Focusing on works by artists such as Rico Lebrun (1900–1964), George Segal (1924–2000), or Jerome Witkin (b. 1939), art critics and art historians have sometimes criticized too realistic art about the Holocaust for aestheticizing atrocity, presenting a gratuitous and repellent violence, and advancing a reductive and one-dimensional literalness. Similarly, curators have often preferred to show work that is abstracted or allusive, avoiding ‘morbidity, sentimentality, and overused visual stereotypes’ that have lost their power to shock. The guiding mandate for post-Holocaust artistic practice was laid down by Theodore Adorno's (1903–1969) interdiction of ‘poetry after Auschwitz’ (1981). Paradoxically, Adorno's refusal of aesthetics, which began as a refusal of art altogether, became the conventionalized, dominant aesthetic, or anti-aesthetic, although the negative and allusive Holocaust-related artwork that met this mandate took a wide variety of forms. More recently, however, younger artists have rebelled against this ethic of representation in provocative ways. This article explores the changing strategies of representation in the postwar era, moving from the modernist premise guided by Adorno's interdiction to the postmodernist rejection of that premise. The controversy surrounding the 2002 exhibition Mirroring Evil at the Jewish Museum in New York provides an exemplary case study that illuminates the continuing debate over visual representation of the Holocaust.
Lee I. Levine
This article addresses three related, though not identical, academic fields of study that crystallized only in the twentieth century. Beforehand, it had generally been assumed, whether for political, social, or religious reasons, that Jews eschewed art and architecture, either because they were visually uncreative, preferring the audile to the visual, or owing to the restrictions imposed on them by the Second Commandment. However, there emerged in the Post-Emancipation era an awareness that, in the course of their history, particularly in the later Middle Ages and modern times, Jews had produced an impressive array of artistic, mostly ceremonial, objects worthy of appreciation and display. This realization that a uniquely Jewish art and architecture existed in the past crystallized in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, finding expression, inter alia, in the establishment of Jewish museums throughout Europe, America, and Israel.
In the cinematic world, the representation of the Holocaust began with the Third Reich's propaganda films and the footage taken by the Allies at liberated concentration camps. In the early postwar period, European filmmakers exaggerated resistance against Nazi Germany's policies and obscured the specificity of Jewish victimization, while Hollywood avoided the topic, allegedly because it was too depressing and parochial. The NBC miniseries Holocaust (1978) and Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah (1985) shattered these patterns, and Schindler's List (1993) and Life Is Beautiful (1997) stimulated a second round of Holocaust-related cinema and scholarship on it, along with considerable controversy. This article shows that studies of Holocaust films made in particular nations have been a staple of research in the field, but that scholarship has shifted since 2000 toward analysis of the cinematic qualities of Holocaust-related film, the impact of globalization, comparisons with portrayals of other genocides, and the use of film in Holocaust education.
Ahuva Belkin and Gad Kaynar
This article describes the history of the Jewish theatre, Jewish theatre studies, the history of the Israeli theatre from 1889 to 2001, and Israeli theatre studies. Although Jews were known as the People of the Book, and despite the very rich literature attached to Judaism, the dramatic genre never became an integral part of Jewish civilization, and theatre as an institution was never a part of its cultural life. This may be in part because the Bible and the book of oral law — the Talmud and later rabbinical writings — contain vehement exhortations against the theatre. In Judaism, jesters are identified with idleness and heresy. Meanwhile, the extent of performative activity in Israel is impressive for a country with no theatrical tradition and a population of merely 4.5 million Jewish and Hebrew-speaking inhabitants. Between 1970 and 1990, Israel held first place in the world in theatre attendance per capita.
Edward van Voolen
The existence of Jewish art has long been denied by scholars. Indeed, Jewish art appears to be in conflict with the second of the Biblical ten commandments: “you shall not make for yourself a sculptured image… ” Literally interpreted, the verse prohibits visual arts among Jews and seems to reflect a Jewish aversion to images. This article examines art in Judaism and Jewish attitudes to art. It first considers evidence of art in Judaism, such as how Jews regard liturgical books and objects or how they decorate their sanctuaries. It then discusses Jewish art in modernity, focusing on Jewish artists such as Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Jozef Israëls, Camille Pissarro, Max Liebermann, Mauricy Gottlieb, Marc Chagall, El Lissitzky, Issachar Ryback, Ossip Zadkine, and Jacques Lipchitz. It also looks at contemporary Jewish art as reflected in the architecture of museums, memorials, and synagogues.