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December 17, 2014 / 25 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

Dutch Government Planning Ban on Kosher Slaughtering

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

The Dutch government is drafting a decree that would give it veto power over anyone who wants to practice ritual slaughter, or sh’chitah, in the Netherlands.

The draft decree, which was signed by Dutch Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker, was drawn up by the government to end two years of uncertainty about the future of the practice in the Netherlands. The Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad published the contents of the draft decree on Friday.

“If veterinarians are put in charge of shechita, then before long it would basically stop shechitah in the Netherlands,” Amsterdam Chief Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag told JTA.

The decree formulated by Bleker is based largely on a contract his office signed in June with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities.

The contract constituted the Dutch government’s compromise on regulating ritual slaughter. The Dutch lower house passed a total ban last year, but it was scrapped by the Senate out of consideration for freedom of worship. The ban was on all slaughter of conscious animals – a requirement of both Jewish and Muslim law.

The contract said animals that are still conscious after 40 seconds of the cutting of their throats would be stunned, which would prohibit their consumption by kosher or halal consumers.

The contract introduced regulations such as to the size of the knife to be used and where the animal’s neck would be cut, but did not require that a veterinarian would oversee the procedure.

Earlier this week, Ralbag wrote to Bleker to ask that the minister wait until Nov. 1 before issuing any final decree. Bleker, a member of a caretaker government, is expected to be replaced in the coming weeks.

Ralbag said he needed more time to formulate his concerns about the draft. He has not received the minister’s answer to his request, he said.

Ralbag had said the contract, signed by the Organization of the Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, was “flawed,” and warned it could ultimately eliminate the practice of kosher slaughtering. He added, however, that it did not contradict Jewish Halacha.

Last month, Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said the contract was a “model” for ensuring religious freedom in Europe.

Why the EU Refuses to Classify Hezbollah as a Terror Org.

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The Lebanon-based Islamic organization Hezbollah is one of the most dangerous groups in the world. Recently, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah incited violence against American and European interests over the movie The Innocence of Muslims. And yet, the European Union refuses to follow America’s example and classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization – a move that would enable the E.U. to freeze the group’s assets in Europe.

Several people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been killed, ostensibly in retaliation for the movie, which is perceived to be critical of Muhammad, the 7th century Arab warlord who founded Islam. Instead of calling for calm, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah called for prolonged protests: “The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts.”

Hezbollah is also involved in terrorist activities in Syria. During a meeting on September 7 in Paphos, Cyprus, the foreign ministers of the 27 member states of the European Union discussed the situation in Syria, including the position which the E.U. should take regarding Hezbollah. While Britain and the Netherlands urged other E.U. governments to join the United States in imposing sanctions on Hezbollah, they were unable to convince the other E.U. members. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said that Hezbollah should, further, be branded a terrorist organization; he was, however, was isolated with this stance.

This does not come as a surprise, considering the E.U.’s earlier refusal to condemn Hezbollah for terrorism. Last July, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited the E.U. capital, Brussels, to persuade the E.U. to follow America’s example and classify Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Lieberman met resistance – a lot. He was attempting to isolate Hezbollah after the July 18 suicide bombing at the airport of the Bulgarian coastal resort of Burgas – an attack, and clearly a terrorist one – in which five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed.

According to Israeli and American intelligence sources, the terrorist attack was the work of Hezbollah, upon orders from Iran. Nevertheless, the Cypriot minister of Foreign Affairs, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, who currently holds the rotating E.U. presidency said that there is “no tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism.” Hence, there was “no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations.” He emphasized that Hezbollah was an organization with a political as well as an armed wing and that it has representatives in the Lebanese parliament and government.

In 2008, the Netherlands declared Hezbollah and all its branches terrorist entities. Britain considers only its armed wing a terrorist group. Consequently, Hezbollah can operate freely all over Europe, except in the Netherlands. Apart from the Netherlands and the United States, only Canada, Australia and New Zealand have classified Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The European Parliament did the same in a 2005 resolution, but as the latter was non-binding the E.U. has ignored it.

