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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Poem: 314 words
Author’s Notes: 58 words
By Jennifer B. Kahnweiler

Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time

—After the sculpture by Joshua Koffman, 20151

Ecclesia, erect, 
crowned by Christ, 
grasps her staff 
holds a chalice 
his blood 
for Holy Communion 

next to her 
Synagoga hunches,
an old woman
downcast, Satan’s serpent 
wraps her head 
blinding her 
she holds a broken staff 
her Torah scroll drops 
to the ground 

since the Middle Ages 
we were Jews with horns 
Jews with goat heads 
Judensau 2 
St. Augustine 
lent heft to figures 
of inhuman Jews 
in jokes and tropes 
on tapestries, 
on stained glass
flanking entrances 
to the cathedrals of 
Notre Dame 
Luther’s Wittenberg 
where visitors swallowed 
the idea of us as animals 

even I, my junior year 
abroad, inhaled this 
majesty of Medieval art 
blind to how it kept close company 
with the Third Reich’s solution—
now at home with neo-Nazi, 
white nationalist memes 


in 1965 
the Catholic Church 
proclaims Jews collectively 
of killing Jesus Christ3

in 2000 
Pope John Paul 
prays at the Wailing Wall 
in Jerusalem 
he asks God for forgiveness 
...we are deeply saddened 
by the behaviour of those 
who in the course of history 
have caused these children of yours to suffer, 
and asking your forgiveness 
we wish to commit ourselves 
to genuine brotherhood 
with the people of the Covenant.4 

in 2015 
for a Catholic university 
sculptor Joshua Koffman 
casts a reimagined version of 
Ecclesia and Synagoga: 
Synagoga and Ecclesia 
in Our Time  
Pope Francis gives his blessing 
students on the Saint Joseph’s and 
Marist School campuses  
pass this bronze sculpture each day 

the two figures now
wear matching crowns 
their faces in repose
Synagoga cradles 
the Torah scroll 
her left foot arched with 
a ballerina’s grace 
Ecclesia holds the Bible
her right leg in 
perfect symmetry 
their limbs share
a draped cloth
they lean in
as if their sisterhood
could stop the world
from genocide 



Author’s Notes:

—This poem was also inspired by Why the Jews? A Two-Part Multi-Media Look at the Long and Tragic History of Anti-Semitism by Brendan Murphy, a teacher at the Marist School in Atlanta; he presented his lectures at Temple Emanu-El of Atlanta on September 11 and 12, 2022.

—With gratitude to VA Smith.



Word Count: 617

Publisher’s Notes:

Links below were retrieved in January 2023.

  1. The original sculpture Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time by Joshua Koffman was commissioned by Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and was installed on the university’s campus in 2015. A second sculpture of the same name was commissioned by the Marist School in Atlanta, and was installed there in 2021. An additional seven of these sculptures are planned.

    Re the second sculpture: Lecturer Brendan Murphy (mentioned in the Author’s Notes above) was so awed by the St. Joseph’s sculpture that he contacted the sculptor and asked about installing Synagoga and Ecclesia at the Marist School. A donor at one of Mr. Murphy’s lectures came forward to make the funding happen, and the second sculpture now sits on the Marist campus. Details at New Sculpture Celebrates Friendship Between Catholics and Jews (29 October 2021).

  2. Judensau: German for “Jewish sow,” the term for the virulently anti-Semitic sculptures that were a standard feature of Christian churches in Medieval Europe, some of which exist to this day.

    See also “Hatred in Plain Sight” by Carol Schaeffer in Smithsonian Magazine (October 2020): “In the city where Martin Luther revolutionized Christianity, a vile, 700-year-old sculpture openly denigrates Jews. Why is it still there?”

    “Its existence predates the Nazi period by nearly 700 years. Sculptures of Jews and pigs started appearing in architecture in the 1300s, and the printing press carried on the motif in everything from books to playing cards well into the modern period. Today, more than 20 Judensau sculptures are still incorporated into German churches and cathedrals, with a few others in neighboring countries. At least one Judensau—on the wall of a medieval apothecary in Bavaria—was taken down for its offensive nature, but its removal in 1945 is thought to have been ordered by an American soldier...” (Carol Schaeffer).

    The sculpture at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg is still in place, which is not only abhorrent to members of multiple faith traditions, but also ironic since the church is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). Among UNESCO’s missions: “the building of a culture of peace, and intercultural dialogue.”

  3. The Nostra Aetate declaration, summarized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL):

    “In 1965, the Second Vatican Council made historic changes to church policies and theology. Among them was Nostra Aetate, Latin for ‘In Our Time,’ a document that revolutionized the Catholic Church’s approach to Jews and Judaism after nearly 2000 years of pain and sorrow.

    “Section four of Nostra Aetate repudiates the centuries-old ‘deicide’ charge against all Jews, stresses the religious bond shared by Jews and Catholics, reaffirms the eternal covenant between God and the People of Israel, and dismisses church interest in trying to baptize Jews.

    “For the first time in history Nostra Aetate called for Catholics and Jews to engage in friendly dialogue and biblical and theological discussions to better understand each other’s faith. After intense debate and some strong opposition, Nostra Aetate was approved by the world’s Bishops and Cardinals in Rome on October 28, 1965. Nostra Aetate also calls for the church to dialogue with other world religions” (ADL glossary, 5 March 2017).

    The full text of Nostra Aetate appears with the glossary entry.

    For additional information and useful resources, see:
    50th Anniversary Nostra Aetate 1965-2015

  4. Photograph of Pope John Paul’s prayer of apology (typewritten and signed) may be viewed at the UPI website.

    For further details, see “March 2000 Pope John Paul II prays for forgiveness and repentance at Western Wall” in the blog On This Day in Messianic Jewish History (26 March 2015).

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

is a non-fiction author and poet based in Atlanta, GA. She discovered her passion for the genre when her favorite aunt gave her a book of Edna St. Vincent Millay poems as a young girl. Ms. Kahnweiler started writing poems during lockdown. The Atlanta Writers Club awarded her the 2022 Natasha Trethewey prize in poetry for her poem “While Waiting for Her Name to be Called,” which will appear in The Avalon Literary Review this winter.

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