Censoring Mr. Spock

Naked women covered in … tallitot and tefillin? The black-and-white photographs in "Shekhina" (Umbrage Editions, $39.95) a new book by Leonard Nimoy — a.k.a. "Star Trek’s" Mr. Spock — have ignited a debate in the Jewish community over art and censorship.

The storm over "Shekhina" — a kabbalistic term for the feminine aspect of the divine spirit — erupted after Nimoy embarked on a 26-city promotional tour that included a lecture at the Skirball Cultural Center last September.

Nimoy backed out of an Oct. 23 Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle fundraising dinner after a dispute began over his desire to show slides and discuss his monograph.

Barry Goren, executive director of the Seattle federation, said the group was not trying to act as some kind of "Ayatollah Khomeini," but felt it wasn’t a good idea to have Nimoy show potentially controversial slides at the dinner.

Nimoy’s works exploring Judaism and kabbalah blend light and shadow, figures and abstraction. Most of the book’s 54 photos are of nude women, many wearing prayer shawls and tefillin.

Nimoy, for his part, is not entirely upset by his 15 minutes of infamy.

"Let’s face it: I did the book in order to shine a light on an idea," he said, and the Seattle’s Jewish federation "shined a light on my book." — Joe Berkofsky, Jewish Telegraphic Agency