This week, on the “(Is It) Good for the Jews?” podcast …
Larry Rosen: Let me tell you how I spent my Easter …
Eric Goldbrener: Don’t you mean your Passover?
LR: Yes, that too. But I was in Italy, where, I’ve got to say, Easter is a bit more high profile than Passover.
EG: Was everything closed? Was it just Jews on the streets?
LR: If there were any Jews, they were hiding.
EG: Well, that’s something Jews do in Europe, I hate to tell you.
LR: And besides, things were open. Museums. Restaurants. In fact, on Easter we saw “The Last Supper.” And let me tell you it was really something. But I have a question.
EG: You’re a Jew. You question.
LR: We go to the church, there’s monks. “The Last Supper” is actually on a wall of the monks’ dining hall.
EG: How appropriate.
LR: First of all, “The Last Supper” was really something. One of those deals where I had to pause and go, “Wow, I got to see this.” Stunning.
EG: I hope you paused to thank your wife, because she’s the cultured one.
LR: (ignoring this) Now I don’t claim to know anything about Jesus …
EG: You don’t? He died, he rose up, people pray to him.
LR: … but I have a question. Our guide is pointing out everyone in the painting — there’s Saint John, there’s Peter … and there’s Judas. And you know how you can tell it’s Judas? Because he’s the guy with the dark, curly hair and the big nose.
EG: And his name is Jew-das.
LR: That’s right. And why did he sell out the Son of God? For money. Thus began two weeks of me being very aware of how Jews are portrayed in Renaissance Christian art.
EG: How’d that go for you?
LR: We weren’t super popular in Italy during the Renaissance.
EG: Or the Middle Ages, for that matter. I’ve got a question for you: Why didn’t Jesus have dark, curly hair and a big nose?
LR: Why didn’t they all have dark, curly hair and big noses? They’re all Jews, aren’t they? A little bit of propaganda there from da Vinci?
LR: But I’m still having a good Easter at this point. We go into the church. They tell us we can go in, but we’ve got to be quiet because the monks are chanting. You know why I love churches in Europe?
EG: The beautiful architecture?
LR: No. It’s very cool in there. Usually 20 degrees cooler than outside.
EG: Maybe you should live in a medieval church.
LR: Well, I don’t think I can, and let me tell you why. We’re wandering around this church — which, by the way, was built by one family, speaking of income inequality; they built their own church, and we’re going around from nave to nave, the monks are chanting, and we get to the last nave.
EG: It sounds fantastic. The monks, the chanting, the beautiful paintings, the cool air …
LR: In this last nave is a painting, much newer than the others. Looks like it’s 20th century at least. A guy in front of a bunch of barbed wire. And mixed in among the barbed wire is a Star of David.
EG: The barbed wire is the shape of a Star of David?
LR: Yes, it was in there. I’m looking all over for some kind of explanation as to why this Jewish iconography is in this church, but then my wife stops to take a picture … and we get thrown out.
EG: You got thrown out! Of course! Because she took a picture!
EG: Oh … right. Or maybe they saw you, a Jew, in their church, saw your wife take a picture, did the math and figured they’d better get you out of there before you stole some secrets and aired them on your podcast!
LR: That does not sound implausible. “There’s a Jew in nave seven,” and out we went. Just like that.
EG: “It’s that guy. He looks suspiciously like that Judas character from ‘The Last Supper.’”
LR: We got hustled out. And that’s how I spent my Easter.
EG: Next time look for a seder. It’s safer.