According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, there were 917 hate groups operating in the U.S. as of the end of 2016:
“The SPLC has documented an explosive rise in the number of hate groups since the turn of the century, driven in part by anger over Latino immigration and demographic projections showing that whites will no longer hold majority status in the country by around 2040. The rise accelerated in 2009, the year President Obama took office, but declined after that, in part because large numbers of extremists were moving to the web and away from on-the-ground activities. In the last two years, in part due to a presidential campaign that flirted heavily with extremist ideas, the hate group count has risen again. “
Source. Accessed Dec 2017
The Center recently updated its numbers to include groups operating in the U.S. as of the end of 2017. The number has increased to 954.
This painting contains 917 colored dots – one for each hate group. Rising from the midst of the dots is a black cloud reflecting the dark threat of intolerance, hatred and bigotry inspired by these groups.
The Women’s March was a worldwide protest timed to coincide with the January 2017 inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 4,157,897* people participated in 653* different events in support of the rights of groups they perceived as being threatened by the new administration, including women, minorities, immigrants and the LGBTQ community, as well as for protection of health care, the environment and reproductive rights, among other progressive causes.
This piece includes 653 painted “dots”. Separately, each dot represents a different protest event. Collectively, they demonstrate the massive force of opposition to policies of hatred, discrimination and bigotry. The shocking pink is the color of the “pussy hats” worn by many of the protestors.
In 1938 a 19-year old Jewish man, desperate to flee Europe, sent a telegram to a stranger in Detroit seeking his assistance. The young man's plea was answered in the form of affidavit documents, sent just in time to allow his escape from Germany and emigration to the US.
This young man and his brother were saved from the ravages of the Holocaust by the grace of one courageous individual.
This piece uses the original telegram as the basis for the image, which is combined with a background collage of iconic symbols of the hundreds of hate groups existing in the US today*. The juxtaposition is intended to show the current and past threats of violence, bigotry and anti-semitism, answered by an example of the integrity, resolution and generosity that will always rise to resist and defeat these threats.
*Symbols from the Hate Symbols Data Base from the website of the Anti-Defamation League accessed December, 2017.
A Rainbow of Misery
The blue and white lines of this image represent the cruel, almost comical stripes of the uniforms of many concentration camp prisoners. The rainbow of other hues reflects the color-coded marking system employed by the Nazis to distinguish among camp prisoners. The bright colors in the image intentionally create a false sense of gaiety, making the discovery of what is actually represented even more disturbing.
“… The badges sewn onto prisoner uniforms enabled SS guards to identify the alleged grounds for incarceration. Criminals were marked with green inverted triangles, political prisoners with red, "asocials" (including Roma, nonconformists, vagrants, and other groups) with black or—in the case of Roma in some camps—brown triangles. Homosexuals were identified with pink triangles and Jehovah's Witnesses with purple ones. Non-German prisoners were identified by the first letter of the German name for their home country, which was sewn onto their badge. The two triangles forming the Jewish star badge would both be yellow unless the Jewish prisoner was included in one of the other prisoner categories. A Jewish political prisoner, for example, would be identified with a yellow triangle beneath a red triangle.
The Nazis required Jews to wear the yellow Star of David not only in the camps but throughout most of occupied Europe.”*
* From the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Article
“Classification System in Nazi Concentration Camps “, Accessed Jan 20, 2018,
When used in a political context, the term “dog whistle” refers to words that are meant to be understood by a particular segment of the population, typically extreme or fringe groups. President Trump, through his comments following the violence in Charlottesville, and many other words and actions targeting minorities and immigrants, is often accused of using a “dog whistle” to call out to the alt-right, white supremacists and other extreme groups with the message that it is safe to come out of the shadows into main stream politics. The dog whistle exploits a form of identity politics, in this case playing to voters that feel disrespected by liberals and threatened by immigrants and minorities.
