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September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘image’

Shhhh…

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Rest period in the pre-kindergarten class at the Jewish Educational Center, the precursor to the current St. Paul Jewish Community Center, circa 1939.

It was built in 1930 at the corner of Holly and Grotto Streets. Programming combined recreation and education, and by the time this picture was taken, over 100 community groups used the building.

I was looking for something sweet to prepare us for the Holy Day of Yom Kippur. I was born on Yom Kippur, and so I always find it difficult to feel fear when it comes to what is, after all, my birthday.

I can understand intellectually why people are so afraid – judgment, sealed fates, it’s supposed to be scary. But I don’t feel those things. Instead, I fell the beauty of the tunes, the fragrance of the citrus fruit poked with cloves which I smell every half hour or so, the amazing stories of the Mussaf service.

Who else gets this kind of goodies on their birthday?

I didn’t find any image that would express my Yom Kippur joy. So I picked these toddlers, who are in their 70s and 80s today.

But if you look closely, you’ll see that the child up front is squeezing his face and fist – faking a peaceful nap for the benefit of the camera. No innocence there…

Ah, well, the search for spontaneous expressions of authentic joy continues…

Why We Blow Shofar

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Here’s a lovely image of two kids blowing shofars on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration, at the Saint Paul Jewish Community Center, circa 1990.

We blow shofar 100 times, give or take, on each day of the two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which is a two-day holiday not only in Diaspora but in Israel, too.

We blow our shofars so many times, a task which often proves quite challenging to the “ba’al toke’ah,” the shofarmeister, because of the mother of an ancient enemy, the Canaanite general Sisera who was defeated by an Israelite army led by a reluctant young man named Barak and a zealous prophetess named Deborah. Sisera himself was killed—with a tent peg smacked into his temple—by a young Kenite woman named Yael.

Sisera was a mythical enemy, whose army had been undefeated until that fateful day at the Kishon River—not far from today’s city of Haifa. When Sisera dipped in the sea, he trapped enough fish in his beard to feed his entire army.

This could mean either that he had a very small army or a very big beard.

In any event, General Sisera did not return from that last mission, and his mother, waiting for him with growing concern, sighed 100 times. And this mother’s anguish came up before the Divine Throne and served as an accusatory voice against the Jews. And so, each new year, we drown out her sighs with our 100 shofar blasts.

Shows you the value of a mother’s feelings to the Creator of the world. Shows you also the importance of drowning out negative publicity.

Have a sweet and meaningful holiday and a delightful new year, come back for more Wednesday morning.

Nahal Recruits Swear Allegiance

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

New recruits were sworn into the Nahal Brigade at the Western Wall in Jerusalem a week ago.

Nahal is an acronym for Noar Halutzi Lohem, or Fighting Pioneer Youth. It was established in the early 1950s as a force that combined military service and establishment of new agricultural settlements along Israel’s borders. Many of those settlements were later turned into permanent villages. Some were then dismantled by delusional Israeli governments who sought peace with Arab thugs.

I’m convinced that the Nahal model is what gave the IDF its image of a humane military force. It was the citizen soldier model at its extreme, and it worked. Indeed, it worked as long as at the helm of Israel’s political system sat governments that were interested in the Zionist ideal of settling the land of Israel.

There was very little daylight on the settlement ideal back then between the most extreme Zionist left and the extreme Zionist right.

I’m proud to have served in the Nahal as entertainer during the Yom Kippur war, and then as journalist for the Bamahane Nahal, the force’s monthly magazine (war is hell).

The Nahal Infantry brigade was formed in 1982 to answer a growing need for infantry manpower in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War.

No settlements needed any more, thank you very much.

Branding Sold America on Obama like a Can of Soda

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

What’s the difference between a president and a can of Pepsi? When it comes to winning elections, the answer is very little. The 2008 election was not about issues, it was about image. Not just the image of the candidate, but the image of his brand.

