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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Shema Yisroel’

Leah Ashkenazy: Jewish Artist

Friday, February 17th, 2012

We live in a wonderful time for Jewish art. The orthodoxy of 20th century High Modernism has given way to a chaotic but liberated postmodernism willing to try anything, even serious “ethnic” art. Jewish art can be done by anyone with a bit of gumption – just witness Anselm Kiefer’s 2010 exhibition “Next Year in Jerusalem.” And even though the commercial galleries generally still turn a blind eye, Jewish art by Jews is booming. More and more artists are coming out of the closet and admitting they have a genuine interest in Jewish subjects and ideas. This is evidenced by a least two national Jewish art groups: The Jewish Art Salon based in New York and the Jewish Art Initiative in Los Angeles. Scholar and author Matthew Baigell proclaimed last year in a lecture at the Jewish Museum that “we are in a Golden Age of Jewish Art.” And this renaissance has even penetrated Boro Park in the guise of a handful of frum artists including the tenacious Leah Ashkenazy, reviewed in these pages back in September 2001 and February 2006.

My Grandchildren (2010), oil on canvas by Leah Ashkenazy

Ashkenazy’s path to making art is typical of what are often called “outsider artists.” After a lifetime of doing something else (for her raising a family and earning a Masters in Literature from Brooklyn College), then, almost by chance, in 1997, she discovered that making paintings was her passion. Not surprisingly, the subjects she draws upon are her own life – growing up in Romania during the Second World War, the Holocaust, the gnawing tragedies of our time in Israel and around the world including 9/11 and, of course, her grandchildren. Ashkenazy sees the subjects of her art as either tzuris or grandchildren. Either way, it is always deeply Jewish.

Sbarro Pizzeria (2001), oil on canvas by Leah Ashkenazy

On August 9, 2001 a Palestinian terrorist blew himself up in the Sbarro Pizzeria at the corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. Fifteen Jews died including 8 children. 130 others were injured. In the devastated restaurant parents, infants, children and grandchildren died together. How could a Jewish artist, especially a grandmother, not react? Ashkenazy was one of the few who did that very year. Sbarro Pizzeria (2001) depicts a state of mind rather than a historical event. Blue lines create a three-dimensional grid that connects the viewer’s foreground with a scroll that spans the surface and the burnt sienna space beyond. In the center is a hinged object showing the time just before the bombing with a man about to enter a doorway. Above the scroll are 15 candles burning for the victims. Little figures are dotted across the scroll that reads only “Shema Yisroel.” The artist shows the painting accompanied by a text that enumerates our oppressors throughout history who wanted to exterminate us: “Today it is the nature of Ishmael who wishes to do the same. But with G-d’s help the result is always the same: Jews emerge to life and cannot be destroyed…The Torah is eternal, therefore so are the Jews.” It would seem the blue grid is the structure of Jewish life that will endure the tragedies of Jewish history. Today’s artists need to take note that contemporary Jewish history; its triumphs and tragedies as well, desperately needs our artistic reaction.

Spanish Inquisition – Voice of the Victims (2002), oil on canvas by Leah Ashkenazy

Jewish history is unfortunately rife with other examples, the Spanish Inquisition and Expulsion being a prime instance. Ashkenazy’s painting of the same name is subtitled: The Voice of the Victims (2003). She depicts an imagined stage with the curtain pulled back to reveal a mise en scene of Spanish Jewish history. There are four figures “on a golden stage” made up of dots of Jewish silver and gold. One is King Ferdinand, one is Queen Isabella and another is the despised Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor responsible for the deaths of many Jews burned at the stake and fanatical supporter of the mass expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Paradoxically the fourth figure, smaller than the others and dressed in an elaborate purple costume, is perhaps one of the prominent Jews in the Spanish court still hoping for a reprieve. The ensemble is surrounded by ghostly figures with red threads floating and connecting one another. They are the “voices of the victims,” they are the anonymous witnesses of Jewish history demanding to be heard.

Why is Ashkenazy so attracted as an artist to Jewish tragedy? My guess is that while the majority of her adult life was lived comfortably in Boro Park as a dutiful wife, mother and grandmother, her childhood was poisoned by the hatred of the Holocaust that howled around her. And as an artist, sensitive to the beauties of the world, her own childhood experiences force her to react to the sufferings of not only her own people but others too. An artistic sensitivity carries with it an awesome responsibility.

