average. Lou Limmer batted 214 times with five homers, but his low .159 batting average would earn him a ticket back to the minor leagues for the next two years.

 

Saul Rogovin became one of the best pitchers in the A.L. leading the league with a 2.78 ERA while winning 11 and losing seven. Joe Ginsberg was a backup catcher but eleven years later would make history as the Mets’ starting catcher in their first-ever home game.

 

The big Jewish stars of ’51 were Al Rosen of the Cleveland Indians and Sid Gordon of the Boston Braves. Rosen batted .265 with 24 home runs and 102 RBI while Gordon outslugged him (.287, 29, 109). Both were third baseman while Gordon was also used in the outfield.

Irwin Cohen

Fantasy Come True

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Seventy-eight degrees and sunny.

That’s what it was that Thursday afternoon in November when I arrived in Tampa, site of the Yankees Fantasy Camp.

After checking into the Sheraton Suites where the campers were staying for the Monday through Saturday camp, I shuttled to George M. Steinbrenner Field (where the Yanks play during spring training and also the home of the Tampa Yankees, three levels below the major leagues), to join the camp in progress.

I met with Julie Kremer, who juggles many balls in her roles as assistant general manager of the Tampa Yankees and director of the fantasy camp. I also met with Ira Jaskoll. He was a first-time camper last year and brought his own food.

Based on his experience, Jaskoll approached Julie K. with the idea of providing kosher food, designating a room in the hotel for Shabbat services and dining, and moving the big dream game from Saturday to Friday to accommodate future Orthodox campers.

Julie agreed and under her direction “the Rabbi,” as former Yankees players who coached and instructed Jaskoll last year affectionately call him, made all the necessary arrangements for the 2009 camp.

After catching up with Julie and Ira, it was time to partake in the on-field banquet and join the kosher campers. We took the table near second base and Jesse Barfield asked if he could join us. Barfield, an outfielder who played 12 big league seasons and spent 1989 through 1992 with the Yankees, led the American League in home runs with 40 in 1986 while playing for Toronto.

“Do you still do a lot of woodworking?” I asked Barfield. “How did you know that?” he responded. “Because,” I said, “while I was interviewing you about 25 years ago in the visiting clubhouse at Tiger Stadium, I asked you what you like to do when you have free time.”

“Wow,” Barfield exclaimed, “you’ve got a good memory.”

Former Yankees PR man Marty Appel was the guest speaker and spoke about Thurman Munson, the subject of his latest book. The next day was a bit more humid but still beautiful.

I watched the campers play Friday morning and lunched with the kosher guys and others in a picturesque outdoor pavilion between the stadium and practice fields.

A couple of the spouses of the six kosher campers flew in to be on hand for the big Friday game. Also on hand were Sharon and Jerry Volk, friends of the Jaskolls, there to root the rabbi on and enjoy the sun. Wives and children of other campers also came to enjoy the weekend.

It was a regular stadium atmosphere complete with the national anthem and the great voice of Yankee Stadium, Paul Olden. The campers, who got to dress in the same clubhouse the Yankees use during spring training and play on the same field, now heard themselves being introduced by the same voice on the public address system.

Some of the former Yankees who participated in the game were Barfield, Ron Blomberg, Homer Bush, Chris Chambliss, Al Downing, Tommy John, Phil Linz, Fritz Peterson, Mickey Rivers and Roy White.

Shabbat exceeded my expectations as the food was plentiful, the portions large, the company excellent and the speakers (Marty Appel, Ron Blomberg and yours truly) interesting. The camp ended on a real high with the closing Saturday night banquet. Awards named after former Yankee greats were given out to campers who excelled in several categories.

All the campers I talked with – kosher and otherwise – said they wanted to come back again. Several already were repeaters and one nice fellow from New York actually has been there for 22 consecutive camps. And listen to this – he’s been to both the November and January camps. That’s actually 44 in a row! And after experiencing a bit of it I can understand why.

Irwin Cohen

Another Season In The Books

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Wow! What a finish to the 2011 baseball season. Even before the interesting seven-game World Series won by St. Louis, there was incredible drama in the final month.

On the final day of the 162-game regular season, the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox both ended bad Septembers with one-run losses that ended any hope of a postseason berth.