In marketing terms, a brand is not just a label, it’s the way that the customer is meant to perceive the product and interact with it. Take the can of Pepsi. It doesn’t matter what’s actually in the can, you don’t have access to the full list of ingredients anyway. And if you did, it would take extensive research to even make sense of them. It’s not even about how the actual soda tastes. That matters, but not very much. All that really matters is how the customer perceives the brand. It’s not about the content. It’s only about how people view the brand.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s not what the product is, but how people perceive it in relation to themselves. This is an entirely image based approach, but a common one now. The ultimate question is – Is this a brand I want to be associated with? Do I want to be seen drinking this can of Pepsi? Is this a brand that makes me feel good about myself? Does it enhance my self-image?

The branding of American politics worked the same way. Obama was not sold as a set of positions and a track record, but as a brand. A brand that people were encouraged to feel enthusiastic about or at least comfortable with, using the same techniques that were used to sell soft drinks. Cheerful posters, meaninglessly simple slogans, celebrities, theme songs, merchandise, social media, viral videos, fonts, color schemes, logos and everything else that goes into pushing a billion dollar product from the shelves to the kitchen.

That transition took Hillary Clinton by surprise and hurt her most of all. Hillary had been working the party and the traditional campaign circuit, only to be sidelined by a media centered frenzy that centered around brands, not people. By the old political rules she should have won, but the new rules were in and they weren’t political anymore.

Few voters could really nail down the policy differences between Obama and McCain, a mistake that was in part McCain’s own fault and played into the image-over-substance approach of the Obama campaign. And those who couldn’t, mostly voted for the candidate they felt most comfortable being associated with. The election came down to a cultural split with the cultural weapons of mass distraction in the hands of an omnipresent media and social media empire.

There was no longer any point in discussing programs or issues. They had become details, like the fine print at the end of a television commercial that no one can read, and no one is meant to read. It’s there to fulfill an obligation, not to inform or play any meaningful role in the decision making process. All that mattered was the brand.

The approach was to make voters want to be part of the Obama “brand” and not want to be associated with the McCain/Palin brand. The Obama brand was positioned as cool and youthful, in the same way that soft drinks are. And the public was told over and over again that McCain was old and crazy, that Palin was stupid and crazy, and that both of them were uncool. Probably the most constant message repeated through the election and today, is that the Republican is for “old people”. In marketing terms this is worse than being called a Nazi. The constant pursuit of youth means that brands which appeal to old people are ruthlessly eliminated or limited to the export market. (That’s why you’ll find many classic American brands in South America or Asia where they have strong consumer loyalty, but in the United States they were replaced with more “youthful” brands associated with a new generation.)

2008 was certainly not the first time that liberals had worked to position themselves as the face of a new generation, and the Republicans as the voice of the past. The strategy dated back to Kennedy vs Nixon and saw use again with Clinton in 1992 and 1996, when Silent Generationers, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole contended with the country’s first Baby Boomer President. And then in 2008, the boomer Hillary Clinton was pushed aside for a Generation X candidate. The progressive left enjoys being thought of as revolutionary and youthful, even if their ideas and funding come from eighty-year olds like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and George Soros. A youthful demographic is less likely to have the background and the life experience to know that their policies won’t work, and to be fueled by the same inchoate mix of outrage and blind optimism. And a willingness to act without understanding the consequences.

The Perfect Formula

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Over the past several weeks I have featured tragic stories of family disintegration. Some of you might protest that “tragic” is a rather extreme word and that “sad” or “painful” would be more appropriate, but once again I emphasize tragic.

To other nations, splintered families are sad, but to us they are of tragic – of catastrophic dimensions.

