On Park Lane, at the east end of the vast Forest Park, which includes the neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill and Glendale, a lone lamenting figure stands on a rise between the basketball courts and the tony homes spread out before it. His garments are ripped and his eyes look heavenward in a supplicating manner. Passersby would be puzzled about what this figure symbolizes, were there not a NYC Parks sign positioned perhaps a bit too close to it.
The Book of Job in the Old Testament concerns a God-fearing individual who is living a happy and satisfied existence. Satan wishes to test the depth of his love of God and gambles with the Creator that Job will renounce Him if all his earthly possessions are removed and he is plunged into poverty. Thus, the Sabeans and Chaldeans came and made off with his oxen and farm implements and a hurricane killed his sons and daughters. Job replied with: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Satan challenged God further to afflict his health, and Job was covered in boils; his wife begged him to “curse God and die” while three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, came to ostensibly comfort Job, but instead stated that Job had sinned: after all, what else would cause God to afflict him so?
Job curses the day he was born, comparing life and death to light and darkness. He wishes that his birth had been shrouded in darkness and longs to have never been born, and responds to his friends in anger. This only buttresses their argument that Job is self-righteous and guilty of the sin of pride.
God appears and speaks from a whirlwind, contending that his ways are not for man to understand, and castigating his friends for daring to know His purposes. Job intercedes and God forgives Job’s friends, and since Job’s faith never wavered, his old life is restored to him, with new children and more wealth than before.
The statue of Job in Forest Park has something of a convoluted history. It is one of two casts produced by sculptor Natan J. Rapoport in 1968, the 20th anniversary of the state of Israel. Each were acquired by Dr. Murray Fuhrman and his wife Sylvia; one was donated to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum, and the other took its place in their garden, where it remained until 1986 when it was donated to the city and installed at the Overlook, NYC Parks’ Forest Park headquarters.
Sculptor Rapoport (1911-1987) was born in Poland and studied sculpture there and in Paris. At WWII’s outbreak in 1939 he fled to Russia, then lived there and also in France and Israel before immigrating to the USA in 1959. His most celebrated work is his memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, erected in 1948 at the place in the Polish capital where Jewish opposition to the Nazis began.