Boston won only seven games while losing 20 in September, leading to exits by long-time manager Tito Francona and general manager Theo Epstein. The latter was for years considered baseball’s resident young genius by the media, but he was always helped out by the Red Sox having more money to spend than most franchises. The Sox, with baseball’s third highest payroll ($161.8 million) were caught and overtaken by the Tampa Bay Rays with a payroll of only $41.1 million (29th out of 30 teams).

The Yankees had the largest payroll at $202.7 million – and were eliminated in the first round of playoffs by the Detroit Tigers, who shelled out  $105.7 million on their players. The Texas Rangers, with the 13th highest payroll ($92.3 million), survived both playoff rounds to get to the World Series.

Theo Epstein spent big bucks on a full-page ad in the Boston Globe to thank Red Sox fans and the Red Sox organization. Epstein, who was responsible for the signing of several free agents who produced to less than their capabilities, opted to leave his native Fenway stomping grounds to try to produce better results with the  Chicago Cubs.

While the Red Sox were saddled with hefty contracts, injuries and some bad performances by highly paid players were responsible for keeping Boston out of the postseason. Free agent Carl Crawford, who batted .319 with 19 home runs and 47 stolen bases for Tampa Bay in 2010, hit just .255 with 11 homers and had 18 stolen bases for Boston in 2011. Red Sox Nation expected a lot more as Crawford inked a seven-year $142-million deal.

Adrian Gonzalez, the star first baseman for the San Diego Padres lured to Boston, played up to expectations (.338, 27 homers, 117 RBI). Kevin Youkilis, one of the few big leaguers with two Jewish parents, hit .285 in the first half of  the 2011 season and only .199 after the All-Star break. Lingering injuries kept Youkilis from playing the final two weeks of the season.

Boston needs pitching but the bats should be back strong in 2012. The Cubs, however, are a different story. Even if Epstein signs a big bat like first baseman Prince Fielder, the lovable Cubbies have several aging players who are hard to trade because of hefty contracts and reputations for not being too popular with their teammates.

General managers have  to be careful shelling out the big bucks. The White Sox are stuck with Adam Dunn for three more  years. Dunn, who averaged 40 homers a year in the six season from 2004 through 2010 with thee Washington Nationals, had a dismal 2011. Ken Williams, the White Sox general manager, expected a lot more from Dunn, who batted .159 and contributed 11 home runs before he was benched for the season.

There will be lots of excitement this off-season until free agent stars such as Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes sign their new long- term megabuck pacts.

My prediction is that Pujols will stay with St. Louis, Fielder will opt for the Cubs and Reyes will join the Detroit Tigers.

Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Downtown Detroit is making a comeback, and Tigers fans are hoping Mets shortstop Jose Reyes will sign with Detroit as a free agent.

Jewish Press Staff

Toby Cohen’s Hovering Hassidim

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Toby Cohen: Cherubim & Angels

Through July 8, 2010

Engel Gallery

26 Gordon St., Tel Aviv, Israel

http://www.engel-art.co.il

 

 

One of my favorite characters in all of literature is the senile patriarch Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, of Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, who, before getting tied to a tree for his own protection, decides he would like to capture God in a daguerreotype. Jos?’s ultimately unsuccessful design solution is to jump out from around a corner hoping to catch the deity unawares. This association of the divine and the photographic image is perhaps why some Chassidic rebbes opposed photography in its early days and certain practicing Muslims today, who espouse an aniconistic interpretation of Islam, scowl for their passport or license portraits to show their disapproval of the medium.

 

The chassidim in Toby Cohen’s photographs, though arguably unaware of the presence of the camera, seem to have no objections to the voyeuristic artist. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post’s Carl Hoffman (“Trying to shoot God,” May 7, 2010), Cohen, British-born, Tel Aviv- and London-based, said his art has a bit of the hunt for the divine in it. As Cohen tells it, a man he met in Israel asked him why he did not try to take God’s portrait if he was such a good photographer.

 

Evidently, the question made an impact. “[A]fter this encounter, I began to think about trying to find a way to capture people connecting to God,” Cohen told the Jerusalem Post. “So, through Breslav hassidism and hassidic meditation, I found people who were at the closest point to God that I had ever seen. They were meditating in nature. And that was the connection between the people, the land and God.”

 

 

Toby Cohen. “Flying Sukkah.” All images courtesy of Engel Gallery.

 

When I first saw digital images of Cohen’s work, I was sure there was some photoshopping involved. Take “Flying Sukkah,” a panoramic crepuscular view of a suspended sukkah hovering over a mountain. Yellow flowers, rocks, brush and grass populate the foreground, while rolling hills and mountains are visible on the horizon, softened by the purple and ochre rays of the setting (or rising) sun. A stepladder leads up to the sukkah, which is occupied by three figures, two wearing prayer shawls. One figure wearing a coat and a black hat stands at the bottom of the ladder and points up at a figure crouching in the sukkah, holding one end of a string with which he engages in a tug-of-war with another figure on the ground.

 

Is the one figure trying to pull the other heavenward? Is the grounded figure trying to drag the other earthward? Both? Perhaps the gesture, half-prayer half-shrug, of the other figure, clad in a prayer shawl that makes him look like an angel beating its wings, best captures the ambiguity of the image.

 

Toby Cohen. “Fiddler on the Roof.”

 

Anyone who studies religious art for years, as I have, learns early on to be suspicious of contemporary iterations of surrealism or magic realism. It’s all too easy for an artist to create kitsch with melting Kiddush cups or hovering, cartoony angels and billowing Israeli flags. Tallitot and sukkot and a variety of other Jewish ritual objects are so iconic that I have seen many a Jewish artist succeed despite (and perhaps precisely due to) using recognizable Jewish symbols to obscure poor underlying visual structure.

 

I’m not entirely convinced Cohen avoids this pitfall (though to be fair I’m reviewing his art from 6,000 miles away), but I was very interested to learn that Photoshop is less of his process than I had originally anticipated. Cohen told the Jerusalem Post he conceived of the flying sukkah one Sukkot at his friend, David Cohen’s (no relation) sukkah. The two were discussing the laws of the sukkah (Can it be on a camel? A boat? Etc.), and Cohen decided he wanted to photograph a flying sukkah. As David Cohen tells it, every artist Cohen discussed the project with asked him why he didn’t just Photoshop the suspended structure. (The police even got involved in a bad way). But Cohen insisted he wanted the image to look authentic, so a scaffolding company was commissioned. Cohen took many images and used Photoshop to piece them together – only partially cheating in my book.

 

 

Toby Cohen. “Sunrise in Mezada.”

 

One can only hope the figures leaping (dancing on air?) in “Sunrise in Mezada” took safety precautions, because they look like they are dangerously close to plummeting off the side of the Masada fortress and dashing themselves across the floor of the Judean dessert. The leftmost figure, who wears a prayer shawl, stands in a position mid-way between the flamingo-orientation popularized in “Karate Kid” and a Cruciform position. The other two figures – one leaping, one lunging – reach their arms out toward the heavens. There is something cartoony about the image, but it also evokes the scale and proportion of the hyperrealism of the Hudson River School, in which 19th century American artists like Thomas Cole and Frederic Church showed small figures dwarfed by expansive, mystical and beautiful landscapes.

 

I find other photographs of Cohen’s less effective, like “Sunrise over the Borders of Romania,” which shows a hovering figure which reminds me of the police officers (with their primitive jetpacks) in Fran?ois Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

 

“Mincha,” which depicts a praying man clad in all white standing in the woods with his hands clasped, is a greater success. Though the man assumes a central position in the composition, the landscape is so compelling and powerful that it rivals him for prominence and must be considered a character rather than just an environment. The same cannot be said of “Gedalia and the Cows,” perhaps Cohen’s take on “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” in which a colorful man, apparently named Gedalia, lifts his hands heavenward amongst a herd of mostly uninterested and unimpressed cows.

 

At least on my computer, there is obvious Photoshopping around the figure in “Fiddler on the Roof,” but the composition is really interesting, and the fiddler seems believable, like Chagall’s suspended kissers. “Ariel” will remind some Facebook users of the all-too-popular photographs people take of friends or family members jumping, captured mid-air. This sort of image was perhaps most famously undertaken by photographer Philippe Haussman, subject of the Smithsonian Magazine October 2006 story, “When He Said ‘Jump…,'” by Owen Edwards. Cohen’s contribution is the addition of the jumping chassid.

 

Toby Cohen. “Yum Kippur Project, 2009.”

