Articles in Category: Hebrew Union College Museum

Hebrew Union College Museum

Siona Benjamin’s Megillas Esther

Written on March 24, 2011

Hanging Haman's Sons
There is nothing funny about Siona Benjamin’s Megillas Esther (2010).  Unlike some contemporary illuminated megillas that emphasize the absurd and outlandish nature of the corrupt Persian court and the buffoonish character of the king, Benjamin takes the Book of Esther quite seriously.  She is obviously deeply sensitive to the terrible consequences of God’s hester panim (hidden face) in our own time.

Learning to Count: Omer Counter by Judith Margolis
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Written on June 04, 2009

Margolis Omer Counter
I am still counting. But when you, dear reader, see this, you will have finished, having safely arrived at Matan Torah.  Nonetheless, even if you meditated deeply each and every day, the fact is that we still need to count, and ponder the myriad paths of spiritual elevation that Hashem continues to offer us.   If we could just become a bit more aware of them.  Judith Margolis’ Omer Counter, currently exhibited at Hebrew Union College Museum, offers a visual and textual guide into these riches.

Leonard Everett Fisher’s Challenge

Written on October 22, 2011

Job (detail) (1964), gelatin tempera on board by Leonard Everett Fisher Courtesy John Tucker Collection

Just look at the expression on Jonah’s face.  It combines not only fear but also incomprehension at his terrible punishment of floating in the belly of the great fish. So too Noah peering out of the ark, perched on the edge of understanding that there might be a future for mankind.  Both works point to the genius of Leonard Everett Fisher as an artist and interpreter of biblical narrative.

A Stitch in Jewish Time: Provocative Textiles

Written on October 10, 2010

She is a Tree of Life (2000) by Temma Gentles and Dorothy Ross Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

Textiles as a Jewish art medium have a long and distinguished history, frequently the sole surviving artifact testifying to a community’s existence and history.  Elaborate paroches from 17th century Italy still proclaim a rich and artistic love of the Torah ark so prized by Italian Jewish communities that are now but distant memories.

Singer’s Artists

Written on November 21, 2009

Dance with Kerchief from Satan in Goray by Ira Moskowitz Courtesy Diana Gordon Collection

The illustrator stands in an oft-denigrated position, scorned by modernists and traditional purists alike.  For both schools of thought the sublime of art cannot be rendered literal.  On the other hand, illustrators are curiously accepted if not celebrated by those in a postmodern disposition.

Rabbinic Drawing in Space
Ben Schachter’s Eruv Maps

Written on November 06, 2008

Squirrel Hill Eruv (2007), 20 x 30, by Ben Schachter Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

In the world of art and culture the rabbis generally get a bad rap.  From time immemorial they have often been thought of as the prototypical zealous guardians, seen as prohibiting all sorts of imagery with righteous abandon, constantly erecting walls to guard against anything that might be tainted with idolatry.  Many might even argue that the pursuit of the visual arts, whether representational or abstract, to be no more that “bittle Torah,” a waste of precious time.

Envisioning Maps

Written on October 26, 2008

Exodus II (2000), Mixed Media on Vinyl by Tamar Hirschl Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

God commands Ezekiel to make a map; “take a brick and put it in front of you, and incise on it a city, Jerusalem.  Set up a siege against it…This shall be an omen for the House of Israel.” (Ezekiel 4:1-3)  This map became a symbolic reality, a graphic tool used to convince the Jews that their precious city could indeed be destroyed as punishment for their sins. 

Zabari’s Figures

Written on September 19, 2007

Moshe Zabari has accomplished a remarkable feat…he has put the Matriarchs literally on top of the Torah.  What a triumph for religious feminism, what a triumph for Jewish Art! His recent series of sterling silver Torah Finials (Rimonim) feature Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah as the honored subjects to effectively crown our holy scrolls.

The Whole Megillah
Megillah Esther by David Wander

Written on March 30, 2004

Ahashverous and Memuchan, illumination and calligraphy by David Wander Megillah Esther (2007)

Such a nice story the Megillah Esther is, don’t you think?  The poor Jews are in exile far from home and get into a bit of trouble with God for not being so careful about theirkashrus.  Their only sin was attending a treif banquet the headstrong King Ahashverous made for the whole kingdom.  And then sweet but unlucky Esther gets rounded up and taken to be the King’s queen.

Jewish Enough in LA?
Prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Written on March 30, 2004

Deborah Giving Judgment (1991), Acrylic on canvas, 60” X 48” by Pat Berger

The L.A Story, a selection of work from ten contemporary Los Angeles Jewish artists currently at the Hebrew Union College – Institute of Religion Museum, poses the question of what exactly does constitute Jewish Art and what is its condition today on the West Coast.