Imaginary Coordinates, Real Censorship sign now

We, the undersigned, are shocked, appalled and dismayed by the actions of the Board of Trustees of Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies for abruptly closing the temporary exhibition Imaginary Coordinates ahead of schedule. The exhibition, originally scheduled to be open through September 7, is now closed.

Imaginary Coordinates was a multi-media exhibition inspired by and including rare and antique maps of the Holy Land from Spertus' collection. These maps were brought together with objects of material culture and contemporary works by renowned Israeli- and Palestinian-born women artists. The works in the exhibition convey varying perspectives about Middle East borders and boundaries. One of the exhibitions goals was to foster conversation on this subject.

Dr. Howard A. Sulkin, President of Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies has said that "Spertus unapologetically sought to build a home for Jews and Jewish issues. Yet the institute has abandoned its self stated mission, to offer extraordinary, cutting-edge programming that inspires thought and provokes dialogue," according to a Spertus Institute press release.

As Americans and as Jews, we are dismayed by the self-censorship of the Spertus Institute. Both the Rabbis of the Talmud and the founding Fathers (and mothers) of this country relied on free expression and debate as they forged these two great civilizations. Ironically, the freedom of speech that allows for artistic discourse like that exhibited in Imaginary Coordinates is part of the first amendment to the US Constitution which also allows freedom from organized religion, thus allowing us to thrive as Jews in America. Imaginary Coordinates was not condemned for its artistic merits, but rather for its political perspective, thus Imaginary Coordinates and its curators have had their first amendment rights curtailed, and the public is left to suffer.

While we are disappointed with the Spertus Institute and its board of trustees, we recognize that Spertus could not be behind this self-censorship. For example, the Spertus Institute was one of very few institutions to host the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour, among many outspoken and courageous efforts to inspire thought and provoke dialogue.

So to those cowards who believe they can change the publics opinion by stymieing its discourse, we have this message. In a place where there are no people of moral integrity, [we will] uphold morality, whether you censor us or not.

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Imelda WatkinsBy:
Politics and GovernmentIn:
Petition target:
Spertus Intsitute, Jewish Federation of Chicago

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