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August 28, 1987 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-08-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FREW( AUG..28_1987

374-3300

A Papal water sprinkler is one of countless novelty items geared to the
Pope's upcoming visit. Many of the entrepreneurs are Jewish, raising the
question: good humor or bad taste?

'Let Us Spray'

EDWIN BLACK

Special to The Jewish News

I

n anticipation of the
Pope's visit, America has
been deluged by
novelties— everything from a
papal lawn sprinkler to $2
papal rings sporting large red
lips that "kiss you back."
Many Catholics are reacting
with good humor. Others,
especially those in the
organized church, are deeply
offended.
Ironically, Jewish en-
trepreneurs are at the
forefront of the papal novelty
business — this at a time
when leaders from both com-
munities are trying to con-
tain tensions between the two
groups. Should this entre-
preneurship be a question of
straight economics, or special
ethics?
Some of the entrepreneurs
suspected from the outset
that they were engaged in
something offensive to Cath-
olics. Robert Lebow of Hunt-
ington Woods, a suburb of
Detroit, is the 34-year old
creator of the "Let us Spray"
papal lawn sprinkler, prob-
ably the most publicized
papal novelty. His $55 hand-
made wooden John Paul fig-
urine squirts a semblance of
holy water from "his holy lit-
tle hands."
Lebow confesses, "When we
started, I thought we'd be in
hot water." But he has since
received a great deal of
publicity — and orders for
about a thousand sprinklers.
Yet Lebow is concerned
about charges of insensitivi-
ty. His sister designs Holo-
caust displays, and he's
related to Holocaust sur-

vivors. "I would never do
anything to be insensitive,
and I don't believe this ["Let
us Spray."] is blasphemous or
vile. Each is handmade and
I'm proud."
Danny Geisler, 32, of San
Antonio, a non-practicing
Jewish artist whose grand-
parents fled Germany for
America, created the Pope-
Pourri company in honor of
the Holy Father's visit. His
two main products include
papal miters emblazoned
with a picture of the Alamo,
and a gaudy "papal ring" top-
ped by luscious ruby lips that
"kiss you back."
Paul Laub, an observant
Jew from Monterey, Califor-
nia, has amassed a variety of
novelties. Ibp of Laub's line is
a $1500 oil painting depicting
Clint Eastwood signing an
autograph for His Eminence.
But for a dollar, he also sells
a parchment certificate fea-
turing the Pope and Clint
with the inscription "Thou
Hast Made My Day."
An official source in the
Archdiocese of New York
terms Lebow's lawnsprinkler
"not in good taste." The
Catholic League for Religious
and Civil Rights, a staunch
first amendment and inter-
religious liberty advocate
akin to the Anti-Defamation
League, was more specific.
"The sprinkler is certainly in-
sensitive and demeaning to
the position Catholics give to
the Pope as Vicar of Christ,"
declares Father Virgil Blum,
president of the Milwaukee-
based organization. "As for
the [papal] ring," he adds,
"that is simply offensive."
Mundelein College jour-
nalism teacher Sister Rita

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