 

But the image the gallery makes the biggest deal about is “Yum Kippur Project, 2009” – Cohen’s take on a famous 1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb called “Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur.” Cohen set the scene on a stage with family members and other people who have played an important part in his life (an ex-girlfriend was one of them), and he represented himself as the figure who was Gottlieb’s self-portrait.

 

In a YouTube clip linked on Cohen’s site, he explains that he has learned that the set-up and a variety of elements leading up to pushing the button on the camera are more important than the mechanical act of taking the picture (which explains how he justifies being a photographer and including himself in the work). With the exception of some typos in the Hebrew inscription on the right side of the photograph, I agree with Cohen that the work is more interesting for its production than its execution per se. If we have Gottlieb, we don’t necessarily need Cohen’s interpretation, and it has its work cut out for itself to compete with the original.

 

But it is the blending of painting and photography, like Cohen’s experimentation with reality and Photoshop, which is most noteworthy in this body of work. Time will tell how important the works truly are, but they definitely deserve a close look.

 

Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.  He lives in Washington, D.C.

Menachem Wecker

Toby Cohen’s Hovering Hassidim

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Toby Cohen: Cherubim & Angels


Through July 8, 2010


Engel Gallery


26 Gordon St., Tel Aviv, Israel



 

 


One of my favorite characters in all of literature is the senile patriarch José Arcadio Buendía, of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, who, before getting tied to a tree for his own protection, decides he would like to capture God in a daguerreotype. José’s ultimately unsuccessful design solution is to jump out from around a corner hoping to catch the deity unawares. This association of the divine and the photographic image is perhaps why some Chassidic rebbes opposed photography in its early days and certain practicing Muslims today, who espouse an aniconistic interpretation of Islam, scowl for their passport or license portraits to show their disapproval of the medium.

 

The chassidim in Toby Cohen’s photographs, though arguably unaware of the presence of the camera, seem to have no objections to the voyeuristic artist. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post’s Carl Hoffman (“Trying to shoot God,” May 7, 2010), Cohen, British-born, Tel Aviv- and London-based, said his art has a bit of the hunt for the divine in it. As Cohen tells it, a man he met in Israel asked him why he did not try to take God’s portrait if he was such a good photographer.

 

Evidently, the question made an impact. “[A]fter this encounter, I began to think about trying to find a way to capture people connecting to God,” Cohen told the Jerusalem Post. “So, through Breslav hassidism and hassidic meditation, I found people who were at the closest point to God that I had ever seen. They were meditating in nature. And that was the connection between the people, the land and God.”

 

 


Toby Cohen. “Flying Sukkah.” All images courtesy of Engel Gallery.

 

When I first saw digital images of Cohen’s work, I was sure there was some photoshopping involved. Take “Flying Sukkah,” a panoramic crepuscular view of a suspended sukkah hovering over a mountain. Yellow flowers, rocks, brush and grass populate the foreground, while rolling hills and mountains are visible on the horizon, softened by the purple and ochre rays of the setting (or rising) sun. A stepladder leads up to the sukkah, which is occupied by three figures, two wearing prayer shawls. One figure wearing a coat and a black hat stands at the bottom of the ladder and points up at a figure crouching in the sukkah, holding one end of a string with which he engages in a tug-of-war with another figure on the ground.

 

Is the one figure trying to pull the other heavenward? Is the grounded figure trying to drag the other earthward? Both? Perhaps the gesture, half-prayer half-shrug, of the other figure, clad in a prayer shawl that makes him look like an angel beating its wings, best captures the ambiguity of the image.

 


Toby Cohen. “Fiddler on the Roof.”

 

Anyone who studies religious art for years, as I have, learns early on to be suspicious of contemporary iterations of surrealism or magic realism. It’s all too easy for an artist to create kitsch with melting Kiddush cups or hovering, cartoony angels and billowing Israeli flags. Tallitot and sukkot and a variety of other Jewish ritual objects are so iconic that I have seen many a Jewish artist succeed despite (and perhaps precisely due to) using recognizable Jewish symbols to obscure poor underlying visual structure.

