Lashon Hara: On the Consequences of Hate Speech

An exhibition by Robin Atlas at The Anne Frank Center USA.

Presented in conjunction with the Jewish Art Salon.

Opening Reception Wednesday December 3, 6-8 pm.

Open to the public and free of charge.

44 Park Place, New York, NY 10007. Tel: 212-431-7993

Exhibit on view: December 3, 2014 - February 27, 2015, Tue-Sat 10-5.

The exhibit will be accompanied by a series of workshops, discussions and artist lectures on relevant themes.

Words have always been a catalyst for destruction, but today hate speech is increasingly prevalent – tearing apart the fabric of our communities in ever more violent and destructive ways.

Around the world, religious hostilities are at a six year high. While in America alone, the number of hate groups has increased by 56 percent since 2000.
Lashon hara, meaning “evil speech” in Hebrew, directly confronts this impulse to speak negatively of others, to destroy them with words. Intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination are all products of this action – and for this reason lashon hara is considered a very grave sin in Jewish tradition.  

Despite this, it is true that words have also always been a catalyst for salvation. Few people understand this better than Anne Frank, whose diary both illuminated the consequences of inciting hatred through speech and also exemplified the power of words to inspire hope.  “I can shake off everything as I write,” she said, “my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

In Lashon Hara: On the Consequences of Hate Speech, a collection of 20 mixed media works, textile artist Robin Atlas explores the concept of evil speech, its effect on both the physical universe and spiritual realm, and the need for people to atone for their own verbal violence.

“While this collection is steeped in Jewish teachings, it extolls a simple, universal concept: We should not speak ill of one another except to advance constructive purpose, and then only within the embrace of a compassionate humanity,” she explains. “It is intended to stimulate awareness of the impact of our words. It is my hope that from that, the factions become the whole and a common good evolves.”

Although the artist has used the vehicle of the Torah to convey her introspections, lashon hara is not confined to the Jewish community. There are examples of “evil speech” everywhere, in our personal and work lives, in the public sphere. In this respect, the show is both timely and timeless, resonating with everyone of every nation or culture, and age.

Inspired by an incident in her personal life the artist started to research the subject and it occurred to her that the underpinnings of hatred, intolerance, racism, anti-semitism and darkness stem from Lashon Hara (evil tongue). So simple. Our words. What we say to and about one another.

It was an imperative to have the discussion. As a result she created a small narrative of seven pieces, reflections of her own experience with Lashon Hara. In addition she engaged with the subject in a more universal or communal way, resulting in 13 more works.
The exhibit, which is sponsored by the Jewish Art Salon, will be accompanied by a series of workshops, discussions and artist lectures on relevant themes.

44 Park Place is near Church Street.
2/3 train to Park Place, A/C train to Chambers Street, E train to World Trade Center, N train to City Hall, 4/5 train to Fulton Street.
View map here.

Measure for Measure, 2012

Mixed media on fabric, 7 ½” x 8 ½”

A basic tenet of Judaism: Those who speak evil about others are punished by midah k’neged midah or measure for measure. We reap measure for measure in the world to come.

Feather Pillow, 2012
Mixed media on fabric, 10” x 8”

Additional Programming

Grow your own poem
A writing workshop for families with artist Robin Atlas
Saturday January 31 from 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Adults $8 and seniors/students $5.
$20 for a family ticket (consisting of 2 adults and 2 children, or 1 adult and 3 children).
Space limited. Reservations recommended.

Anne Frank Center USA
44 Park Place, New York, NY
212-431-7993 or email

As part of her exhibit, Lashon Hara: On the Consequences of Hate Speech, textile artist Robin Atlas will offer a cut-up poetry workshop for young people using existing text and collage techniques to create and “grown” new poems.
Poetry, paper and glue will be provided.
Suggested age: 8 and up.

WinterGreen Festival at the Museum at Eldridge Street
12 Eldridge Street between Canal and Division
Sunday February 1 from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

For more information visit
As part of her exhibit, Lashon Hara: On the Consequences of Hate Speech, textile artist Robin Atlas will offer a cut-up poetry workshop for young people at the Museum at Eldridge Street’s WinterGreen Tu B’Shvat* celebration
Cut-up poems will be displayed on the Museum’s Tu B’Shvat tree. Poetry, paper and glue will be provided.

*Tu B’shvat, the Jewish New Year for trees, has in recent years become a Jewish Arbor Day.

