In an encounter billed by Dov Hikind as pained outer-borough survivors against uptown intellectuals, a dozen Holocaust survivors and children of survivors were to express their anger in a private meeting Wednesday morning at The Jewish Museum.
“I’m bringing people they haven’t heard from,” said the Brooklyn assemblyman, who has been one of the loudest voices in criticizing the museum for its upcoming exhibition of provocative contemporary art deemed to trivialize the Holocaust. Hikind was to bring Councilman Simcha Felder and Rabbi Zev Friedman of Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, L.I., among others.
“We have a wonderful, articulate group that wants to know, why would the museum hurt people who are survivors?”
As part of its intensive planning process, the museum had already met with Holocaust survivors, some of who voice their opinions in educational videos in the exhibition galleries of “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art.”
“The purpose of ‘Mirroring Evil’ is to foster discussion,” said museum spokesperson Anne Scher. “We want to have a dialogue with Dov Hikind. The meeting was scheduled to hear his concerns and to explain our thinking to him.”
Museum director Joan Rosenbaum initially invited Hikind to meet with her individually. Hikind asked if he could bring a “delegation” of survivors, and was pleasantly surprised that the museum agreed. “I’m happy they’re taking it seriously,” he said.
In its defense, the museum invited an all-star list of 11 Jewish professionals, including historian Michael Berenbaum, psychologist Eva Fogelman, and Rabbi Brad Hirschfield of CLAL to explain the social value of artworks like “Lego Concentration Camp Set” and “Giftgas Giftset.”
“Far from trivialization, such works heighten our ethical awareness and sharpen our sense of social responsibility,” Rabbi Hirschfield wrote in support of the show.
In other circles, pressure against the museum has continued to mount.
“We urge you to withdraw the exhibit, and if you do not do so, we will advise all the schools and youth groups in our area not to visit your museum at that time,” writes president Wendy Marks in a letter to Joan Rosenbaum on behalf of the board of directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Monmouth County.
Federation executive director Howard Gases says the board unanimously supported the letter after learning that the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors passed a unanimous motion denouncing “Mirroring Evil.”
Gases said he plans to push for other New Jersey federations to do the same.
The Jewish Museum will not call off the show’s March 17 opening. “The invitations have already been sent out,” said Rosenbaum.
Hikind said he has other public actions planned, but declined to give details. “This is only getting started.”