‘Echoes’ Of Dutch Anti-Semitism, Then And Now


Artist Yona Verwer has created a triptych that’s old and new, in all ways.

Titled “Echoes,” the theme is anti-Semitism, past and present, in her native Netherlands. She partners with Polish-born artist Katarzyna Kozera — both are now New Yorkers — and musicologist Dan Schwartz, to create a series of three linked paintings, on view at the Yeshiva University Museum. What makes the work altogether new and unusual is that they use augmented reality — embedding videos into the collaged paintings. A viewer with a smart phone or iPad can view related videos and hear recorded music that are otherwise not apparent.

Using acrylic paint and digital images on canvas, Verwer and Kozera use Holocaust imagery, depicting the lives of Dutch Jews in the 1940s being rounded up for deportation. The central panel reflects the contemporary resurgence of anti-Semitism in Amsterdam and all of Europe, with a row of brightly designed kippot.

“If you wear a kipa now, you can expect to be yelled at and to have things thrown at you,” Verwer, co-founder of the Jewish Art Salon, tells The Jewish Week. She explains that these bright kippot are “nothing that the Dutch would ever wear, but a symbol that Jews are alive.”

Hanging below the three canvases are hand-colored details of old maps of Amsterdam, including a 1942 map created and used by the Nazis.

The videos inside the two paintings reflecting the past include images from the Dutch deportation camp Westerbork; the Hollandsche Schouwburg, the theater where Jews were rounded up; Amsterdam’s Jewish ghetto (established by the Nazis); and the February Strike, a mass protest against the deportations organized by non-Jews. The center painting is embedded with videos of current examples of anti-Semitism, like defacing Jewish monuments.

The viewer is transported, immersed, sandwiched in sounds and imagery.

The music includes snippets of the work of Schwartz, associate professor of music at the University of Oklahoma, who created an oboe concert based on recently made recordings in Amsterdam at three sites closely connected to Jewish history and the city’s deportation of Jews: the Hollandsche Schouwburg; the Portuguese synagogue; and the statue of a dock worker, a symbol of Dutch Resistance in World War II.

The exhibition, on view in the Education Showcase on the main floor of the Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St., runs through Jan. 16.