Rabbi Jesus Nostra Aetate Series

Clara María Goldstein

Zionist St. Simeon

Jesus at a Tzedakah Garden, a Jewish Tradition of Generosity

Rabbi Jesus' Kosher Healing on the Sabbath

Rabbi Jesus Taught Judaism: Life Preceeds the Sabbath

Rabbi Jesus' Sacred Bible

A Jewish Leader

La Crosse Tribune

Local artist on a mission 

with second ‘Rabbi Jesus' series

By RANDY ERICKSON randy.erickson@lee.net | Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2011 12:30 am | 

Clara Maria Goldstein

    If she could, Clara Maria Goldstein would love to paint over all the New Testament passages in all the world's Bibles that blame the Jews for the death of Jesus. And she'd paint over the verses that some interpret as Jews having been descended from the devil and rejected by God.

    Of course, that would be impossible, so she works on canvas instead, battling anti-Semitism by painting works that emphasize that Jesus, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and many other saints were Jewish.

    Goldstein launched her first series of "Rabbi Jesus" paintings in 2006. They got a lot of attention from the start, causing a stir when Gundersen Lutheran pulled them from display at the La Crosse hospital after two days because they were deemed too controversial.

    The paintings - there were eventually 25 in the series - were later allowed to be shown at the hospital, and Goldstein went on to create a website to serve as a virtual museum for the "Rabbi Jesus" series. She also wrote a book focusing on the paintings that was published in early 2009.

    "I thought I was done, you know, with the first series," she said. "Then the ideas started coming to me. They just come to me, and they don't let me have peace."

    During the past year, she started working on a new series of paintings in the same vein as the "Rabbi Jesus" works, but one big difference this time is she has a treasured mentor.

    A native of Nicaragua, Goldstein has been corresponding with Armando Morales, one of the Central American country's most celebrated artists. Morales had known Goldstein's mother in their younger days.

    Goldstein said the

    84-year-old Morales has had some health problems and was not helping younger artists but made an exception when she made contact last January.

    "I felt like I won the lottery with him," she said. "Everything he says to me is gold."

    Goldstein has completed 27 new oil paintings depicting the Jewish roots of Christianity, using olive oil and sand from the Holy Land and water from the River Jordan.

    Born and raised Catholic, Goldstein recalls being taught that Jews were evil. "I remember feeling angry at the Jews when I was growing up," said Goldstein, who lives in La Crosse with her husband, Jason, and two young sons, age 12 and 9.

    Ironically, she started her religious education after the Catholic Church had issued a proclamation, Nostra Aetate (Latin for "in our age"), that was aimed at creating better relationships with other religions of the world. Nostra Aetate pointedly and specifically acknowledged the common roots of Judaism and Christianity and called for ending the demonization of the Jewish people.

    "In her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church," the proclamation reads, "mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone."

    Because Goldstein and Nostra Aetate have a shared mission, Goldstein chose to have the first public showing of her second series of "Rabbi Jesus" paintings - a one-day exhibit - on Oct. 28, the 46th anniversary of Nostra Aetate. "I love that document, and I want to celebrate it," she said.

    Relations between Christians and Jews have improved since Nostra Aetate was issued in 1965, but Goldstein sees room for much more progress. "It's difficult to change centuries of custom," she said. "But it is time to give Jesus his Judaism back."

    With her second series of paintings, Goldstein raises the spectre of the greatest example of anti-Semitism - the killing, torture and general dehumanization of millions of Jewish people by Nazi Germany. Many of the figures in her new paintings are adorned with Star of David patches like Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, and at least one figure has an arm tattooed with numbers, a nod to the Nazi death camps where prisoners were branded with such numbers.

    Goldstein said she used that symbolism to remind people that Jesus would have been persecuted like all the other Jews during the Holocaust.

    Goldstein doesn't know for sure what's next for her in her artistic crusade, but she said she has a feeling the latest series of "Rabbi Jesus" paintings won't be the last.

    "It is so important to me. ... I don't think it's going to leave me alone," she said. "Sometimes I think this is why I was born. This is kind of like what I came for."

    Clara María Goldstein