Directions: Click here for map and detailed directions.
Trains: F to East Broadway - Exit at Rutgers Street. B or D to Grand Street.Buses: M15 to Grand and Allen Streets.  M15 Select to Hester and Allen Streets.


Robin Atlas is a visual artist, print maker, fine arts consultant and curator, whose work has appeared throughout the United States.  She creates contemporary visual midrash - the artistic expression of sacred Jewish texts and Halachic laws -- adding her own creative voice and vision to the ever evolving anthology of commentary.
Her Lashon Hara narrative features twenty individual deconstructed pieces of diverse elements coalesced on hand-dyed collaged fabric, using hand embroidery, free-hand machine stitching, printmaking and other creative techniques.
Robin works out of 49th Street Studios, a collective of five women artists in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, and is a member of the Jewish Art Salon, the American Guild of Judaic Artists,  and ORA Northwest.

The Anne Frank Center USA, a partner organization of the Anne Frank House, uses the diary and spirit of Anne Frank as unique tools to advance her legacy, to educate young people and communities in the U.S. and Canada about the dangers of intolerance, antisemitism, racism and discrimination, and to inspire the next generation to build a world based on equal rights and mutual respect.

The Jewish Art Salon is an innovative, international community of artists and art professionals. Since 2008 it has promoted contemporary art exploring Jewish themes and related to current issues. The salon provides important resources and programs for its members; it organizes exhibits, art events, and (in the New York area) bi-monthly salon sessions with international artists and scholars, in order to create an appreciation for innovative Jewish art in the contemporary art world. 


A Pillow Full of Feathers.

In a small town somewhere in Eastern Europe lived a man who talked too much about other people. Whenever he heard a story or rumor about somebody he felt compelled to repeat it.  He loved the attention he got because of the way he told his anecdotes, sometimes embellishing them with little details he invented to make them even funnier or juicier. 
One day he heard a rumor about another businessman in town. He told his colleagues, who told it to their friends, who told it to their wives, who told it to their friends, who told it to their neighbors and so on; going around the town, until the businessman who was the target of the rumor finally heard it. He went to the Rabbi of the town and told the Rabbi of the rumor going around which had tarnished his good name and reputation.  Later that day the Rabbi summoned the man who talked too much about other people to his study. The Rabbi figured that if he was not the one who initiated the rumor, then he might at least know who did.
When the man who talked too much about other people heard from the Rabbi the devastating effect this rumor had on his neighbor, he admitted to relating the rumor to others.  He told the Rabbi that he had not considered it such a big deal to repeat a nasty rumor or speak unkindly about another individual. The Rabbi explained that “it is lashon hara, evil speech, and it’s akin to committing murder – it kills a person’s soul.” 
“I feel terrible about this,” the man who talked too much about other people stated. “What can I do to undo this? I will do anything.”  The Rabbi asked him: “Do you have any feather pillows in your house?” “Rabbi, you know that I am not a poor man; I have many feather pillows at home.  What do you want me to do, sell them?”  “No, just bring me one,” said the Rabbi.  The man was mystified, but he returned to the Rabbi’s study with a nice fluffy pillow under his arm. The Rabbi opened a window in his study and handed the man a knife. “Please cut your pillow open.”  The man looked at him quizzically and said, “Rabbi, here in your study? It will make a mess!”  “Please, cut it open” the Rabbi said again.
The man did as he was told and cut open the pillow and a torrent of feathers came pouring out. They landed on the desk and on the chairs and on the bookcase, and on the clock, and on the cat which jumped after them. They floated over the table and into the teacups, on the Rabbi and on the man with the knife, and a lot of them swirled out of the window and were carried away by the breeze.
The Rabbi waited until the feathers had settled and then he said to the man: “Now, gather up the feathers, and stuff them back in your pillow. All of them, mind you; not one may be missing.”  The man stared at the Rabbi in utter disbelief. “That is impossible, Rabbi. The ones here in this room, well I might be able to get most of them, but the ones that flew out of the window are gone forever.”
“Yes,” said the Rabbi and nodded gravely, “that is how it is once lashon hara leaves your mouth; you do not know where it will end up. It flies around the universe on the wings of the wind, and you can never get it back!” 

~Old Eastern European Folktale


  1. Hi, I could work with you?

  2. I'm unable to attend any of the Lashon Hara events as I live in California, but am hoping there will ultimately be a website where I can view pictures of the entire exhibit, as well as get a taste of some of what took place during the discussions and workshops.