Marietta Cambareri

As news outlets cover immigration, legal and illegal, and the plight of refugees taking to the waters of the world, personal stories of sacrifice may get lost. Yet as the grandchild of immigrants from Italy, I have followed how boatloads of migrants to Sicily and Greece are taken in, even when these hosts are in financial and social crisis themselves. This piece recalls a very different story—of Holocaust survivors seeking to dock in British Palestine for a new homeland—embodied in this ecstatic figure praying before a menorah composed of outstretched arms and hands. Here the artist, Jacques Lipchitz, describes the political and personal tragedy leading to his transcendent creation:

“In 1947, a shipload of Jewish immigrants came from Europe to Palestine. At that time the British held a mandate over Palestine, and they refused to allow the Jews to disembark. The ship, which was named Exodus, was forced to go from port to port, and no one would permit it to dock. It was a terrible event, one that made me sick with anger and despair. There were many prayers and fasts among Jews for the safety of this ship, and I also fasted. It was during my fast that the idea for this sculpture appeared. I was certain that Israel would ultimately become a state, and the sculpture was in effect the birth of this new state of Israel…”

Author

Marietta Cambareri is senior curator of European Sculpture and Jetskalina H. Phillips Curator of Judaica.