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Newsletter 13

Jerusalem, Summer 1997

A Letter from Azerbaijan
Exploring the Synagogues of Poland
Documenting Synagogues in Germany
Pavel Zaltsman
Reconsidering Herod's Family Tomb
Jewish Education Through Art
Conference on Art and Zionism
SPOTLIGHT: Michael Tal



About 20 kilometers from the Iranian border, forlorn and forgotten, lies the large village of Privolnoe. Our small group of six consists of researches from the Hebrew University's Center for Jewish Art and the Jewish University in St. Petersburg. We are guests of Esther Danilov whom we met three years ago in Baku, on our previous expedition to Azerbaijan. A clean, modest wooden house, with no running water, gas nor electricity, a well tended garden and imposing Persian mountains beyond.On Saturday, wearing a long skirt and head covering, I won, at last, Esther's approval. For Esther Danilov belongs to the orthodox 'Gerim' community, Russians who converted to Judaism more than two hundred years ago, and strictly keep the Ashkenazi orthodox customs. The reasons for their conversion is still a subject for research, but the story goes that they were sent by Catherine the Great with other minority groups to the remote borders of her empire. Indeed, the earliest extant tombstone we found of 'Ger-Zedek' was dated 1841, but there existed an older cemetery, now totally destroyed

.Ger tombstone (1853)in the Balashov Cemetery in Privolnoe.
Ger tombstone (1853) in the Balashov Cemetery in Privolnoe.

Reaching Privolnoe at about the same period, was another minority group, the 'Sobbotniks.' They identify themselves as 'Karaim'and their 19th century tombstones are thus inscribed. Living side by side, each according to its tradition and customs, both groups strictly observe the Shabbat, and have always done so, even through Communist rule. Until 1936, each community had at least two functioning synagogues. Those of the 'Sobbotniks' were destroyed. Of the 'Gerim,' one is a cow shed, owned by a Moslem refugee from war torn Nagorno-Karabach. She was kind enough to let our architect document it. The other was used as an electric power center, then as a cinema, and now it is a crumbling empty hall. No one remembers it as a synagogue, but it once had windows with the star of David and the Torah niche is well articulated on the outside. The lack of synagogues never deterred either group to keep their rites. Esther Danilov has a special room allocated in her house, which serves as a synagogue. The only Torah in the village, which has a mantle and is wrapped by the last synagogue Torah curtain, is encased in a small cupboard especially built for it. More than a 'minian' gather on holidays and on some 'Shabbatot.' Most men habitually cover their heads and some still lay Tefillin. The prayers are in Hebrew, in Ashkenazi pronunciation. Alas, not for long. We are watching a dying community. The last wedding took place in 1994. The young people have left, some to Israel, many to Russia and the old generation has insufficient pensions to live on. Once a thriving 'Kolhoz' of hard working and successful farmers of 5000 in the seventies, consisting mainly of 'Gerim' and 'Sobbotniks' in equal number, their houses had running water, gas and electricity. Now, empty houses are gaping at us, and the total number has dwindled to 170. Two families left during our stay, and more are to follow. The 'Sobbotniks,' who unfortunately are not welcome in Israel, will continue their life as a community, in two villages they founded in Russia. The 'Gerim,' however, will cease to exist as a homogenous group of converts to Judaism. Although they never had the opportunity to live with Ashkenazi Jews, they adhered to all their customs. Now they will disperse throughout Russian, and a remarkable chapter in the history of the Jewish people will come to its end. So long, Privolnoe.....

Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, Director
June 1997

This expedition was made possible through a generous grant from Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation in cooperation with the Project Judaica Foundation of Washington, D.C., Mark Talisman, President, and the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



Wallpainting in Bychowa Synagogue

Fragment of decorated text on the wall of the Bychowa Synagogue, built in 1811. The wall painting were probably done at the beginning of the 20th century.