Israeli Shul To Be Named After Hero

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

         The following article appeared shortly after Roi Klein’s death. We are reprinting it in order to reacquaint our readers with this heroic young man who sacrificed his life to save others.

 

         Major Roi Klein.

 

         It is a name that held no meaning to us. He was a complete stranger, about whom we had never heard and whom we had never met.

 

         Yet an image of the last seconds of his life won’t leave our mind.

 

         Roi was a son. He was a brother. He was a husband to Sara and a father to three-year-old Gilad and one-year-old Yoav.

 

         But most of all, Roi was a hero for all of us. He was a face and a name to the many Jewish heroes spanning the generations.

 

         Roi’s funeral was on Thursday (July 27, 2006), the day that would have been his 31st birthday.

 

         Major Roi Klein was a Golani brigade deputy commander. He was killed in an ambush among the houses of Bint Jbail, a large village in southern Lebanon. Hizbullah terrorists killed eight soldiers, including Roi, and injured nearly two dozen.

 

         There were other soldiers next to Roi. A hand grenade was thrown at them and Roi shouted, “Grenade!” He then threw his body over it, sacrificing his life for the sake of his soldiers, who later attributed being alive to his act of selflessness.

 

         In his last seconds of life, Roi mustered the strength to shout “Shema Yisroel,” the prayer that Jews have prayed for centuries, declaring our belief in G‑d and in a better world – the prayer that so many Jewish martyrs throughout the generations called out as they were being led to their deaths.

 

         It was for his loved ones that Roi served in the special units of the Paratroop and Golani brigades. It was for them, and for the ideals represented by the Shema Yisroel prayer, that Roi diligently and courageously pursued his army service, advancing to the point where he would have been promoted to battalion commander.

 

         What a colossal contrast between Roi and his enemy!

 

         Roi was there to ensure a peaceful existence of his people in their homeland. He was there to safeguard the innocent lives of his children and his nation; to ensure that people could live in their homes in peace and tranquility; to guarantee that they could continue their ordinary day-to-day activities – activities like shopping in a mall without being blown to bits, like eating a family meal together in a pizza shop without worrying about flying shrapnel, like praying in a synagogue without having to run for cover in a bomb shelter or like sending their children on a school bus without thoughts of bullets penetrating within.

 

         Roi was there to defend his people against those who vowed their destruction. Even in his death, he sacrificed his own life to ensure that his comrades could live.

 

         Roi’s enemy was willing to die to bring death and mourning to as many as possible; Roi was willing to die to ensure life and liberty for others, to preserve a world in which Jews could pray to G-d in their synagogues, perform G-d’s commandments and make our world a better, more moral and more conscientious place.

 

         This is the third time in this last century that the Jewish people have found themselves on the front lines against those who sought their annihilation.

 

         For the Nazis, the Jew was a racial impurity to be exterminated like insects. For the Soviet communists, the Jewish religion was a thorn in their sides to be eradicated. And for the Islamic extremists, the Jew and his state must be eliminated from the face of the earth.

 

         Less than a century has passed since Jews fell in the Soviet gulag with the chant of Shema in their mouths for the mere “crime” of observing kashrut or Shabbat in their private lives. Over 65 years have passed since the echo of the Shema resonated in the Nazi gas chambers where Jews were suffocated and then burnt to ashes in the crematoriums just because they were born as Jews.

 

         And now Roi Klein follows in the path of these martyrs, dying with the cry of Shema on his lips in the act of defending his people from those who, yet again, wish to destroy them.

 

         A new synagogue being built in Givaat Shmuel, Israel and will be called “Gvurot Roi.” Members of the congregation have already donated $500,000 but $500,000 more is needed to complete our project.

 

         Please send your tax deductible donations to P.E.F., 6 Bellcourt Place, Livingston, N.J. 07039 USA. Please mark on your check: In Memory of Major Roi Klein, z”l.

The Face Of A Hero

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Roi Klein.

 

It is a name, that until recently, held no meaning to me. He was a complete stranger, about whom I had never heard and whom I had never met. Yet, an image of the last seconds of his life won’t leave my mind.

 

Roi was a son. He was a brother. He was a husband to Sara and a father to three-year-old Gilad and one-year-old Yoav. But most of all, Roi was a hero for all of us. He was a face and a name to the many Jewish heroes spanning the generations.

 

Roi’s funeral was on Thursday (July 27), the day that would have been his 31st birthday.

 

Major Roi Klein was a Golani brigade deputy commander. He was killed this past Wednesday, in an ambush among the houses of Bint Jbail, a large village in southern Lebanon. Hizbullah terrorists killed eight soldiers, including Roi, and injured nearly two dozen.

 

There were two other soldiers next to Roi. A hand grenade was thrown at them and Roi shouted, “Grenade!” He then threw his body over it, sacrificing his life for the sake of his soldiers, who later attributed being alive to his act of selflessness.

 

In his last seconds of life, Roi mustered the strength to shout “Shema Yisroel” the prayer that Jews have prayed for centuries, declaring our belief in G-d and in a better world; the prayer that so many Jewish martyrs throughout the generations called out as they were being led to their deaths.

 

My mind can’t stop conjuring what it must have been like in those last seconds of his life, when Roi made the split-second decision to jump on the grenade. I imagine Roi seeing his beloved family in his mind’s eye − his wife, and their two young children who would now grow up knowing him only from stories that they would be told or from pictures they’d be shown.

 

I imagine Roi thinking about his grieving elderly parents; of his mother, Shoshana, whose voice cracked at her son’s grave as she cried out, “The pain is unbearableWe will look after the children and raise them according to what you left behind”

 

And I imagine Roi seeing the West Bank hilltop settlement of Eli, where he and his wife idealistically made their home, despite those who wished to dismantle it.

 

It was for these loved one that Roi served in the special units of the Paratroop and Golani brigades. It was for them and for the ideals represented by the Shema Yisrael prayer, that Roi diligently and courageously pursued his army service, advancing to the point where he would have been promoted to battalion commander.

 

What a colossal contrast between Roi and his enemy.

 

Roi was there to ensure a peaceful existence of his people in their homeland. He was there to safeguard the innocent lives of his children and his nation; to ensure that people could live in their homes in peace and tranquility; to guarantee that they could continue their ordinary day-to-day activities. Activities like shopping in a mall without being blown to bits, like eating a family meal together in a pizza shop without worrying about flying shrapnel, like praying in a synagogue without having to run for cover in a bomb shelter, or like sending their children on a school bus without thoughts of bullets penetrating within.

 

Roi was there to defend his people against those that vowed their destruction. Even in his death, he sacrificed his own life to ensure that two of his comrades could live.

 

I picture his enemy, too, in my mind. He is there to cause as much death, devastation and destruction as he possibly can. He is eager to send his young, strapped with explosive bombs, stuffed with nails, on missions of “suicide bombings,” as long as in their death they murder as many Jews as possible with them. He is launching rocket after rocket into densely-populated Jewish cities so that hospitals healing the sick and homes housing the elderly will be destroyed together with the lives of those inside.

 

Roi’s enemy was willing to die to bring death and mourning to as many as possible; Roi was willing to die to ensure life and liberty for others, to preserve a world in which Jews could pray to G-d in their synagogues, perform G-d’s commandments and make our world a better, more moral and more conscientious place.

 

This is the third time in this last century that the Jewish people have found themselves on the front lines against those who sought their annihilation.

 

For the Nazis, the Jew was a racial impurity to be exterminated like insects. For the Soviet Communists, the Jewish religion was a thorn in their sides to be eradicated. And for the Islamic extremists, the Jew and his state must be eliminated from the face of the earth.

 

Less than a century has passed since Jews fell in the Soviet gulag with the chant of Shema in their mouths for the mere “crime” of observing kosher or Shabbat in their private lives. Just over a half a century has passed since the echo of the Shema resonated in the Nazi gas chambers where Jews were suffocated and then burnt to ashes in the crematoria just because they were born Jews.

 

And now Roi Klein followed in the path of these martyrs, dying with the cry of Shema on his lips in the act of defending his people from those who, yet again, wish to destroy them.


Roi is no stranger after all. He is each of our husbands, sons and brothers. His face is the face of each of our heroes and martyrs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/the-face-of-a-hero/2006/09/06/

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