Rabbi Jesus Easter Series 2014

Young Rabbi Jesus

Young Rabbi Jesus on his knees

Goldstein gives ‘Rabbi Jesus’ works billboard treatment

'Rabbi Jesus'

Peter Thomson photo

La Crosse artist Clara Maria Goldstein has created 57 paintings in her "Rabbi Jesus" series that depicts Jesus as a Jew and aims to find common ground between the Jewish and Christian faith. From April 20-27, her paintings will be displayed on four area digital billboards. 

April 19, 2014 12:30 am  •  RANDY ERICKSON randy.erickson@lee.net


WHAT: Digital billboard display of new “Rabbi Jesus” paintings by local artist Clara Maria Goldstein

WHEN: April 20-27, with a new painting each day paired with a quote from Pope Francis condemning anti-Semitism.

WHERE: Southwest-facing billboard at Farm and Fleet in Onalaska, east-facing I-90 billboard in West Salem and both sides of the La Crosse billboard on Hwy. 16 north of La Crosse Street.

The timing of Clara Maria Goldstein’s unusual display of her latest “Rabbi Jesus” paintings was no accident — starting Easter Sunday and concluding April 27, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

And since she made her plans, an act of anti-Semitic violence in Kansas claimed three lives, adding to the display’s relevance.

Born in Nicaragua and raised a Catholic, Goldstein launched her mission to fight anti-Semitism through art in 2006. Her series of oil paintings depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and Jesus’ disciples as Jews now includes 57 works.

The La Crosse woman’s new exhibit will display seven of her paintings on four area digital billboards, coupling paintings with quotes from Pope Francis discouraging anti-Semitism. Goldstein is paying $1,500 for the display time.

People driving by won’t get a lot of time to admire her evolving style, influenced by her mentor, the late Armando Morales. But she hopes the “Jesus was a Jew” message will still be clear, hammered home with quotes from Pope Francis like this one: “Christianity is incompatible with anti-Semitism.”

“Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II were the pioneers in repudiating the centuries-old Christian teaching of contempt for Judaism and the Jewish people,” said Goldstein, who converted to Judaism 12 years ago. “They paved the road for Pope Francis, who is doing a great job in reminding Christians that Jesus was a Jew and in promoting respect towards the Jews.”

While the words of Pope Francis dominate the exhibit, Goldstein has the last word. The painting on the last day, which depicts Jesus on a cross with background images suggesting a Nazi death camp, are accompanied by this message from Goldstein: “Millions of people were killed for having the same religious affiliation as Jesus.”

Authorities believe three people were shot to death April 13 outside a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement home in Overland Park, Kansas, because of the anti-Semitic beliefs of Frazier Glenn Cross. The 73-year-old white supremacist was reported to have shouted “Heil Hitler” as he was being arrested. None of the three victims was Jewish. One was the son of a Christian minister.

Goldstein’s mission promoting goodwill between Christians and Jews stems from reconciling her Christianity and the Judaism of her second husband, Jason. Goldstein raised her daughter from a previous marriage as a Christian, but the Goldsteins have reared their two sons in the Jewish faith and traditions.

“As a mother of both Christians and Jews, I feel it is my duty to speak out through my art against Christian anti-Semitism, which is absurd yet very damaging,” Goldstein said. “I believe my paintings can make a difference to my family and can better the future of this country and of the world.”

While progress has been made in battling anti-Semitism, Goldstein said, a recent poll showed nearly one in four of Americans surveyed blamed Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus.

“The religion of Judaism is not responsible for Jesus’ death,” said Goldstein, a former Onalaska resident.

“Factually, there were a few Jews and a few non-Jews alike who felt threatened by Jesus and ultimately participated in the circumstances that led to Jesus’ death. There were, as well, many Jews who loved him.”

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Clara María Goldstein,
Apr 7, 2014, 6:49 AM
Clara María Goldstein,
Apr 7, 2014, 6:52 AM