According to an article in The New York Times (Oct 30, 2018): “What has changed, said several experts in interviews, is that conspiracy theories and ‘dog whistles’ that resonate with anti-Semites and white supremacists are being circulated by establishment sources, including the president and members of Congress. Bizarre claims about Jews have moved from the margins to the establishment. Prominent recent examples include unfounded conspiracy theories about George Soros, a wealthy donor to Democratic Party causes and a Jewish emigre from Hungary who survived the Nazis. On Oct 5, President Trump asserted on Twitter that the women who stopped Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator to plead with him to vote against advancing the nomination of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court were ‘paid for by Soros and others’. In a rally in Missoula, Mont. on Oct 19, the president told the crowd that the news media prefers to interview protesters who were paid for by ‘Soros or somebody’. Mr. Soros has also been accused of financing the caravan of Hondurans and Guatemalans fleeing north on foot through Mexico - another claim with no factual basis. A day after a pipe bomb was discovered at Mr. Soros’s home in Westchester, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, wrote on Twitter, ‘We cannot allow Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg to BUY this election!. Get out and vote Republican Nov. 6.”
Conspiracy theories about those critical of Trump and prominent Jews have inflamed anti-Semitic sentiments and are considered by many to have partially motivated the October, 2018 pipe bombs circulated to 13 people, as well as the horrific massacre of Jews in Pittsburg on October 26, 2018.
This painting uses the shape of a common dog whistle as its design element, rendering it in a threatening tone.
This digital painting was commissioned by the grandson of an Iraqi Jew to honor his grandfather on a milestone birthday. It was inspired by his grandfather’s story - a young man that had been part of the Iraqi Jewish community and a large extended family that had thrived and prospered in Baghdad. Their world was shattered after two days of rioting, murder, theft and destruction by radicalized Muslims against defenseless Jews on June 1 & June 2, 1941, referred to in Arabic as the “Farhud”. The family escaped Baghdad and settled in the US, Canada and Israel. The legacy endures, not in Iraq, but around the world, with 23 great grandchildren and the promise, symbolized by the Star of David, of many more generations in the years to come.
The painting was created using the word “Farhud” as its principal design element. The 23 Stars of David in the cutout background represent the grandfather’s great grandchildren and the single prominent star represents the future generations.
In the summer of 1940, students at Norway’s Oslo University began to wear paper clips in their collars, cuffs and lapels, or fashioned into bracelets, as a peaceful demonstration of resistance against the Nazi occupiers and Norwegian collaborators. The paperclips represented solidarity (binding together) and also national pride since the students believed (mistakenly as it turns out) that the paper clip had been invented by a Norwegian. When the Nazis realized what the paper clips represented they made it a crime to wear them. In later years the paperclip became a symbol of resistance to anti-semitism and bigotry.
In 1998, middle school students at a small rural town in Tennessee began a project to collect six million paperclips to represent each Jewish person that perished in the Holocaust. Eventually, the Paper Clips Project drew worldwide attention resulting in the collection of over 30 million paper clips, a portion of which was used to fill an authentic German railcar forming part of a Children’s Holocaust Memorial dedicated by the school.
This painting uses a spiral of everyday paper clips as its essential design element to celebrate this symbol of solidarity in resistance.
Tree of Honor
In Israel, the planting of a tree is a symbolic act, as trees represent strength, hope, and renewal of life. There are long traditions of planting trees to commemorate important events, such as honoring fallen soldiers or celebrating the birth of a child. School children planted trees at The Martyr’s Forest on the road to Jerusalem in memory of 6,000,000 Jews murdered in the Holocaust. One of the missions of Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center – established to perpetuate the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, is to honor and express gratitude to the non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. These individuals earn the designation of The Righteous Among Nations.
“The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations” was dedicated on Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 1, 1962. The Israeli government was represented by Foreign Minister Golda Meir, and the first eleven trees were planted along the path leading to the Hall of Remembrance on the bare hill of the Mount of Remembrance. The trees were placed in the ground by rescuers from different countries as well as by their Israeli hosts – the Jews they had rescued.
In her speech Golda Meir said that "the Jewish people remember not only the villains, but also every small detail of the rescue attempts." She compared the Righteous Among the Nations to drops of love in an ocean of poison, and said that "they rescued not only the lives of Jews, but had saved hope and the faith in the human spirit."*
In the small Dutch village of Nieuwlande in 1942 and 1943, each of the inhabitants committed to hide one Jew or Jewish family. As a result of their bravery, all 117 of the village inhabitants were recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations.