 

I’m not entirely convinced Cohen avoids this pitfall (though to be fair I’m reviewing his art from 6,000 miles away), but I was very interested to learn that Photoshop is less of his process than I had originally anticipated. Cohen told the Jerusalem Post he conceived of the flying sukkah one Sukkot at his friend, David Cohen’s (no relation) sukkah. The two were discussing the laws of the sukkah (Can it be on a camel? A boat? Etc.), and Cohen decided he wanted to photograph a flying sukkah. As David Cohen tells it, every artist Cohen discussed the project with asked him why he didn’t just Photoshop the suspended structure. (The police even got involved in a bad way). But Cohen insisted he wanted the image to look authentic, so a scaffolding company was commissioned. Cohen took many images and used Photoshop to piece them together – only partially cheating in my book.

 

 


Toby Cohen. “Sunrise in Mezada.”

 

One can only hope the figures leaping (dancing on air?) in “Sunrise in Mezada” took safety precautions, because they look like they are dangerously close to plummeting off the side of the Masada fortress and dashing themselves across the floor of the Judean dessert. The leftmost figure, who wears a prayer shawl, stands in a position mid-way between the flamingo-orientation popularized in “Karate Kid” and a Cruciform position. The other two figures – one leaping, one lunging – reach their arms out toward the heavens. There is something cartoony about the image, but it also evokes the scale and proportion of the hyperrealism of the Hudson River School, in which 19th century American artists like Thomas Cole and Frederic Church showed small figures dwarfed by expansive, mystical and beautiful landscapes.

 

I find other photographs of Cohen’s less effective, like “Sunrise over the Borders of Romania,” which shows a hovering figure which reminds me of the police officers (with their primitive jetpacks) in François Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

 

“Mincha,” which depicts a praying man clad in all white standing in the woods with his hands clasped, is a greater success. Though the man assumes a central position in the composition, the landscape is so compelling and powerful that it rivals him for prominence and must be considered a character rather than just an environment. The same cannot be said of “Gedalia and the Cows,” perhaps Cohen’s take on “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” in which a colorful man, apparently named Gedalia, lifts his hands heavenward amongst a herd of mostly uninterested and unimpressed cows.

 

At least on my computer, there is obvious Photoshopping around the figure in “Fiddler on the Roof,” but the composition is really interesting, and the fiddler seems believable, like Chagall’s suspended kissers. “Ariel” will remind some Facebook users of the all-too-popular photographs people take of friends or family members jumping, captured mid-air. This sort of image was perhaps most famously undertaken by photographer Philippe Haussman, subject of the Smithsonian Magazine October 2006 story, “When He Said ‘Jump…,'” by Owen Edwards. Cohen’s contribution is the addition of the jumping chassid.

 


Toby Cohen. “Yum Kippur Project, 2009.”

 

But the image the gallery makes the biggest deal about is “Yum Kippur Project, 2009” – Cohen’s take on a famous 1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb called “Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur.” Cohen set the scene on a stage with family members and other people who have played an important part in his life (an ex-girlfriend was one of them), and he represented himself as the figure who was Gottlieb’s self-portrait.

 

In a YouTube clip linked on Cohen’s site, he explains that he has learned that the set-up and a variety of elements leading up to pushing the button on the camera are more important than the mechanical act of taking the picture (which explains how he justifies being a photographer and including himself in the work). With the exception of some typos in the Hebrew inscription on the right side of the photograph, I agree with Cohen that the work is more interesting for its production than its execution per se. If we have Gottlieb, we don’t necessarily need Cohen’s interpretation, and it has its work cut out for itself to compete with the original.

 

But it is the blending of painting and photography, like Cohen’s experimentation with reality and Photoshop, which is most noteworthy in this body of work. Time will tell how important the works truly are, but they definitely deserve a close look.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.  He lives in Washington, D.C.

Menachem Wecker

We’re Losing The Campus Debate

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
It’s been five years since I attended a symposium at Columbia University discussing the David Project’s documentary “Columbia Unbecoming,” a film that highlighted anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements by faculty in the Middle East Arts Language and Culture MEALC program. The film ignited a debate over the prevalence of anti-Zionism on American campuses and the dangers of advocacy teaching at universities, much of it fueled by Arab funding.
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“Columbia Unbecoming” created a furor, prompting Columbia to convene a faculty investigatory committee to look into the allegations. Former PLO mouthpiece Rashid Khalidi, known for his frequent use of the terms “racist” and “apartheid” to describe Israel, was a Columbia professor who actively defended his Israel-bashing colleagues. He continues to indoctrinate through his teaching, holding the Edward Said chair at Columbia. A $200,000 donation toward that chair was received in 2004 from the United Arab Emirates, a gift Columbia initially attempted to conceal.
 
