Articles in Category: Jewish Museum

Jewish Museum

Crossing Borders
Masterpieces from the Bodleian Library

Written on October 27, 2012

Tripartate Mahzor Bodleian Library & Jewish Museum

In the eyes of the ram lies the artist’s commentary on the Rosh HaShanah piyyut; “The King Girded with Strength.” From the Tripartite Mahzor (German 14th century), this illumination simultaneously echoes the piyyut’s praise of God’s awesome power and expresses the terror of actually being a sacrifice to God.  The ram is but a reflection of Isaac. It is all in the eyes.

The Art of Matrimony

Written on April 09, 2011

Ketubbah; Herat, Afghanistan, 1867; ink and watercolor on paper Courtesy The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary

Ketubot are the magical crystal ball into the life, concerns and joys of the Jewish community.  Perhaps no other Jewish artifact is so openly expressive of the dreams, desires and fears of the everyday world of Jewish life throughout the ages.  To illuminate this fact Sharon Liberman Mintz has expertly curated The Art of Matrimony: 32 Marriage Contracts from the Jewish Theological Seminary currently shown at the Jewish Museum. 

Modern Art / Sacred Space

Written on April 17, 2010

Beth Alpha (550CE) Mosaic Floor

From the earliest synagogues preserved to the present, Jews have struggled with the role of art in their sacred spaces.  Decorative or contemplative, subservient to architecture or an independent aesthetic experience?  The Dura Europos murals (235 CE) and many early mosaic floors from 250 CE to 500 CE point to a dominant role of artwork brimming with biblical narratives and Jewish symbols.

Reinventing Ritual at The Jewish Museum

Written on September 23, 2009

Fringed Garment (2005), cotton: stitched and appliquéd by Rachel Kanter Courtesy The Jewish Museum

Why would one want to reinvent a Jewish ritual when it had been working perfectly well for hundreds if not thousands of years?  Ah ha, perhaps all is not as well as traditionalists would like to think.  There is the disquieting phenomenon that perhaps the majority of the Jewish people have little or no engagement with Jewish practice.

Chagall’s Influence
Mystical Storytelling at MOBIA: Chagall and the Russian Jewish Theater at Jewish Museum

Written on December 21, 2008

Jacob Blessed by Isaac, The Bible (1957) etching by Marc Chagall Courtesy the Jewish Museum

In 1931 Marc Chagall embarked on a series of etchings of the Bible that would become a pervasive creative theme for the rest of his life.  For all of his forays into the world of myth, shtetl fable and imagination, Chagall would always return to the Bible as a fundamental means of expression.

Warhol’s Jews
Ten Portraits Reconsidered

Written on March 23, 2008

Gertrude Stein (1980) acrylic and ink on canvas by Andy Warhol “Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century” Jewish Museum, New York

When an artist creates, intention, elementary to the creative process, is paradoxically secondary to the finished work.  Once the art work is on view in the larger world it must stand on its own, engaging the audience on its aesthetic merits and creating a meaningful dialogue by means of its content and subject matter.

Davidson, Singer and the Jews

Written on October 18, 2007

Storekeepers from a candy store on Avenue B (1973) gelatin silver print by Bruce Davidson Collection of the artist, courtesy of the Howard Greenberg Gallery.   © Bruce Davidson Magnum Photos.

Sometime in 1967 Bruce Davidson, the photographer, met Isaac Bashevis Singer, the writer and they went down to the Lower East Side to the Garden Cafeteria to chat, have coffee and rice pudding.  It began a creative friendship that lasted more than twenty years until Singer passed away in 1991.

Ritual and Repetition

Written on September 05, 2007

Tzedakah (1999), by Harriete Estel Berman; pre-printed steel Courtesy The Jewish Museum

The bedrock of all religion is repetition.  Tradition as a religious concept is nothing less than the repetition of rituals, dress, thought and behavior of preceding generations.  For Jews the amount of repetition that is found in one’s life naturally expresses the degree of one’s piety.

Dateline: Israel at the Jewish Museum

Written on June 11, 2007

Wanderland, 2002-4, Gelatin-silver prints (18x24) by Leora Laor Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York

Photography is a tantalizingly young medium that burst upon the visual scene with the spectacular daguerreotype invented in France in 1839.  Its use and popularity quickly spread from Europe to the Middle East so much so that an early commentator on photography, Francis Wey, called pictures that document the Orient (Palestine) “peaceful conquests.”

Early Chagall At Jewish Museum

Written on June 04, 2001

Jew in Bright Red

Chagall in Mother Russia

If you didn't know this was the famous Chagall, and if you didn't know Chagall was going to become perhaps the greatest Jewish painter of the twentieth century; what would you think of the early works of this artist when he lived in Russia as a student and young man? A collection of early work (most never seen before outside of Russia) in "Marc Chagall - Early Works from Russian Collections" currently at the Jewish Museum allows us to examine a small portion of his work and see him in isolation before he became one of the big international names of modern art.

Charlotte Salomon: Life Or Theater?
At The Jewish Museum

Written on February 11, 2001

Bales of Wheat

Charlotte Salomon's Legacy

What would do if you knew there was a play, a play with text and music, that told the story of one whole life. A Jewish life. The story of a young woman, told from before she was was born until her life was about to be taken away by the cruel horror of the Holocaust. Now I warn you, this is a life you might not approve of. Would you be curious?

Isidor Kaufmann - Shabbos

Written on October 23, 2000

Friday Evening, ca. 1920 Oil on canvas, 28” X 35” Jewish Museum; Gift of Mr. & Mrs. M. R. Schweitzer

We must be very quiet in front of this painting. It exudes a stillness and peace that envelopes us and makes us lower our voices. We whisper, “Shabbos has come!”

And as we stand in the special section of the Jewish Museum’s permanent collection devoted to Shabbos, we can see that this late and unfinished painting by Isidor Kaufmann has a special message for us to take home for Shabbos.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
A Painting In Grisaille At The Jewish Museum

Written on August 26, 2000

Paschal Eve (1867) Oil on Canvas by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim Gift of Oscar and Regina Gruss Charitable and Educational Foundation, Inc. Photo John Parnell, New York


This image of the Passover Seder by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800-1882) was found in almost every German Jewish 19th century home as part of the immensely popular graphic albums called “Pictures of Traditional Jewish Family Life”. In a previous Jewish Arts column I discussed the background and historical significance of Oppenheim’s work. Now I would like to look at one of these paintings in detail. The tools of our encounter with a work of art are an analysis of what we are seeing, how has the artist made this image and what meaning is communicated.

Inventing a Past: Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
Pictures Of Traditional Jewish Family Life At The Jewish Museum

Written on August 26, 2000

The Volunteer (Detail) Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

For Moritz Oppenheim (1800 - 1882) the world had changed irreparably since his childhood in Hanau, Germany. He grew up in a devout home in the ghetto, traditionally schooled in heder and Talmud Torah until 1806, when Napoleon’s army came and brought the French Revolution to Germany. The Jews were emancipated and the ghetto gates were torn down. Moritz went to secular school and soon after distinguished himself in the Hanau Drawing Academy. His world expanded beyond the ghetto and he studied art in Frankfurt, Munich, Paris and especially Rome. By 1825 he had returned to Frankfurt to begin a successful career as a painter of Old and New Testament scenes and society portraits. As the first a major Jewish artist of the new enlightened and Romantic age, he achieved a success that for a Jew would have been unthinkable 25 years before. He became known as the painter of the Rothschilds and the portraitist of the Jewish bourgeoisie and settled into an in upper middle class life in Frankfurt.