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RE:Formation of the Jewish Body

Group Exhibition

Curator: Sagi Refael

American Jewish University, Bel Air, California

February - April 2018

Click here for a virtual tour of the exhibition, created by Zachary Balber:

"What is a “Jewish body”, and how does it differentiate from the body of a “non-Jew”?

The “Science of Racism” emerged in Europe of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, putting in place a hierarchy between different seemingly biological races, placing Jews as a “Degenerate Race.” That notion supported the continuous exclusion of Jews from civic life, seemingly justified by their rejection of Jesus and Christianity, therefore clearly proving them as a risk to national spirit of the greater populous. Several body organs of “The Jew” received special attention from racists and anti-Semites, such as the nose, the foot, the mouth, the eyes, the ears and so on. Specifically depicted in male physiology, was the practice of circumcision, the symbolic mark-making of the flesh, commemorating the divine bond established in an ancient era. For those who opposed the act of circumcision, it proved a mental instability brings Jews to mutilate their children.


The “Jewish Body” is not just a pseudo-scientific theory but a concept, and its cultural representations do not aim to portray a clinical manifestation, but an intellectual commentary of the time. Most notably, the Jewish image had changed with the rise of Zionism, which loudly declared a desire to mold a reformed type of Jew that would detach from any presumed weakened physicality.


Partially derived from the collection of the American Jewish University, this exhibition aims to present recognizable manifestations of Jewish figuration alongside potential contemporary analogues and responses to these points of reference, while showcasing symbolism in transition."

An excerpt from the article written by Sagi Refael for the "RE:Formation of the Jewish Body" exhibition catalogue, 2018

View/download the exhibition catalogue here

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