Other nations were created through conquest and an amalgamation of peoples. We, the Jewish people, were born in the cradle of family – Abraham and Sarah, our Patriarch and Matriarch, created our very first home. They entrusted their son, Isaac, with preserving it and Isaac passed the responsibility on to his son Jacob. It was Jacob, Rachel and Leah who brought the family to its zenith. They were the parents of the twelve sons who became the Tribal Patriarchs of our people. It was Jacob who struggled with the evil of this world and triumphed, thus earning the title Yisrael. And we B’nei Yisrael, sons of Jacob, were launched on our journey to be a light of Torah, truth, compassion, justice, and blessing to all of mankind

Family continued and continues to shape our lives. Just consider the Pesach Seder, the holy Sabbath, and much, much more, all celebrated within the confines of our homes. The Jewish home is sacrosanct – a mikdash m’at, a sanctuary in miniature. We are a nation of families entrusted with a mission to live by G-d’s Word and impart its teachings to the world. It is through our example that the words of the prophets, the language of prayer and the soul-lifting Psalms have become available to mankind.

If our families crumble and disintegrate, it is more than just individuals who suffer – it is the very foundation of our nation that is jeopardized.

How can we protect ourselves and reverse the tide?

Even as vaccines for dangerous, life-threatening diseases must be given during a child’s infancy, so we must discover a perfect formula to immunize and protect our sons and daughters from our 21st century cultural disease. To be sure, this disease is relentless and does not recognize any boundaries. It strikes mercilessly and destroys everything in its wake.

The name of this deadly virus is “Me! Me! Me!” This virus has become so common, so widespread, that most people regard it as the norm and see no reason to be alarmed by it. We, the Jewish people, must immunize ourselves and our children from its poisonous sting. But do we have a vaccine that can shield us from its poisonous sting?

We certainly do. The formula is here, free and available to all of us. We need only seize it. When applied, it is so potent that it protects not only us but future generations as well.

The name of this perfect vaccine should be obvious. It’s our perfect Torah.

Psychologists tell us a child’s education should begin from the time a baby is born. Our Torah formula is different. It requires that this process begin even prior to conception. If it forgotten or neglected, the formula remains potent, and whenever and wherever it is applied it miraculously reverses the disease. The second-stage application is the ba’al teshuvah vaccine and remains as powerful as ever,

In contrast to medications that have expiration dates, the Torah formula remains forever fresh. It does not require refrigeration. On the contrary, it must be kept out and exposed to human contact. The more it is used, the more healing is its effect – specifically the commandment of Kibbud Av V’Em – honoring one’s father and mother.

This vaccine is most powerful when the child is given the infusion from his or her infancy on. For the vaccine to be most effective it should be administered in the proper environment. When children see parents living harmoniously and serving as role models of respect, love, and commitment, they are fortified and remain immune to the many seductive forces of their environment. It was that which enabled Joseph to survive the degeneracy, idolatry and barbaric cruelty of ancient Egypt. In every crisis, in every painful moment, in every struggle, the image of his saintly father was there to protect him. It was powerfully engraved on his heart. This image of Jacob, Isaac and Abraham is so great that even in the absence of role-model parents it cannot be erased.

Estonian gas company apologizes for using Auschwitz in ad

Monday, August 27th, 2012

(JTA) — An Estonian gas company apologized for using a photo of Auschwitz in its advertising.

The website of GasTerm Eesti on Aug. 23 published a photograph of the front gate of the Nazi death camp with the famous inscription “Arbeit macht frei,” or “work makes you free.” The caption read “Gas heating — flexible, convenient, and effective.”

The next day the photo was removed from the site and an apology was posted.

Company director Sven Linros said, according to DzD.ee portal, “Hitler killed himself because he got a gas bill … a lot of people laugh at this, but I do not. I visited Auschwitz with dread. I feel sorry for the victims and their families. The picture was intended for a narrow group of people. We wanted to clarify that the CH4 gas is not toxic and can be used to heat buildings even those with such a sad history.”

Auschwitz photos have been used before in ads. In January, a gym in Dubai used an image from the camp with the tag line “Kiss your calories goodbye.”