Jacob Campbell, a researcher at the British Institute for Middle Eastern Democracytold the Jerusalem Post: “Within just days of the Burgas bombing – almost undoubtedly perpetrated by Hezbollah – the Presidency of the E.U. Council explicitly ruled out the possibility of listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, insisting that there is no ‘tangible evidence’ to link Hezbollah to terrorism. This ludicrous statement was made despite an earlier resolution adopted by the European Parliament, which cites ‘clear evidence’ of terrorist acts committed by Hezbollah. On this issue, as in so many others, Brussels appears to have its head buried firmly in the sand.”

France is one of the countries that oppose the efforts to blacklist Hezbollah. France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, wants to preserve its diplomatic influence in that country. In 2011, Najib Mikati, a Hezbollah-backed politician, became Prime Minister of Lebanon after Hezbollah toppled the previous government. Even deadly attacks by Hezbollah on French nationals have not persuaded the French government to designate the group as terrorist. Last year, Alain Juppé, the then Foreign Minister of France, accused Hezbollah of attacking French U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon. However, with Hezbollah constituting part of the Lebanese establishment, the French are reluctant to act against it.

The German government, too, refuses to draw the obvious conclusion regarding Hezbollah, although the German domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesverfassungsschutz, has warned that Hezbollah has over 900 active members in Germany. In 2008, the German Interior Ministry restricted the reception of the programs of the Hezbollah television station Al-Manar in German hotels. Al-Manar is used by Hezbollah to recruit terrorists and communicate with sleeper cells around the globe.

The Netherlands: The Holocaust As Memory Battlefield

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

There are few societies where the contradiction between Holocaust distortion and Holocaust commemoration is as pronounced as it is in the Netherlands. This phenomenon came to the fore earlier this month on National Memorial Day, May 4, designated to commemorate the many victims of the German occupier. One hundred thousand Dutch Jews – more than 70 percent of the country’s pre-war community – were by far the largest group of victims.

The small town of Vorden decided that those participating in the ceremony for Dutch victims could also jointly visit the graves of German soldiers who are buried there. Originally it was intended that the local choir would sing a German song at the graves. That part of the program was soon scrapped. A Jewish organization went to court and obtained an injunction which forbade the mayor – who is a main proponent of whitewashing the war past – to participate in the visit to the German graves. A number of Jews hired a small plane that flew over the town with a banner reading: “Vorden Went Wrong.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the Vorden authorities: “By honoring the German soldiers who occupied the Netherlands on behalf of the most murderous regime in human history…the local authorities of Vorden have basically rewritten the history of the war, erasing the critical distinction between victims and perpetrators. Such a decision is apparently based on the erroneous assumption that forgiveness automatically leads to reconciliation, ignores the horrific nature of the Nazi regime and is an insult to its victims.”

The Vorden incident did not stand alone. The National Committee for Commemoration chose a 15-year-old boy to read his poem at the National Ceremony in Amsterdam. It commemorated his uncle, after whom he was named, who had joined the Waffen SS. After protests, the reading was cancelled.

Dutch whitewashers and distorters of the Holocaust and the Second World War come from different backgrounds. A number of them are family members of those Dutch who collaborated with Nazi Germany. The Netherlands had 25,000 Waffen SS volunteers, the largest contingent in Western Europe. And there were many other collaborators not limited to members of the Dutch Nazi party.

Related phenomena are the defacing of Holocaust memorials and Jewish sites, swastikas painted on buildings, and anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial postings on Dutch Internet sites Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte, who was educated as a historian, said, while he was the parliamentary leader of the liberal faction, that Holocaust denial should not be punished.

On the other hand, it is difficult to find another country where so much attention is given to commemorating its destroyed Jewish communities. Many municipalities clean and maintain Jewish cemeteries on a regular basis. Some organizations and individuals even re-erect fallen gravestones and repaint the lettering.

Not only are there monuments for the murdered Jews in many towns, there are even plans for new ones. Memorial “stumbling” stones embedded in pavements in front of homes where Jews lived before their deaths have been placed in tens of towns and more are planned for the future.

Jewish monuments are “adopted” and cleaned by schoolchildren in some towns. Many synagogues that were no longer in use after the Second World War have been restored in past decades and serve as cultural centers and the like. A few even host Jewish services. There are many other annual memorial activities.

