Rembrandt, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Jews

October 5, 2016 | Meir Soloveichik
About the author: Meir Soloveichik is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel and the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. His website, containing all of his media appearances, podcasts, and writing, can be found at

While the 17th-century Dutch painter’s portrayals of Jews—both contemporary and biblical—are well known, J.R.R. Tolkien never made explicit the Jewish presence in his fiction. Once, however, he did comment that the dwarves of his novels were modeled after the Jews. Meir Soloveichik, discussing the two artists, argues that Rembrandt attempted to “depict the humanity of Jews and the Jewishness of biblical scenes,” while Tolkien was interested in the “miraculous nature of the Jewish people”—and that Jews can learn from both. (Interview by Eric Cohen. Audio, 52 minutes.)

Read more on Tikvah: