Artists4Israel, the Arthur Szyk and Jewish National Initiative announced the creation of the Arthur Szyk Prize on Thursday. The new award – named after the eponymous Jewish graphic artist and political cartoonist whose work figured prominently in both American and Zionist propaganda during and after World War II – was created “to recognize artists whose work sparks new ideas about Zionism in the 21st century,” said award organizers.

According to Artists4Israel – an ongoing collaborative art project “expressing Israel’s right to exist in peace and security” – the winner of the first Arthur Szyk Prize will receive $1,000 for work using art to “challenge prevailing conceptions of Zionism and elucidate the new meanings of Jewishness today.” The winner is to be announced on May 15.

“Israel protecting civilians from murder by terrorists is the same as it protecting the freedoms that support the arts,” Artists4Israel president Craig Dershowitz told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“Both allow for creation and beauty. Artists4Israel hopes to do our part to return that favor, to turn our powerful humanity and abilities to use in thanking Israel and moving the Zionist ideal forward,” he said.

“Arthur Szyk showed the world what it meant to be Jewish with a boldness that couldn’t be ignored. With this prize, we’re following Szyk’s example by honoring an artist who is uniquely able to illuminate the meaning of Jewish self-determination today,” Dershowitz added.

“This prize is about using art to understand who we are and what role Zionism can play in a rapidly changing world,” stated Daniel Fink, codirector of JNI.

“We’re thrilled by the prospect of artists coming out to say entirely new things, to rekindle the most critical dialog of our generation,” he said.

Arthur Szyk (pronounced “Shik”) was born in Lodz, Poland in 1894 and moved to the United States in 1940 after living and working for several years in both the United Kingdom and France, where he gained fame as a talented illustrator.

During World War II, his illustrations mocking both the Axis powers and UK’s immigration policy in British Mandate Palestine were widely circulated in magazines and, according to some, these images were even more popular among American GIs than those of pin-up girls.

Szyk’s illustrations supporting the Zionist movement and the creation of a Jewish state, including several posters for the United Palestine Appeal, were important tools in fundraising for the Yishuv.

“With one glance at his illustrated covers for American publications like Time, Esquire and the New York Post, millions of Americans saw European pacifists lampooned, American anti-Semites lambasted and Hitler made to look like the demoniacal madman he was,” said Dershowitz and Fink.

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