Prime Minister Rutte best embodies the ignorance and ambiguity of many authorities. At the beginning of this year the continued lack of an apology for the Dutch wartime government’s almost total disinterest in the fate of the Dutch Jews became a public issue. Two Freedom Party parliamentarians, Geert Wilders and Raymond de Roon, submitted questions on this matter to the prime minister. Rutte refused to apologize. The reasons he gave were entirely irrelevant to the questions he was asked.

Thus the Netherlands, in its refusal to acknowledge the wartime misconduct of its authorities, remains far behind all other Western European governments.

Much of what has been described above exists in other countries as well, but nowhere is the dichotomy between commemoration and denial as clearly visible as in the Netherlands.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has authored or edited 20 books, several of which address anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.

A Jewish Palimpsest In Maastricht, Netherlands

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Three Medieval Jewish manuscripts
Regional Historic Center Limburg
Sint Pieterstraat 7, Maastricht, Netherlands
http://www.rhcl.nl/

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.) Pre-Gutenberg, books might as well have been worth their weight in gold, and even if peasants somehow managed to become literate (which they didn’t), they couldn’t just walk across the street and find a public library. It is within this context that one can begin to understand a palimpsest, or a manuscript that has been repurposed and retooled.

Due to the high price of vellum (animal skin used for book pages), some book owners would decide they weren’t too keen on the text they had inherited or purchased, and they would have the text scraped off the pages. A scribe would then write the new text on top of the old one, which might still appear ghostlike beneath the new text (not unlike a poorly erased Etch A Sketch). New technologies, which are far more effective and less invasive than their predecessors, have allowed scholars to decipher the old texts, although they are barely visible.

One particularly compelling example is the Archimedes Palimpsest Project, which focused on a mathematical work by Archimedes that had been erased by monks after it was acquired by a monastery. Perhaps unaware that he was defacing an otherwise lost work by Archimedes, the monk wrote a new religious text on top of the old one. The restored and carefully imaged text was part of the exhibit “Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes,” which was open from October 16, 2011 to January 1, 2012 at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

The palimpsest that Johan van de Walle, head of library at the Historisch Centrum Limburg on Sint Pieterstraat in Maastricht, showed me on my recent trip to the Netherlands had undergone something like the opposite kind of journey as the Archimedes book. Whereas the Archimedes text began as a scientific work and was then appropriated in a sacred context, the palimpsest in Maastricht was first a biblical text, and was subsequently turned into a tax register.

The Regional Historic Center Limburg, where Walle works, is itself a sort of palimpsest. Based in an early 14th century Franciscan monastery, which was turned into a state archive in the late 19th century, the archive—whose building has also served as a prison, a sauerkraut factory, and an artist’s studio, according to its website—still contains several tombs, and its documents span more than 11 miles.

First half of the 14th century. Leaf from a manuscript copy of Genesis 42:35 to 43:12. (“Membrum disjectum,” or disjointed element.) Photo by Menachem Wecker.

Walle showed me three Hebrew documents, all of which dated back to the 14th century. The first manuscript comes from a book of Genesis. Mislabeled in the archive as representing Genesis 42:35 to 43:27 (it in fact starts midway through verse 35 of chapter 42 and only goes until midway through the verse 43:12), the manuscript contains a few interesting elements. Whether a result of decay or scribal error, some of the letters are poorly formed (like the first line, for example), but more noteworthy, the scribe struggled with fitting the text on the lines.

On several occasions (for example, the last word on the third line of the right column), the scribe tried to fit a word into the line, only to run out of room and begin the word again on the subsequent line. Other times (such as the seventh line of that column), the scribe anticipated running out of room, so he extended a letter to fill out the rest of the line.

At the end of the first column, another interesting thing happens. The scribe, per usual, had to truncate the last word of the line, but instead of beginning the next line with a new word, he instead repeated the second to last word again. The truncated word, which is sandwiched between two iterations of the same word, isn’t even the correct partial word sequentially. And perhaps most atrociously, the scribe misspelled a word (he left out the final letter) 15 lines down the second column.

