The widespread assumption that Jewish religious tradition is mediated through words, not pictures, has left Jewish art with no significant role to play in Jewish theology and ethics. "Judaism and the Visual Image" argues for a Jewish theology of image that, among other things, helps us re-read the creation story in Genesis 1 and to question why images of Jewish women as religious subjects appear to be doubly suppressed by the Second Commandment, when images of observant male Jews have become legitimate, even iconic, representations of Jewish holiness. Raphael further suggests that 'devout beholding' of images of the Holocaust is a corrective to post-Holocaust theologies of divine absence from suffering that are infused by a sub-theological aesthetic of the sublime. Raphael concludes by proposing that the relationship between God and Israel composes itself into a unitary dance or moving image by which each generation participates in a processive revelation that is itself the ultimate work of Jewish art.
Melissa Raphael is Professor of Jewish Theology at the University of Gloucestershire. She is the author of a number of influential studies, including "The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminst Theology of the Holocaust" (Routledge, 2003).
1. Distrust of the Visual in Judaism; 2. Judaism and the Sacralization of Beauty; 3. The Ethical Dimension of Jewish Visuality; 4. Gender and the Visual in Judaism; 5. The Holocaust as a Visual Revelation; 6. Jewish History as a Sacred Dance.