Statement by Rachel J. Bernstein, Artist
The accusations made by my cousin, now known as Michael Bluejay, are false, and I was shocked and saddened by them.
My first objection is to his attack on Eli Siegel, who was kind to every person he met. Mr. Siegel wanted to understand all people, and did not change who he was for different people. This unfortunately caused much hatred in some people who felt they were entitled to special privileges—including Ellen Mali and her son, Adam Mali, who are also behind these attacks.
As to the lie about Aesthetic Realism lessons. I feel very fortunate that I had the privilege of studying with Mr. Siegel in lessons I attended with my parents, starting at age 2½. As a child, I distinctly remember the respect he showed to me. And the questions he asked me were so kind, and encouraged my intelligence and critical thought. As I study transcripts of these lessons, I am glad that I continue to learn from them as part of my education to become an elementary school teacher.
One of Bluejay's lies is that he was given Aesthetic Realism lessons at the ages of 2 months and 6 months. A requirement for a child to have an Aesthetic Realism lesson was that the child speak in complete sentences. [Maybe he was present as a baby at lessons his parents had, but they weren't his lessons.] In a lesson, Mr. Siegel spoke to someone about their life, and their responses were integral to the questions he asked. He gave everyone their full dignity. These lessons had a child better understand the world, parents, people, and subjects we all have to do with: from music, to school, to objects, poetry, nature, and the emotions people have.
Aesthetic Realism lessons were rare privileges that many people wish they had had. It is a shame that Michael chooses to lessen them, and so this vast education is lost upon him. I suppose this is also why he is so inaccurate about his age and the dates he gives in relation to lessons. Michael was born in 1967. I was born in 1965. He had lessons beginning when he was 2, and I was present at one of them.
The statements on his website about Mr. Siegel, my family and other students would be just ignorant, except that they're so mean. Michael never actually studied Aesthetic Realism, yet he puts himself forth as an authority. He has strung together his own mish-mash of ideas. It is shameful that he sullies the memory of our grandparents by presenting them as "cultists," as well as the lives of my parents, Alice and David Bernstein, and myself.
My grandmother and grandfather should be known for the pioneers that they were! My grandfather was one of the feistiest men ever—not at all a "follower"! He was a carpenter and proud lumberman, who also happened to care for literature and poetry. My grandmother loved music, and one of her many achievements was a scholarly paper on Handel's Messiah. As well, she decided to study costume-making and became an accomplished seamstress in her 50s.
As to the lie about being "shunned" and "threatened":
To set the record straight, I stopped studying Aesthetic Realism when I was 19 years old. I decided that I had learned enough. I was never threatened about leaving! I was never told that I would become depressed or go insane. I left of my own free will. For 12 years I did "my own thing" and hoped it would make me happy. I found out it did not. I didn't realize what a rich education Aesthetic Realism is. I thought I knew it by osmosis: because my parents studied it, therefore I knew it. Boy, was that dumb! Since then I have attended classes in many schools and I have much to compare it with.
During the 12 years I did not study Aesthetic Realism, I was in touch with my parents, we spoke frequently, and did things together. I bumped into students of Aesthetic Realism during that time, who were always friendly. So I refute the lie: I was never shunned.
(The one person who wasn't very friendly was Adam Mali. Ironically, although we knew each other since we were small children, he was reluctant to talk to me. He was very nervous, and made excuses about having to go. This happened on more than one occasion.)
The thing that made me want to study Aesthetic Realism for myself was that I noticed that whenever I spoke to my parents, they were always happy and doing interesting things. I felt that I was missing that in my life, and I decided to take an art class at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation. That class with Chaim Koppelman opened my eyes to the world, and gave me a whole new direction. I felt happier, and more sure of myself. I began to study again in consultations. I decided that it would be useful to my life, as a woman, an artist and a person. This was one of my best decisions yet!
Every class I have taken at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation has added richly to my education: The Visual Arts and the Opposites, The Aesthetic Realism Explanation of Poetry, The Art of Drawing, Critical Inquiry, The Opposites in Music, The Aesthetic Realism and Marriage class, the classes in Acting, Anthropology, and the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method. These classes have made me a happier person, and have had me feel the world can be liked truly because of its aesthetic structure of opposites. I look forward to each new class!
I have a close relationship with my parents, Alice and David Bernstein. I treasure them and am grateful to have them as true friends.
My parents are widely respected because of the beautiful work they do, my mother writing, and my father photographing. People know when they meet them that they are genuine people who have been through a lot in their lives, and people appreciate their honesty. My mother's resolve to use her knowledge and experience to have people kinder-to work to end racism-is coming to fruition, and I respect her passion. Her book, Aesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism, has brought hope to people who have felt hopeless about racism. She is respected and loved for this-nationwide!
Another reason I love and respect my mother is that when she was ill with cancer, she didn't use that to be angry at the world and withdraw, but instead it fueled her passion to use her personal experience to be useful to others. That took courage and strength, and at times I haven't known how she did it. But she did, and I love her for it! I'm grateful to my father for lovingly taking care of my mother. He makes me see that a man can be strong and tender in a beautiful way, and they show me that true love can and does exist! As well, he used his pain and worry about his wife to become a deeper artist.
As to the lies about criticism, education, travel, friends:
After not studying Aesthetic Realism for so many years, I decided to really do so. I was impressed by the fact that my consultants asked me what was my criticism of them. This is a direct refutation of the lie that "they do not tolerate any criticism or questioning of their belief system." I gave my criticism and it was listened to.
Another lie to refute-re: education. I have wholeheartedly pursued getting a higher education, and in diverse ways: from studying Liberal Arts at Hunter College, to 3-D animation at FIT and Human Services at Metropolitan College. Two years ago I decided to complete my degree in education, and my parents have stood behind me in my returning to school to become a teacher. They have always encouraged my love of art, and been proud of my pursuit to be a serious artist and teacher.
Traveling is also one of my favorite things. I have been to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, the West End of London, Mardi-Gras in New Orleans, and Virginia Beach, to name a few.
I have a wide circle of friends of every religious denomination, culture, ethnic background, and sexual orientation. I believe that all people should have equal rights, including in same-sex marriages. I have gone on AIDS Walk-a-thons, and to AIDS Dance-a-thons.
I have never been advised against friendships or social activities with people who do not study Aesthetic Realism. Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I am independent. I have always done what I want, when I wanted to. I am not a conformist, nor am I easily led.
I do not feel like I'm being persecuted by the rest of the world. I am one of the happiest people I know! People who work with me, go to school with me, go out dancing with me, have vacationed with me, or dated me can all tell you, I have a good time wherever I go!