A Jewish museum in Chicago closed a controversial exhibit under intense pressure from donors.
The Spertus Museum, a division of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, shut an exhibition of Palestinian and Israeli concepts of homeland, the Chicago Tribune reported. The exhibition, titled “Imaginary Coordinates,” featured historic maps of Israel and included several pieces deemed hostile to the Jewish state.
“Aspects of it were clearly anti-Israel,” said Steven Nasatir, the president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. “I was very surprised that a Jewish institution would put forward this exhibition. I was surprised and saddened by it.”
Spertus President Howard Sulkin said the exhibit fit with the evolving mission of the museum, which is housed in the institute’s recently opened $38 million home on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.
“A willingness to experiment is incorporated right into our core principles, and we see one of our roles as being a place that inspires dialogue on the critical issues of our time,” Sulkin said.
The Spertus controversy is not the first to pit an independent-minded Jewish institution against an established organization over a controversial Mideast issue. In March, the Zionist Organization of America harshly criticized the Hillel chapter at Harvard University for playing host to an exhibition organized by Breaking the Silence, an organization of former Israeli soldiers who speak out against Israeli operations in the Palestinian territories.
The ZOA called the exhibit “an anti-Israel lie” that would promote anti-Semitic hatred. Hillel fired back, saying the ZOA’s public outburst had caused Jewish students to begin receiving hate mail.