Geert Wilders: ‘The First Amendment Is What We Need in Europe’

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Address before the Gatestone Institute, New York City, April 30, 2012.

I am happy to be in New York again, even though in my country today it is Queen’s Day, a national celebration. This is why I am wearing my orange tie.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address all of you. It is always good to be among friends. It is an honor to be here in the presence of so many people who care for the preservation of freedom in our civilization.

It is great to be in America, the beacon of liberty, the land of the free, the land where people are still allowed to speak freely. I know what I am talking about. I was acquitted after a legal ordeal that lasted almost three years. I had been brought to court for criticizing Islam.

Though at the end of the day I was acquitted, the court case was a disgrace. It was a time, money, and energy-consuming nightmare. This charade that happened in the Netherlands for the last few years could not have happened in your great country, where the First Amendment guarantees people the freedom to express their opinions.

The First Amendment is what we need in the Netherlands and Europe.

I am in New York for the release of my book Marked for Death. It reveals how Islam has already profoundly changed Europe in the last decades. It exposes the cultural relativism which has affected Europe so deeply that many in Europe refuse to stand for liberty and prefer to appease Islam. It explains why Islam is a threat to freedom.

As you know, people who speak out like me pay a steep price for speaking these truths. Apart from legal attempts to silence me, there are also the threats by radical Muslims to kill me. I have been living under permanent police protection for almost eight years now. But I do not regret one word. I see it as my duty to warn the West.

I have traveled widely in the Islamic world. I have read the Koran. I have studied the life of Muhammad. It made me realize that Islam is primarily an ideology rather than a religion. This ideology wants to impose Islamic sharia law on the whole world, including us the Kafirs, the non-Muslims. This ideology is also outspokenly anti-Semitic.

This ideology also harms Muslims. Islam believes that everything men have to know can be found in the Koran. As such, it is hostile to all forms of innovation. But without innovation there can be no progress and people cannot prosper.

Many people unfortunately are blind to the nature of Islam because they do not realize what Islam is, and mistakenly believe that it is a religion just like any other religion.

I have written my book to inform them.

Islam fails four major tests that religions should fulfill:

1. Adherence to a religion must be a personal choice;
2. no religion should demand that those who leave it be killed; this makes it a totalitarian ideology rather than a religion.
3. a religion must never mandate the subjugation of those who do not belong to it;
4. a religion must be in accord with basic human rights.

I have also written my book because I am not a defeatist. The West is able to defeat totalitarianism just as it defeated Nazism and Communism in the past.

My book is dedicated to freedom. It is inspired by many freedom fighters, from previous generations but also people from our age.

Fortunately, we are not alone in the fight for freedom. We are in the company of heroes and friends. This gives us the strength to continue.

In order to defeat Islam so, we must do four things.

The first and most important is to speak the truth, always and everywhere also about Islam. Like the Americans, the people in the Netherlands and other European countries desperately need a First Amendment.

That will allow them to tell the truth about Islam and Muhammad. We must encourage Muslims to leave Islam and to choose freedom and prosperity.

Secondly, we have to believe in the superiority of our Western values. If we do not believe in our own Western values, we will not be prepared to defend them. That is why we have to end the biggest disease in the world today, the cultural relativism which pretends that all cultures are equal. Our Judeo-Christian, humanist civilization is more free, more democratic, more tolerant than any civilization the world has ever seen. We should not be afraid to say so.

Thirdly, we must stop the Islamization of our societies by restricting immigration from Islamic countries, and expelling those who violate our laws and commit violence. If you respect our laws you are welcome to stay; if you don’t, you do not belong here.

And fourthly, we must reassert our national identities. The nation-state enables self-government and self-determination. This insight led the Zionists to establish Israel as the homeland of the Jews.

Zionism teaches us one of the most important lessons which the modern world needs today. Theodor Herzl argued that a Jewish state would facilitate “a new blossoming of the Jewish spirit.” Today, we need our own respective nation-states to preside over a new blossoming of our own Western spirit.

Our nations are the homes in which freedom and democracy prosper. This is true for the Netherlands. This is true for America. This is true for Israel.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is a beacon of freedom in an unfree region, a beacon of life in a place of darkness. If Israel falls, the West falls.

