Art hung in Tanner Building racially insensitive

By and


Although I was unable to attend the opening of the Tanner Humanities Building last week, the invitation I received reminded me of a concern regarding an art work in the grand entry hall8212;a tile mural by local artist Pilar Pobil, which, no doubt inadvertently on her part, plants a late medieval anti-Semitism in the ignorant earth of the new building.

The depiction of “The Jew” that has been found appropriate for that introduction to our college and its new home base is one that I, as well as many of my fellow scholars, will recognize to be an intentional stereotype: the short, bent, balding Jew with thick eyeglasses, bent over his account book or coins, or perhaps over the Hebrew of his unredeemed “Old” Testament, or his rabbinic laws.

The image is furthermore one that8212;oddly for a building that has a substantial interest in promoting communication among groups of people whose languages differ in essential ways from each other8212;presents what the Jew is writing: a pseudo-Hebrew inscription.

Such faux-Hebrew inscriptions are a characteristic feature of Italian, German, Flemish and Spanish works of the late 1300s and 1400s depicting the Jew as anti-Christian and diabolical.

Surely this is not the image to be hung in the heart of this new building and celebrated. Who determined that this work was the image to capture an important scholarly, humanistic, educational endeavor?

Harris Lenowitz
Department of languages and literature