Khalidi was featured at a debate I attended last month at NYU, a university that itself is no stranger to foreign donations, having received an unrestricted gift of $20 million from the government of the United Arab Emirates in 2008 as part of a pledged $50 million.
 
The Feb. 9 debate, held at NYU’s Skirball Center, was heard on over 200 NPR stations across the country and seen on the Bloomberg Television network.
 
Khalidi spoke for the motion “The United States Should Step Back From Its Special Relationship With Israel.” His debating partner was New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, known as much for his tirades against Israel as for his starry-eyed reports last spring on the peaceful intentions of Iran’s Islamic Republic and the blissful conditions of Iranian Jews under Ahmadinejad.
 
It would be easy to dismiss Cohen as simply na?ve if the insidious manner of exploiting his own Jewishness to further his agenda were not so manifest.
 
True to form, Cohen castigated Israel’s security barrier as the Palestinians’ “hated separated wall” which results in “an isolated, fragmented, atomized, fractured, humiliated Palestinian presence” and described his visits to the West Bank as “a kind of primer in colonialism.”
 
Khalidi, for his part, lambasted Israel, disputed America’s role as an “honest broker” in the Middle East, and urged the audience to vote for the proposition of diminishing America’s relationship with Israel because “We [Americans] are in effect engaged in supporting an occupation that has been going on for 42 years.”
 
The valiant efforts of opposing panelist Stuart Eizenstat – former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, undersecretary of commerce, undersecretary of state and deputy secretary of the Treasury – were simply not enough. Lacking the charisma of his opponents, Eisenstat was also somewhat hindered by his partner Itamar Rabinovich, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States. It was easy to link Rabinovich’s weak dissent with his open lament at Kadima’s loss in the most recent Israeli election and his enthusiastic embrace of the two-state solution.
 
             Even the moderator, John Donvan, correspondent for ABC News “Nightline,” at one point paused to solicitously ask an obviously pro-Palestinian student if she was satisfied with the reply she received to her anti-Israel question. When I was called on, I pointed out the failure of both Hamas and Fatah to remove from their charters the clause calling for Israel’s dismantling and stressed their continuing anti-Semitic incitement, only to have Donvan dourly interject, “I need to come home with this question, I see where you are going.”
 
I then asked Cohen how he, as a Jew, could support America’s downgrading its ties with Israel. Cohen did not answer the question but rather blamed all Middle East ills on Israeli settlements, a typical knee-jerk response that doesn’t fool the informed but does deceive college kids suffering from a woefully inadequate education.
 
That this was the case here was evident by the debate’s results. Before the debate, 33 percent of the attendees supported the motion of the U.S. stepping back from its special relationship with Israel, with 42 percent opposed and 25 percent undecided. After the debate, the results were 49 percent for, 47 percent against, and 4 percent undecided.
 
Israel bashing on campuses has become de rigueur these days. Though the NYU debate was attended by a somewhat civil audience, the same cannot be said for the reception accorded Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine on the following day, Feb. 10. Oren was repeatedly harassed while attempting to deliver a speech.
 
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon did not fare much better the same day in England. Ayalon spoke at the Oxford Union, where he was repeatedly interrupted by protestors waving Palestinian flags and yelling anti-Israel slogans. One protester approached Ayalon screaming “itbah al-Yahud” (“slaughter the Jews”).
 
We can see from the very enemies we are confronting in the Middle East the consequences of virulent and widespread anti-Semitic propaganda. Inbred prejudices and hatred are almost impossible to erase. So long as Arabs are taught from the cradle to hate Jews, there is no chance for true peace.
 
If we allow our campuses to further the cause of our enemies by allowing anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-U.S. ranting to go unchecked, we will have a new generation doing our enemies’ work for them. There were close to a thousand people in the audience at the NYU debate on a topic of paramount importance to all American Jews, yet there were only – in New York City, no less – two yarmulkes to be found among them, one belonging to my husband.
 

With engagement being one of our last lines of defense in this dangerous battle, let us not close the door in our own faces.

 

 

Sara Lehmann is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn.

Sara Lehmann

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/were-losing-the-campus-debate/2010/03/03/

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