Simon Glass

Toronto-based Visual Artist


The text in the piece above, If We ... a 48" x 24" giclee print is excerpted from a 1926 letter from Gershom Scholem to Franz Rosenzweig (translated from German). A Berlin secular Jew, Scholem emigrated to Palestine in 1923. A 1920s Zionist and founding member of Brit Shalom: Covenant of Peace, Scholem sought peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Rosenzweig too was a German Jew, but an anti-Zionist. While Scholem supported the secularization of Hebrew, then a language of scripture and liturgy, and indigenous to the middle east for over 2000 years, the letter exposes Scholem’s justified doubts and fears about establishing a modern state of Israel and the adoption and weaponization of Hebrew for its modern, national language.

The English typography in this print is appropriated from a prayer book damaged by arsonists at the Anshei Minsk synagogue in Toronto’s Kensington Market in 2002. While the prosecution failed to convict the perpetrators of a hate crime, as a Jew I found the violence of setting fire to a local synagogue, and firefighters throwing smoldering prayer books onto the street — one of which I retrieved — disturbing. The characters of the text are drawn from Kaddish, an Aramaic prayer of the first century BCE when Aramaic — progenitor of both Hebrew and Arabic — was spoken in the Middle East, and the Jewish prayer for the dead since around the 12th century. So important is it to recite this prayer upon the passing of a loved one, that it has been transliterated into many languages including English.

I began this piece in September 2023. It reflects my longstanding interest in language and translation and their relationships to meaning, identity and justice. Since October 7, 2024, the atrocities and genocide enacted upon Palestinians, the ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israel, and the attack on southern Israel by Hamas, changed my relationship to it. I hope to create a space with this piece that will provoke reflection upon language and translation, and their relationship to violence, power, and justice. It is to be exhibited at the Onsite Gallery in Toronto from June 19 (opening reception 5pm - 7pm) until November 30, 2024.