Portraits Of Remembrance: Paintings By Diana Kurz

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Reaching back in time to reclaim a family for herself and, in a yahrzeit moment, to rekindle lives snuffed out, Diana Kurz’s paintings stand as testaments to victims of the Holocaust. After a successful 20 year career as an artist and teacher, (with a strong feminist bent), in 1989 Kurz happened upon a few surviving photos of her own relatives “who disappeared during the war.” Suddenly her past opened up and possessed her. This spring (April 4 – May 2, 2012) a series of these paintings was shown at the Art Gallery at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY.

Brothers (1999) seems to depict a world of normalcy itself. The two men, one with a cane and bearded, possibly older, and the other clean-shaven with a lighter colored hat, stare out at us innocently. Simply a snapshot from two lives. The work is notable for its simple composition; each figure echoing the other while the subtle differences reveal the kinds of simultaneous contrasts and similarities that dominate familial relations. Then we read the caption at the top: “The brothers Pietnicer left Krishenka, Poland trying to escape the Nazis. They were last heard from in 1939 when the older brother, Zelig, sent a postcard to the US from an unknown location with the words: “Gott wird uns helfen! God will help us.” Along the bottom of the image is what appears to be a filmstrip depicting barbed wire double enclosures characteristic of work and death camps. Kurz summons two lives back from the grave to memorialize them and remind us of the simple details of tragedy. She commands us to just remember, and now, after her painting, we cannot forget them.

Diana Kurz’s history curiously buried her relationship of the Shoah until a chance encounter uncovered an entire life she never knew. She was born in Vienna and escaped as a young child with her family in 1938, finally arriving in New York in 1940. As was fairly typical for many refugees, the past was kept silent and every effort was made to acculturate as “normal” Americans. When she was ten, two cousins who had survived the concentration camps arrived and lived with her family, sharing Diana’s bedroom. Naturally teenage stories were exchanged that would lurk in her memory forever. And yet she grew up, when to Brandeis for a BA and an MFA from Columbia, and began a successful career as a figurative artist and teacher. Only decades later, in 1989 when she was visiting an aging aunt, did she happen to see old photos of her family in pre-war Vienna. Suddenly she had to confront the suffering and loss of family members who did not survive. As a mature artist she was able to summon the aesthetic tools to approach a history that was both deeply personal and yet relevant to the Jewish people and all humanity.

Zora and Michael Kurz (1990) 75 x 60 x 7, oil on paper on linen by Diana Kurz
Courtesy the artist

Kurz brings something unique to her Holocaust paintings. All of the paintings have a personal edge since the impetus for these works stems from photographic portraits of her family members, i.e. the emotions are rooted in her own past, regardless of whether she remembers the individuals or not. In each image at least one subject is looking directly into the eyes of the viewer, confronting us as virtual family members and imploring us to remember them as individuals we deeply care about. It is as if in the act of visually engaging these paintings we are saying kaddish for each person depicted.

Drawing upon the European medieval tradition of depicting important religious subjects with altarpieces that had multiple side panels and predellas (small independent images along the bottom of the main image), Kurz utilized this form in the early testament to her uncle Michael and cousin Zora. He is shown holding his infant daughter in what were clearly happier days. The image is sun-filled; ominously contrasting with the fiery turmoil that surrounds them in the side panels. The predella presents a seemingly normative past; an army portrait, a wedding picture, a postcard, a studio portrait and an innocent childhood drawing (actually by children in Theresienstadt) while the enormous artwork (75” X 60”) is capped with two memorial candles and the harrowing dedication against a bright blue sky; “Zora and Michael Kunz disappeared –vanished – from Belgrade in the 1940’s and were never heard from again – also Klarcha Kurz & Dorrit Kurz – all without a trace.” It is a painting of stark contrasts, evoking memories of lives erased and now brought back for us to mourn.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/portraits-of-remembrance-paintings-by-diana-kurz/2012/08/23/

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