This enamel pen, recently donated to YU Museum, bears the name of the fur trading firm Jacobson & Kupitsky, active in China in the first half of the 20th century. The beautiful, detailed decoration is a far cry from today’s souvenir pens.
Brothers Edward Jonas (Union Soldier) and Charles H. Jonas (Confederate Soldier). Collection of Wendy Wells, and Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society.
“Nowhere in American—certainly not the antebellum North—had Jews been accorded such an opportunity to be complete equals as in the old South.” (Rosen, The Jewish Confederates) Jews accepted southern mores and customs, and white Christian southerners accepted Jews. Slavery played an unacknowledged role in the acceptance of Jews in the South. The Jews were perceived as white and, therefore, gained higher social and political status in the South than in the North. Prior to the Civil War, the northern states were not as hospitable to Jews as the South. In fact, when the South seceded, the Boston Evening Transcript, a publication edited by abolitionists, blamed secession on southern Jews.
This month, a special 25th anniversary edition of Art Spiegelman’s “MAUS,” the first comic book ever to win a Pulitzer Prize, is being published to much fanfare. The award and the provocative nature of the book — a story of the Holocaust told in comics — had many critics arguing then about whether the medium suited the gravity of the subject. But all the attention that debate received eclipsed another: the extent to which comics themselves are an essentially “Jewish” art form.
Like so much else Jewish, scholars and writers have since discovered the fertile soil upon which comic art grew: the culture of the immigrant experience, Yiddishkeit (or “Yiddishness”). Comic art, described by some critics as the most original contribution of Americans — along with jazz — to global popular culture, is also part Jewish, like nearly every other nook and cranny of popular culture.
YUM’s Summer Gala and Exhibition Opening on June 25th will be a fun (shmita-themed) evening with exhibitions, gallery talks, music – and lots of delicious food and drink. Dara Horn will be the keynote; there will a wonderful musical performance within our synagogue model exhibition; and you’ll get to take in our brand-new exhibition, Fields of Dreams: Living Shmita in the Modern World. We hope to see you there. RSVP Robyn Hartman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-960-5468.