Clara Maria Goldstein, a member of a local artists’ guild, hung a series of 10 paintings that emphasized Jesus’ Jewish heritage in the Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, La Crosse, Wis., lobby on Sept. 1. “Rabbi Jesus Said To Love One Another” depicts Jesus wearing a prayer shawl. Another shows a 13-year-old Jesus reading the Torah.
| Clara Maria Goldstein stands with her painting of a 13-year-old Jesus reading the Torah. The painting was among those Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center asked her to remove from its lobby.|
Two days later she received a call from a guild member who serves as a liaison to the hospital. “He said: ‘They are afraid that your artwork could be offensive. And they want it removed as soon as possible,’ ” Goldstein said. “It was so misunderstood.”
Goldstein intended the paintings to educate people about Christianity’s roots in Judaism and to cultivate respect among Jews and Christians. “There are differences,” she said. “So what? We can still like each other, we can still be respectful.”
Steven A. Meyer, pastor of Bridge of Life Lutheran Church, Holmen, Wis., learned of Goldstein’s work through newspaper coverage of the incident, which made national headlines. He asked for permission to use the artwork during worship and on bulletin covers. “After the service, several people came up to say how much they appreciated it,” he said. “We tend to have a narrow picture of Jesus. We perhaps have to move beyond an image we had aschildren.”
A representative of Gundersen refused to comment beyond a prepared statement. It read, in part: “While we acknowledge an artist’s right to express their personal beliefs, we don’t believe a hospital setting is the appropriate place for controversial artwork.”