The Jewish Graphic Novel

Justice Illuminated: The Art of Arthur Szyk

On View

February 1-April 28, 2006


Wednesday, March 22, 2006 – 5:00 PM


Wednesday, March 22, 2006 – 6:00 PM with Irvin Ungar, Szyk Society Curator

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum presents…

Artist’s Panel: April 26 at 7 pm
Moderator: Arie Kaplan, MAD Magazine writer & screenwriter
Panelists/Graphic Artists: Joe Kubert, Peter Kuper, James Sturm

The Jewish Graphic Novel
March 7-June 30, 2006

The Jewish Graphic Novel, an exhibition where image and text are linked in a powerful form of contemporary art, features the original works of three generations of pioneering graphic novelists, from the late Will Eisner and Joe Kubert, to second generation artists Peter Kuper and James Sturm, and the newcomer J.T. Waldman. Graphic novels represent an important genre in artistic expression and assert the intensity of word and image in conveying narratives that speak eloquently to the contemporary viewer. Reflecting the Jewish heritage of many of the founders of the American comics and cartooning art forms, this exhibition focuses on artists whose works are based on Jewish historical experience or Jewish literary sources and who tackle the themes of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, belief, and survival. Their visual narratives of human experience and historical jeopardy are gritty, realistic, and raw. Humor, irony, and fantastic imagination trigger a visceral reaction from the viewer.

The Jewish Graphic Novels highlighted in this exhibition have been selected for their intense visual elucidation of Jewish historic and literary events,” explains Laura Kruger, Curator. “The artists combine intense illustration with searing social issues. Each of these artists reveals an aspect of Jewish social history, literature, traditional text, and mythic heroism through their own unique work.”

The late Will Eisner coined the term ‘graphic novel.’ He used the phrase ‘sequential art’ to describe the visual flow of ideas across the page. A master of the graphic novel field and mentor to generations of comic book and graphic artists, he authored A Contract With God, Fagin the Jew, The Name of the Game and The Protocols of Zion. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, he touched every nerve of social consciousness and Jewish history.

Joe Kubert, has been working for more than 50 years in both the comic book industry and the graphic novel genre. He is featured in this exhibition with four searing works. Yossel, April 1943, depicts the life of a young boy in the final days of the Warsaw ghetto. In Jew Gangster, Kubert traces the history of Murder, Inc. in Brooklyn circa 1930. Growing out of the despair of the depression he creates a retaliatory aggressor rather than the meek victim. Currently, Kubert has revived a comic book creation of his, Sgt. Rock, who together with his troops goes into Vilnus, Lithuania in 1940 to bear witness to the atrocities and to rescue the Rabbi who will tell the true tale of the victimization of the Jews.

Peter Kuper uses The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and other of Kafka’s short stories as the bases for his own landmark graphic work. Kuper’s darkly-humored comics express adaptations of Kafka’s works into graphic novels that merge American cartooning with German Expressionism. Kuper adapts the nine tales of paranoia and alienation in Kafka’s Give It Up: And Other Short Stories to black-and-white comics. Kuper is challenged by the complexity of human decisions and in The System, he quotes from William Blake, Alexander Pope, and Darwin to create a ‘flow chart’ of the parallels, coincidences and interconnections of urban life.

James Sturm has taken the historical episode of an evangelical group of baseball players from the early 1920’s who play under the team name of The House of David. When these players fall into a losing streak they bring to life a ‘golem,’ a mighty hitter, in hope that they will be delivered, like the 19th century Jews of Prague, to victory.

JT Waldman’s interpretation of the biblical story, Megillat Esther, or The Book of Esther, is the basis for his just-published graphic novel of assimilation, oppression, self-defense, and vindication. Throughout the ages artists have illustrated the story of King Ahashverosh, Queen Esther, her Uncle Mordechai and their enemy Haman. Visually translating the text into dramatic, often violent, images, Waldman contributes to this continuing tradition.

Published works by the artists will be available for purchase in the exhibition or by contacting Rachel Litcofsky at or 212-824-2205.


Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum The Brookdale Center One West 4th Street New York 10012-1186 (Broadway and Mercer)

RSVP or (212) 824-2205 by March 16, 2006


Rachel Litcofsky, 212-824-2205; for information

Museum Hours

Mondays-Thursdays, 9 AM-5 PM; Fridays, 9 AM-3 PM;
Selected Sundays, 10 AM-2 PM, Feb. 12, 26; March 12, 26; April 9, 23


(212) 824-2205;


Free, Photo ID Required