Queens College alum presents exhibition on European anti-Semitism

By Patrick Donachie

Mark Podwal is a Queens-based dermatologist, who has worked as an artist for the New York Times Op-Ed page and has served on the faculty of the New York University School of Medicine as a clinical associate professor of dermatology.

He is also an alumnus of Queens College, and for the next two months his work will be featured at the school’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum in a new exhibition that investigates the insidious presence of anti-Semitism in Europe’s past.

“The Terezin Portfolio” details moments and periods of anti-Semitism in European history prior to the horrors of the Holocaust.

According to Queens College’s statement announcing the exhibition, the portfolio prints resemble pages in a book, and Podwal pairs each image with a selection of a verse from the Book of Psalms.

In addition to Podwal’s prints, the exhibition will include images, letters and documents from moments in history like the Inquisition and the Holocaust. The pieces are from the collections of the Jewish Theological Seminary Library and the Godwin-Ternbach.

Works from the portfolio first appeared at the Terezin Ghetto Museum in the Czech Republic in 2014, and the exhibition will also include a documentary film about Podwal’s creative process, according to the Queens College statement.

“The humiliations, persecutions, and massacres of Jews by Nazi Germany all had their precedence in the Middle Ages, including ghettos, distinct clothing, slaughters, and exiles in Europe, “ Podwal said in the statement. “In comparison with the magnitude of the Holocaust, these earlier sufferings tend to be forgotten.”

Podwal is currently in Europe, but he noted the differences between when “The Terezin Portfolio” was presented in America vs. international venues.

“What is unique for this exhibition in New York compared to its European audiences is that although we fought and defeated Nazi Germany our land was not a World War II battlefield,” he wrote in an e-mail. “What amazes me is how little the current American generation knows about the Second World War, which ended only 71 years ago.”

“The Terezin Portfolio” will be featured at the museum through June 4, and the school has also scheduled several events and screenings in conjunction with the exhibition.

On May 2, the museum will be screening Oren Jacoby’s “My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes” detailing the stories of Italians who risked their lives to protect Jewish citizens after the Nazis occupied Italy in 1943.

On May 5, Naila al Atrash, a Syrian film and theater director, will speak about the current Syrian refugee crisis.

The talk will be followed by an “artistic recitation” of work penned by Syrian refugees that will be performed by Queens College students.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.