One of the leaders of this rescue effort was Arnold Douwes. This painting was inspired by The Tree of Honor planted at the beginning of the Avenue of the Righteous to honor Arnold Douwes. A monument to honor the village of Nieuwlande can also be found at Yad Vashem.
On October 26, 2018, 11 Jews were massacred as they attended services in a synagogue in Pittsburg, PA. The gunman told police he “wanted to kill all the Jews”. Anti-Semitic incidents have risen dramatically since the beginning of the Trump Administration. The Anti-Defamation League reported in its 2017 “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents” in the US, the largest single-year increase on record and second highest since it began tracking data in 1979. The number of incidents rose 57%, due in part to a significant increase of incidents in schools and on college campuses, which almost doubled for the second year in a row. Incidents (harassment, vandalism and assault) occurred in every state of the nation, though the greatest number of incidents correlated with large Jewish populations. The number of incidents recorded has consistently risen in recent years: 941 in 2015, 1265 in 2016 and 1986 in 2017 (more than double the 2015 number).
Supported by a wave of fervent nationalism, the growing strength of alt/right wing parties, and increasing populations of Muslim refugees, anti-semitism is on the rise in Europe. Racist incidents against Jews have increased substantially, particularly in Western Europe. According to the 2017 report by the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, a record number of incidents against Jews was recorded in the UK, with a 78% increase in acts of physical violence and a 30% increase in all anti-semitic incidents. The rise of the extreme right was noted as the cause of an increase in anti-semitic acts in Germany. (The Research and Information Center in Berlin recorded a 60% increase in anti-semitic incidents in 2017 compared to 2016.) The prevalence of anti-semitic lyrics in German rap music, popular with the young, brings anti-Semitism into the main stream for a generation a half-century removed from the Holocaust.
In March, 2018, The PEWS Research Center released a survey of citizens of 18 countries in Central and Eastern Europe showing that, overall, approximately 20% of the populations of the surveyed countries say they would not accept Jews as fellow citizens. The percentages against Muslims and Roma are even higher.
These two paintings channel the feeling of the rising hatred directed against Jews in many parts of the globe.
In honor of 2018 International Holocaust Remembrance Day, The World Zionist Organization – International Center for Countering Antisemitism conducted a survey during December 7, 2017 through January 15, 2018, which received 1363 responses from Jews living outside of Israel. Among the various findings of the survey:
~ Overall, 17% of the respondents do not feel safe in their place of residence due to their Jewish identity. This number increases to 27% for those living in Europe.
~ 39% felt insecure wearing Jewish symbols (Kippah, Star of David, use of Jewish names, etc.) in their place of residence. In Europe this number rose to 51%, while in North America 22% felt unsafe.
~ Outside of the media, 50% of Europeans and 52% of North Americans reported experiencing Antisemitism during the last year.
~ 68% of respondents in Europe and 71% of respondents in North America reported being exposed to Antisemitic media content in the past year.
~ 14% of respondents in North America, 10% in Europe and 11% worldwide said they experienced or witnessed Antisemitism in the form of physical violence in the past year.
~ Overall, 27% considered their politicians to be Antisemitic. In Europe that percentage was 39% and in North America 40%.
On April 24, 2018, Joseph Schuster, Head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the largest umbrella Jewish organization in Germany, warned German Jews against wearing traditional kippahs after two young men were assaulted in Berlin. He encouraged baseball caps or other less traditional head coverings. Other Jewish groups disagreed. The following day Jewish demonstrations throughout the city were attended by officials from Chancellor Merkel’s government, and members of far right and far left parties and many, both Jewish and non-Jewish, donned skull caps in protest. However, most believe the show of support will do little to change the reality of the growing threat rising principally from the increasing strength of far-right and neo-Nazi groups, but also from an influx of Muslim immigrants that have been taught to hate Jews and Israelis. According to coverage from The New York Times*, as demonstrators passed out of the police protected area, many could be seen removing their skullcaps.
*“In Backlash on Anti-Semitism, a Sea of Skullcaps.” New York Times, Thursday, April 26, 2018.