Mothers in the West can sleep safely because Israeli mothers at night worry about their sons in the army. Their fight is our fight. We should support it.

Israel is, indeed, a vital outpost of Western civilization. That is why Islam conditions the faithful to hate the Jewish state and to view its destruction as an imperative. It is our duty to stand with Israel.

In my book I explain how we can defend freedom and oppose Islamization and cultural relativism in a non-violent and democratic way. In fact, that is what my party, the Party for Freedom, is doing in the Netherlands.

When I began to speak out against Islam 10 years ago, two things happened. Extremist Muslims from the Netherlands and all over the world marked me for death, but Dutch people came to me to express their support. In 2010, we became the third biggest party in the Netherlands. Though the PVV did not become a coalition partner in the Dutch government, for almost two years we supported a center-right minority government in return for measures to roll back Sharia in Holland, stop the Islamization process, and counter cultural relativism.

The Dutch government even had the audacity to speak out against the powerful OIC, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. The OIC is an international organization of 57 Islamic countries, most of them autocracies.

This OIC constitutes the largest voting bloc in the United Nations. It criticized the fact that Dutch judges acquitted me of all charges in my court case. But the Dutch government made it clear to the OIC that freedom of speech will not be muzzled in the Netherlands. It told the OIC very bluntly: “The Dutch government dissociates itself fully from the request to silence a politician.” Never before had a European government had the courage to confront the OIC in such a forceful way.

Unfortunately, last week, the Party for Freedom decided to end its support for the government. As you can imagine, this was a difficult decision for us, given the many things also on the subject of Islamization that we were still to achieve. Unfortunately, however, previous Dutch governments – as governments elsewhere in Europe – have signed away a significant part of our own sovereignty to the EU, the European Union, a supranational institution run by unelected and undemocratic bureaucrats.

The EU controls our borders and decides over most immigration rules. The EU also imposes a policy of austerity on our country.

When the government, in order to comply with the EU rules, decided to raise taxes and slash the budget at the expense of the citizens rather than by trimming the government, my party had no other option but to bring the government down and we did so last week.

We are now heading for elections, which will be held on September 12th. Our electoral campaign will focus on the need to restore our national sovereignty, because without our sovereignty we cannot defend our identity and fight against Islamization.

My friends, we continue our efforts. Our opponents have not been able to bully me. They have not been able to silence me. They shriek and yell, but we will never give in. One of my favorite presidents Ronald Reagan once said: “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted.” Reagan was right. The future belongs to us.

In 2008, I released Fitna, a documentary about the true message of the Koran. Tomorrow, I release my book. I wrote it to inform people, and also to encourage freedom-loving Muslims to leave Islam. And to see Islam for what it really is.

I wholeheartedly support those who struggle for freedom in the Islamic world. The Arab, Turkish, Iranian, Pakistani, and Indonesian people have tremendous potential. If they could liberate themselves from the yoke of Islam, if they would stop taking Muhammad as a role model, and if they get rid of the Koran, they would be able to achieve amazing things.

As I say in my book – my message to them, to all the Muslims all over the world, is clear: “Fatalism is no option, Insh’Allah is a curse; Submission is a disgrace. Free yourselves. It is up to you.”

I receive hundreds of emails from all over the world. From people in Islamic countries, and from people in Western countries begging for help. They, too, want to fight for freedom and stop the Islamization process. We have to advise and help.

I leave you with another Reagan quote: “We need to act today, to preserve tomorrow.” Indeed, my friends, there are so many things which we can do. Things which we must do. But we can do them only if we can count on each other. You can count on me. I spoke, I speak, I shall continue to speak. I hope I can continue to count on your support.

We are fighting for the future of our children, the survival of the Western spirit, the preservation of our liberty and democracy, our Judeo-Christian and humanist heritage.

We must be brave and save our heritage and our own constitution. The West is in danger, but we can still prevail. Even when we are insulted, even when we are harassed and intimidated — even when we are marked for death — we must stand up for our values, tell the truth and never, ever, be silent.

