A Moroccan-Born Jewish Artist Who Became the Master of a Traditional Artform

Currently on display at New York’s Aquavella Galleries are some recent works by Jacob El Hanani, who has been dubbed “the grandfather of micro-drawing.” This painstaking artform involves the creation of images through thousands of tiny pen-strokes. Sometimes El Hanani uses a form of this technique he borrowed from traditional Jewish religious art, where pictures are constructed from tiny Hebrew letters, which often spell out a biblical text. Yael Friedman, having interviewed El Hanani about his life and work, writes:

El Hanani was born into a booming postwar Casablanca, to a middle-class family. . . . His father was an accountant who “dressed to kill,” they spoke French at home, and he was surrounded by the gifts and trappings of a comfortable and urbane world. Like most Moroccan Jews, his family left in the early 1950s, arriving by ship in Haifa Bay in 1953.

The El Hanani family moved to a moshav (a type of cooperative agricultural community first founded in Israel in the early 20th century) and eventually to Petaḥ Tikvah. At an ulpan, [an intensive Hebrew course for immigrants], his father, conspicuously elegant and refined for that setting, made an impression on a fellow student, a woman who was the president of a women’s Mizraḥi organization. She asked him whether he’d like to come work for their school in Ra’anana. It was a religious school for World War II orphans—his father would have to wear a kippah and say the prayers. When he’d come home, he would remove it.

Slowly, he grew to appreciate and enjoy the traditions and began absorbing them. As El Hanani describes it, it was a process of “na’aseh v’nishma” [literally, “We shall do and we shall hear,” from Exodus 24:7]—first do it and understand later. Friday nights transformed into special and solemn occasions in their household and they became more observant than their extended family.

El Hanani’s work, the current exhibition included, remains infused with Jewish themes, with pieces titled Ivrit (the Hebrew word for Hebrew), Dot-Nekuda (from the Hebrew word meaning either “dot” or the diacritics used to represent vowel sounds), and Without Form and Void, a reference to the second verse of Genesis.

Read more at Forward

More about: Jewish art, Judaism, Moroccan Jewry

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University