14 thoughts on “Chicago Jewish Museum Cancels Israel Exhibit, Federation Presidents Calls it ‘Anti-Israel’ – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I must confess being a Chicago Native, Jewish, and having never visited the Spertus. For much of my life I wasn’t particularly intrested in pursuing my religion in any way, but that changed 5 years ago when I met my wife and we decided we wanted a religious wedding and for both of us to return to Judaism… Every time I’ve walked or driven past the museum I’ve thought “we have to go for a visit soon” – and it keeps getting postponed. Once my 2.5 year old daughter is old enough to appreciate it – we’ll definitely make a trip…

    Thanks Richard for your research on the issue – and if I hear more I’ll definitely pass it along!

  2. Mr Silverstein, you are lumping all jewish chicagoans by saying “Chicago Jewish community appears very touchy about anything remotely critical of Israel”. I would not agree with that statement as I have jewish friends and activist colleagues, who TOTALLY disagree with this decision. And they agree that this is a CENSORSHIP issue.

  3. I saw the exhibit and I was very moved by it. I am a Jewish Chicagoan and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. I grew up in the Reform Jewish movement, became a Bat Mitzvah, attended Jewish summer camp, been to Israel 5 times (so far), including a year in college, and I’m engaged to marry an American Israeli. Just as I criticize the current American political leadership, I also openly criticize the policies of the Israeli government, but I would never consider myself “anti-Israel.” I can say with 100% confidence that there was NOTHING anti-Israel about that exhibit. It is shameful that certain members of the Jewish community use their money and power to suppress open dialogue about the conflict in Israel/Palestine. Yitchak Rabin, Anwar Sadat, and countless, nameless others have given their lives for the mere hope of reconciliation and a just peace. Yet, apparently, the misguided self-proclaimed Jewish “leaders” can’t even look at an art exhibit that they find “painful.” Even worse, they use their money and power to suppress free speech, free expression, and open dialogue for the rest of us. They should be ashamed at the way they spit on the basic principles of democracy, and the traditions and laws of Judaism itself. SHAME ON THEM!

  4. Interesting that you have yet to make a comment about Naveed Haq. But who the hell was Pamela Waechtner right. Just a Jewish woman who got her head blown off. Certainly not has important has the great Norm Finkelstein.

  5. Don’t you ban trolls like Bill Pearlman? People like him make reading this site somewhat unpleasant. (Much like they do to the world in general!)

  6. @Bill Pearlman: Mark, thanks for reminding me that I now have some new tools to force Bill’s comments into moderation. You’ll prob. be reading even less of him than you have in the past. BTW, Bill’s the guy who advised the Israeli authorities they should have killed Norman Finkelstein instead of merely banned him.

    And as for you poor cretin, Bill. I wrote a Comment is Free column about Naveed Haq’s mistrial. I’ve written five posts about the attack including several that referred to Pam Waechter (you didn’t even bother to spell her name right).

    And what does any of this have to do with the Spertus Museum?

  7. I’d like to add to Richard’s compliment on Ms. Kosowski eloquent and courageous words my own. What a very refreshing and succinct statement which I, for one, wish everyone in and outside the Israel über alles camp could read. Each Thursday my wife and I receive a copy of The Jewish Week, a mostly centrist publication well known, I believe, by Jews throughout the country. Interesting how of late it seems to be moving ever more and more in a right-wing political direction in its letters to the editor, its editorials and various byline statements. In the most recent issue we read how the words of that freaky end-of-days con man, Reverend Hagee, regarding Hitler’s essentially being God’s tool, should be quite acceptable to Jews since said words are not unlike those delivered by certain of the Jewish prophets. All this claimed, of course, because the porcine Mr. Hagee, awash in bloody theological vituperations, has directed millions of dollars and other kinds of support to that beleaguered little democracy struggling for survival against a gang of murderous thugs also laying claim to God’s own land. Etc. And of course candidate Obama is receiving his share of darts from that publication for having bent only one knee before AIPAC. Ms. Kosowski has stated what perhaps has “oft been thought/But ne’er so well expressed”, and I can only hope that a sentiment such as hers will help serve to embolden those people to speak out, Jews and otherwise, who regard Israel highly but also condemn her brutal occupation and land-grabbing, her military excesses and warmongering, her seeming indifference to becoming yet another pariah nation. I suspect that the majority of American Jews still hold consistently liberal values, including those in their judgment of Israel and its policies, but its only through heeding the wise and courageous example expressed in Ms. Kosowski’s words will that majority feel brave enough to stand up, express their true opinions, and be counted among those who believe in Israel and real justice at the same time. Too many good people continue to don a self-protective camouflage of silence. Would that it were otherwise. Thank you, Ms. Kosowski, and mazeltmazel tof on your forthcoming marriage!

  8. @Rupa Shah: I was talking about those pro Israel Jews who made the decision to cancel the exhibit, not all Chicago Jews. I was also criticizing the temerity of this narrow group deciding on behalf of the rest of the community that the exhibit was too dangerous for them to see.

  9. Richard & Norman, you make me blush! But seriously, your comments and this wonderful blog are inspiring and we need to join together with other like-minded folks and continue to make our voices heard.

  10. Dissent is a cornerstone of a free society, While such freedoms may be uncomfortable, ruffle our beliefs, personally offensive or just controversial, it is the price we pay to live in an open democratic society. Anytime voices are muted by banning books, refusing to display artwork or closing museum exhibits, we all loose. We loose the opportunity to dialogue about an issue, interact, with different points of view or just challenge our own beliefs.

    It is with great sadness that I read in the June 21, 2008 Chicago Tribune that the Spertus Institute Board of Trustees elected to prematurely shutter the “Imaginary Coordinates”. The exhibit tried to bring together various viewpoints about the concept of a holy land and what that means to Christians, Jews and Palestinians. Juxtaposed with 500 year old biblical maps were cultural items and contemporary Israeli and Palestinian artists. All expressed their perspective of the struggles for territory and space; the heart of the Mid East conflict.

    It is most unfortunate that the Board of Trustees bowed to the pressures of some of its vocal constituents who view anything not pro-Israel: as overtly anti- Israel. The two are not the same. Either sentiment affords no middle ground. These viewpoints are extreme. The exhibit demonstrated that there is a vast expanse in the middle geography that should be explored.

    The exhibit clearly demonstrated the complexity of the issues involved in the Middle East. If peace is to be achieved, it can only be done by letting go of the litany of past wrongs. Both sides need to move towards new solutions that may very well reside in that very same middle ground geography.

    We cannot get there- if we shutter discussion.

    We do not honor the Jewish tradition of learning, debate and dialogue, which is as old as the Torah itself. We do not honor the open society that American is and that Jews relish, when we censor information we do not agree with or like.

  11. This high-quality, even award-winning museum exhibit, was truly educational– and not only for Jews, but for Christians and Muslims, as well– the two other interal parts of the Abrahamic tradition. I would also guess that word was beginning to spread among the larger community, and even beyond the boundaries of the three Abrahamic faiths, about this exhibit. I suspect there already had been an increase in non-Jewish attendance at the Spertus facility, in addition to growing Jewish attendance.

    The decision to close the museum was a step toward (1) reducing the interaction of various religious ; (2) reducing fuller understanding of the rich and varied Jewish heritage, by Jews and
    non-Jews, alike; and (3) toward greater self-isolation and fearful engagement by the overall Jewish community with the wider public and world.

    Thank you for promoting discussion of this important topic.

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