Princeton University had been scheduled to present 19th century Jewish American art by Leonard Milberg (a Princeton graduate and patron of the arts). Milberg pulled out of the exhibition due to disputes with the university.
Statements to The Daily PrincetonianAccording to a spokesperson for Cleveland State University, Milberg is ultimately responsible for the failure of the exhibition. Both Milberg and Samantha Baskind, an art historian at Cleveland State University tell a different story. Princeton officials objected to artwork from two 19-century Jewish Americans who served in Confederate Army soldiers during Civil War.
Baskind explains that Princeton cancelled the most significant artists to force the cancellation. Reason. It would not be possible to present an accurate exhibition about nineteenth-century Jewish American arts without the most important figure, Moses Jacob Ezekiel.
Ezekiel’s famous piece “Faith”, was indeed intended to be the centerpiece. Ezekiel created “Faith,” an imposing marble sculpture measuring 64 inches in height, in 1876. The statue was ordered by Jewish fraternal organizations to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Independence’s signing. A replica is located at Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History.
Ezekiel is an interesting historical figure. He fought in the Confederacy, and supported the Lost Cause. The idea that the Civil War was a war between the northern states and the south, which Ezekiel supports, makes it a difficult story. Theodore Moise (a second artist, whose works would have been included in this exhibit), was also a Confederate Army veteran. However, history is littered with people who were flawed but made valuable contributions to art, science and literature. The works were not related to the Confederacy and should have been displayed with labels acknowledging their controversial ties.
Baskind states, “History is not about neat, clean figures.” “Princeton cancelled precisely the type of show that a university should deal with.”
The exhibition was in its planning stage when problems arose in October last year. The university’s vice-provost for institutional equity was involved in the problem, as per Religion News Service. Ezekiel was wanted by the administrator. Moise was dropped.
Milberg, who previously donated more than 13,000 items to Princeton’s collections before, was hesitant about the idea to modify the showcase in an effort to meet the needs of administrators.
He said, “Once it starts cancelling things, it never stops.” The Daily Princetonian
Baskind described Princeton’s actions as an “unfortunate anti-intellectual surrender in order to cancel culture.” Milberg’s refusal to support historical revisionism is commendable, Baskind says.
She said that “He made a principled decision not to pay for the exhibition, after the library decided to take curatorial matters into their own hands.” He disagreed with Princeton’s decision to erase the history and censor the exhibition.
Jonathan Sarna was a Brandeis University professor of Jewish American History whose research had informed this exhibition. He also protested Princeton’s surrender. Sarna states that Confederate soldiers are two of most significant Jewish American artists from the 19th century. It is worth discussing, and not censorship.
Sarna stated, “One approach is to have faith in our audience. We display the material in all its complexity and talk about it.” Religion News. We can also cancel the contract. “I’m not a part of the woke. [part of]Cancel[ing]Anything that does not conform to current-day moral standards is unacceptable.”
An institution of higher education might have expressed curiosity about the intersection of these subjects—the Jewish American experience, the Civil War, and 19th-century art—and invited its students to contemplate them. Princeton was driven to hide the truth. (Princeton didn’t provide any comment at the time of publication.
It’s not the Princeton campus as such, but rather that the responsible decision maker is a risk-averse Diversity Coordinator. Liberal values such as freedom of speech and plurality of thought on campus campuses will continue to be under threat as long the office for institutional equity continues to hold sway.
Baskind says that Princeton tried to avoid controversy but at the cost of an incredible opportunity to display exceptional and intriguing art to students and open up critical conversations. “A crucial learning opportunity was lost.”