More perspective on Comfort Women

More perspective on Comfort Women

I write in response to Robin Katz’s letter on April 18.

First, I write as an artist. For the last 45 years I have worked for Latin American Day Workers and the NAACP and I have a permanent exhibit at the Kupferberg Holocaust Center in Queens, N.Y.

And I write as an employee of the Palisades Park Public Library, where I have worked for 26 years and am responsible for the Santa Claus mural.

I have worked with victims of forced sexual slavery since 2007 – they are known as the Comfort Women. I was one of the driving forces behind the memorial, and I designed it.

Whenever I speak at a public event, I begin with a quote from Bob Dylan from his powerful poem “Hard rains are gonna fall.” It goes like this: “I will know my song well, before I start singing.” I study any project before I attach my name to it. I did this with the Comfort Women Project. Apparently, neither Ms. Katz nor the Jewish Standard has done much research about it.

Ms. Katz says that the library “seemed to put the plight of the comfort women to be the most significant event in all of WWII.” This has never been the case. There are approximately 40 public memorials dedicated to the Holocaust, and until we dedicated our memorial, there was no mention of Comfort Women in our text books, or on any plaque in America or anywhere else in the world. We were the first.

After I worked on the memorial, I traveled to Korea, at my own expense and I have grown to know these victims as friends.

I have exhibited at the YWHA Hebrew Center in Washington Township three times over the past 20 years, once with a Holocaust survivor. I was instrumental in securing a grant for the Holocaust Center in Queens, which is now applying for a second grant to build a Comfort Women wing to house an interactive room for people to learn about this atrocity. I have exhibited paintings on immigration from Italian, to Jewish, to Korean, to Latin American. The very thought that I believe that Comfort Women are the most important fact of WWII shows how little she knows about me or my art work.

Now to the ongoing saga of Santa Claus and his infamous mural. In fact, there are 25 murals in the library, including the Pied Piper, Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan, and the Snow Queen. Santa was just one painting, a character as fictional as the rest, painted in fun, for the kids to enjoy. No disrespect was meant, and no one else ever has complained about it.

As for the Jewish community being unhappy with rabbis’ participation in memorializing the Comfort Women – in 2010, I sitting with Dr. Arthur Flug, Holocaust survivor Ethel Katz, and former Comfort Woman Ok Sun Yi, when Ms. Katz stunned us all by saying to Ms. Yi, “I don’t know how you endured that torture for all those years.” Ms. Katz had watched her family shot and killed before she was taken away to a concentration camp, and yet she expressed sympathy for Ms. Yi.