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Marc Chagall At TEFAF Maastricht

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) March 16-25, 2012 (25 year anniversary) Maastricht, Netherlands http://www.tefaf.com/

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

“There is more Chagall than usual this year. I don’t know why, but each year there seems to be one artist who is the main artist of the year. Next year there may be only one or two,” says Anthony Brown, managing director of the London-based gallery Connaught Brown.

Ben Springett, manager and head of sales at Alon Zakaim Fine Art in London, agrees. “There do seem to be more Chagalls this year than perhaps before, although they have always been popular at the fair,” says Springett, whose gallery was participating in the fair for the first time. “Several people have said that the strength of the modern section at the fair has grown over the past few years.”

Marc Chagall. Autour de l'equilibriste. 1975-78. Oil on board. 24 x 16 ins / 60 x 40 cm.

Chagall’s “Les maries aux deux violonistes au cirque,” which was exhibited at the Alon Zakaim Fine Art booth, shows a bride and groom at the circus. The couple is surrounded by fiddlers, what might be a man with a donkey’s head, acrobats with wings, and flower bearers. In the top right corner of the piece, a painter (perhaps a self portrait of Chagall?) stands at an easel with a canvas depicting Jacob’s ladder with an angel climbing heavenward.

The conflation of angels and acrobats is an interesting move on Chagall’s part. At first blush, all of the danger and the excitement of acrobatics is lost if the performers have wings. Michael Jordan’s soaring dunks were so impressive because he is human; if he could suspend himself mid-air indefinitely it wouldn’t be nearly as arresting an image to see him pull off seemingly extra-human moves.

On the other hand, Chagall’s circus of angels—superimposed on Jacob’s dream of the ladder, so that the acrobat’s swing becomes a rung of a ladder—bridges the human and heavenly realms. That is after all what Jacob’s dream is about, and also the impression one gets from watching people flying on high wires as if they are birds.

Chagall brings the circus-Jacob’s ladder comparison full circle by depicting a sleeping (or dead?) figure lying on the ground in the circus ring. The figure, which seems to lie among red, orange, green, and blue petals, could be a dreamer imagining the Jacob’s ladder painting within the imagined circus, or it could be a fallen acrobat-angel. Just as some can soar, some remain earthbound and asleep, Chagall seems to say.

Marc Chagall. L'homme à la chèvre. 1950. Gouache, India ink and pastel on paper. 62.5 x 48.5 cm.

Another Chagall work at Alon Zakaim, “L’homme à la chèvre,” depicts a bearded man carrying a goat. A boy stands beside the man, as a purple village unfolds behind them. The blood-red moon and the red and orange sky almost suggest flames, which appear even warmer when juxtaposed with the cool colors in the foreground. A few figures can be made out in the shtetl in the background, but the most conspicuous character is a bearded man exiting stage left with a cap and a large sack slung over his shoulder.

According to an essay written by the Koller auction house, which previously owned the work, Chagall was influenced in “L’homme” by his childhood in Vitebsk, and “he often painted such dreamscapes as a dialogue with his hometown.” The man, according to the essay, may be Chagall’s uncle Neuch, who was a cattle dealer. “A young Chagall loved to accompany his uncle when he went to buy cattle from the peasants in the region, and once commented, ‘How happy was I when you allowed me to drive with you on the bumpy barrow!’” according to the essay. The young boy in the work, then, may be a self portrait of Chagall.

Marc Chagall. Over Vitebsk. 1915-20. Oil on canvas. 26 3/8 x 36 1/2" (67 x 92.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art.

Yet, the painting is also confusing, the essay continues, because the man’s intentions for the goat remain ambiguous, the sky is “threatening” due to the “intense and thunderous horizon,” and there is the man with the sack and the people lying on the streets. The scene could be one of figures fleeing the town, and it may record “the discriminations and pogroms of the Jewish people which took place in Tsarist Russia. Chagall once said: ‘If I weren’t a Jew then I wouldn’t be an artist,’” the essay concludes.

