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Be Careful What You Wish For

Article in the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM

Marc Estrin

Oh, Rabbi Löew, be careful what you wish for, and Victor Frankenstein, beware. And you, Herr Doktor Faust, don’t count on a second Rettung.
Storytellers and artists foresee, but the world plays things out. Einstein nailed it: "Three great forces rule the world," he said, "stupidity, fear and greed."

Fritz Ascher captured those forces in 1916. His foreground translates Einstein’s trio into the hands and faces of:

—terminal Fear,
—expiring Wisdom,
—and desperately grasping Greed.

And, rising above them, looming over the toxic miasma, their collective golem.

"Thou shalt not pass!" say its arms, "I will kill!" say its eyes, and "darkest night" says its cloak. "No moon or stars for you. Nur die Nacht."

Behind this apocalyptic gang of four stands their salient element: a wall, a fortress—or shall we call it a Trennungszaun?—perhaps the most iconically prescient part of Ascher’s vision. And stupidity, fear and greed have different faces now, smoother, white-haired, silver-tongued. But Ascher’s wall still evokes … the wall.

Benjamin Netanyahu: "Will we surround all of the State of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes. In the area that we live in, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts."

Hear O Israel: hear this latest misguided, misguiding, misstepping "rabbi" protecting his community unto its death.
Will Judaism survive its current golem?

Marc Estrin is a novelist, cellist and political activist who lives in the US. His novel Golem Song was published in 2006 and tells the story of Alan Krieger who manages it to make a Golem out of his very self.

Expressionist oil painting showing the golem and three other figures. In the background, one can see a narrow alley.

The Golem
Fritz Ascher, 1916
Oil on canvas, 182.5 x 140.5 cm
Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Hermann Kiessling

Citation recommendation:

Marc Estrin (2016), Be Careful What You Wish For. Article in the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM.

Golem als Actionfigur (Ausschnitt)

Online Edition of the GOLEM Catalog: Table of Contents

The Golem in Berlin – introduction by Peter Schäfer
Chapter 1
The Golem Lives On – introduction by Martina Lüdicke
My Light is Your Life – by Anna Dorothea Ludewig
Avatars – by Louisa Hall
The Secret of the Cyborgs – by Caspar Battegay
Chapter 2
Jewish Mysticism – introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Golem Magic – by Martina Lüdicke
Golem, Language, Dada – by Emily D. Bilski
Chapter 3
Transformation – introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Jana Sterbak’s Golem: Objects as Sensations – by Rita Kersting
Crisálidas (Chrysalises) – by Jorge Gil
Rituals – by Christopher Lyon
A Golem that Ended Well – by Emily D. Bilski
On the Golem – by David Musgrave
Louise Fishman’s Paint Golem – by Emily D. Bilski
Chapter 4
Legendary Prague – introduction by Martina Lüdicke
Golem Variations – by Peter Schäfer
Rabbi Loew’s Well-Deserved Bath – by Harold Gabriel Weisz Carrington
Chapter 5
Horror and Magic – introduction by Martina Lüdicke
Golem and a Little Girl – by Helene Wecker
The Golem with a Group of Children Dancing – by Karin Harrasser
Bringing the Film Set To Life – by Anna-Carolin Augustin
Golem and Mirjam – by Cathy S. Gelbin
Chapter 6
Out of Control – introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Golem—Man Awakened with Glowing Hammer – by Arno Pařík
Dangerous Symbols – by Charlotta Kotik
Current page: Be Careful What You Wish For – by Marc Estrin
Chapter 7
Doppelgänger – introduction by Martina Lüdicke
From the Golem-Talmud – by Joshua Cohen
Kitaj’s Art Golem – by Tracy Bartley
The Golem as Techno-Imagination? – by Cosima Wagner
See also
GOLEM – 2016, online edition with selected texts of the exhibition catalog
GOLEM – 2016, complete printed edition of the exhibition catalog, in German
Golem. From Mysticism to Minecraft – Online Feature, 2016
GOLEM – exhibition, 23 Sep 2016 to 29 Jan 2017

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