Lenowitz’s claims about mural inaccurate and unprofessional

Editor:

In his letter to the editor (“Anti-Semitic imagery portrayed in mural,” Oct. 7), professor Harris Lenowitz asserts the artwork in the lobby of the new Tanner Humanities Building by Utah artist Pilar Pobil harbors an anti-Semitic message. Such accusations cannot be taken lightly nor should they be made public without thoughtful consideration and investigation.

The “faux Hebrew” he claims is in the painting is actually a passage from the Sarajevo Haggadah, the oldest Sephardic Passover Haggadah in the world, which originated in Barcelona around 1350. The Sarajevo Haggadah is presently owned by the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovnia in Sarajevo. It was taken out of Spain by Spanish Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree in 1492. It was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1894 and hidden from the Nazis during their occupation of Yugoslavia in World War II. It was later hidden in an underground bank vault during the siege by Serb forces in the 1990s. I am surprised that a scholar of Hebrew is not aware of the source of the passage depicted.

What Pilar Pobil was attempting by the central placement of the Rabbi and the Sarajevo Haggadah in her painting is a tribute to the centrality of the Jewish scholarly tradition in the humanities and to its admirable commitment to preserving its heritage. Throwing loaded terms like “anti-Semitism” around without proper consideration is both unprofessional and dangerous.

Robert Newman
Dean, College of Humanities