Jewish Medals At TEFAF

Friday, April 6th, 2012

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) March 16-25, 2012 (25 year anniversary) Maastricht, Netherlands http://www.tefaf.com/

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Some of the most fascinating displays of wealth at TEFAF were small change, so to speak—or at least they used to be. Tucked away in display cases at booths are a trove of coins (used for currency) and medals (non-legal tender), that although less dazzling than the wall-dominating medieval paintings and life-sized contemporary sculptures, are no less worthy of close examination. In fact, four medals at two vendors (Nomos in Switzerland, and Tradart in Belgium and Switzerland) are of particular interest to those who are passionate about Jewish art.

A silver medal representing Tsar Alexander I of Russia (1801-1825), labeled “The Emancipation of Russian Jews,” shows Alexander on the front (obverse), wearing the eight-pointed star of the Order of St. Andrew, Russia’s patron saint. The tsar, identified by the inscription “Alexandro,” is shown in profile dressed in armor. On the reverse side of the medal, the Jewish community is personified by a bearded (and perhaps helmeted) man looking heavenward with his hands clasped in prayer—or, as the vendor, Tradart, describes it, “as a token of gratitude to the tsar for the laws of 1804 granting Jews relative emancipation.” A Latin inscription declares, “He freed the Jews from burden, February 9, 1805.”

In front of the figure, who is dressed in biblical rather than contemporary garb, is an altar of sorts, with laurel wreaths and a flame. According to Tradart, the medal is thought to have been struck outside of Russia, with a golden copy presented personally to Alexander I. “In that case, it would precede by many years any other issuance by the Jewish community of Russia,” according to the gallery. “Knowing that engraver, Paul Merker, came from Brunswick, it could substantiate the claim that it was commissioned by the Jews of Berlin.”

Another medal at Tradart’s booth is a rectangular bronze plate commemorating the inauguration of Frankfort’s synagogue. The Hebrew inscription, “house of prayer of the upright” (depending on how one translates the word Yeshurun), appears above a sun setting (or rising) over the Frankfurt synagogue. Some of the floral details adorning the arch over the Hebrew inscription and along the sides of the plate resemble the shape of the Hebrew letter Shin, the first letter of one of the divine names and, therefore, many mezuzah cases and other Judaica objects. And beneath the synagogue representation, another Hebrew inscription offers the Hebrew date of the inauguration.

The composition of the commemorative plate evokes the title page of Soncino’s editions of the Talmud (among other secular publishing designs). Three steps (which could symbolize any number of Jewish things) lead up the synagogue, which is circumscribed by an arch and two columns. The synagogue is represented in remarkable detail, but the artist has devoted equal—if not more—attention to the borders of the piece and the inscriptions. It’s worth noting, though, that some of the inscriptions seem to be confused, as some letters are slightly more elongated than they should be, and others are imprecisely formed.

A silver medal offered by Nomos also contains Hebrew inscriptions, but doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the Jewish community. The king appears in profile, wearing what might be the Order of the Golden Fleece (it’s tough to make out, but the interlocking shapes in the chain appear to be the iconic Burgundian ‘B’). Henry VIII was hardly a friend of the Jews (there were taxes and pogroms, among other oppressions), although by some accounts, Henry VIII enlisted Jewish scholars and their biblical expertise to justify his controversial divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn.

On the reverse side of the silver medal, inscriptions in Hebrew and Greek declare Henry VIII not only king, but “supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland,” according to Nomos. The Hebrew and Greek inscriptions, as the other two biblical languages besides Latin (which appears on the front of the medal), “affirm the legitimacy of Henry’s appointment,” according to the website of the British Museum, which owns one of two gold versions of the medal.

But a close inspection of the Hebrew inscription yields a different text. The word Messiah appears prominently, and although one can make out the term “community of England,” Ireland doesn’t appear. One term that is unaccounted for in the translation is Kush, and another 10-letter word doesn’t seem to be transcribed properly. More work can certainly be done on the inscription of this medal, although Richard Bishop’s Hebraica Veritas essay on the medal is very informative, particularly in its tracing of the humanism of the time and growing interests in Greek and Hebrew. A Hebrew font was developed in Venice by Teobaldo Mannucci in the very late 15th century, according to Bishop, and study of biblical Hebrew allowed scholars to understand the bible ad fontem (“at the source”)—although through a Christian lens, of course.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/jewish-medals-at-tefaf/2012/04/06/

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