In an expedition to Poland this year, Center researchers, Boris Khaimovich and Benyamin Lukin, had an opportunity to examine the interior decoration of synagogues in the Cracow, Western Galicia, Bialystok and Wroclaw regions. Synagogue decoration and wall paintings which have survived in Eastern Europe are not only a beautiful and important feature of the synagogue but a significant remnant of our Jewish artistic heritage. In Poland and other places in Eastern Europe, synagogue wall paintings may be the only remnant of a community's artistic expression. Rich with biblical and other scenes, Jewish symbols and decorative motifs, these wall paintings provide us with a glimpse of the visual tradition of the once thriving Jewish communities.

The Center for Jewish Art has in the past conducted extensive expeditions in Poland to document ritual objects and Hebrew illuminated manuscripts in private collections, libraries and museums. At the same time the Center also surveyed the interiors and exteriors of Poland's extant synagogues. Many of these buildings, particularly those outside Warsaw, are in poor condition though the Polish authorities have undertaken to conserve some of these historic buildings for various cultural purposes. While some of these synagogues are already known to the public, especially those which have been preserved, no systematic research has ever been conducted of synagogue decoration.

Our researchers began their work by visiting several different archives in Warsaw. Along with acquiring lists of extant synagogues, they were also able to obtain architectural plans of some of these synagogues.

The researchers began their documentation in Cracow where there are eight synagogues in the old Jewish Quarter. During this expedition, the research team visited three synagogues which they were unable to view on previous trips. The Kupa Synagogue, built in 1608, is richly decorated with paintings from the 1920's on the walls, ceiling and in the women's section. The depictions include the holy places Hebron, Tiberias, and Jerusalem. There are also Biblical scenes and illustrations to verses in Psalms such as one picture showing people standing by the Rivers of Babylon (Psalms 137, 1-3), or musical instruments (Psalms 150, 3-6). Another painting depicts Noah's ark including the figure of Noah. This is quite unusual since the use of human images was very rare. The signs of the Zodiac are painted over the women's gallery. The artist, although unidentified, was clearly very professional. There are also remnants of earlier paintings from the 17th to 18th century. The older drawings are ornamental, with leaves and fruit surrounding texts.

A carved wood and stucco Torah ark, from the early 17th century, also remains in the synagogue. The Kupa Synagogue, which has been undergoing restorations for the past eleven years, is no longer in use.

The 16th century Rama (also known as 'Remu') Synagogue in Cracow, named for Rabbi Moses Iserlies, is still in use today, and serves the remaining community of about 100 Jews. There are three 20th century paintings on the walls of the synagogue, exposing a simple style. Two paintings are of Holy places, Rachel's tomb and the Western Wall with praying Hasidim. This is a very rare find since the Western Wall is usually depicted without human figures. A third painting is of Noah's ark.

The bimah in the center of the Synagogue is surrounded by a metal fence and has two carved wooden doors. It is built on a stone base which is part of an earlier construction of the synagogue. The date of the fence is not yet clear, and further research will be required. The bimah doors with carved images of sanctuary implements from the Temple, a Menorah and the Shewbread table, were brought from another synagogue where they were used as Torah Ark doors.

The third synagogue visited in Cracow, the Iyzyka Synagogue, was built in 1638 and has fragments of ornamental wall paintings. Biblical and liturgical texts are sumptuously framed with flowers, leaves, grape clusters, pomegranates and animals.

The medieval walled city of Sandomierz is 500 meters square, consisting of only four streets. The Sandomierz Synagogue is on the hilltop of one of these streets, "The street of the Jews". No Jews live there today.

The synagogue in Sandomierz built in 1758 is used as an archive today. On the ceiling are paintings of the Zodiac signs, characteristic of designs from late 19th century Poland. They display only parts of human figures, the rest hidden by trees or other ornamentation. There are views of Jerusalem on the walls and paintings of the sanctuary implements surrounding the Torah ark. Above the ark there is a depiction of a Leviathan around a circular window. On either side of the synagogue are pictures of the four animals mentioned in Pirkeh avot in the popular exegesis of Rabbi Judah ben Temah which reads, "be strong as a tiger, light as an eagle, fast as a deer, and heroic as a lion to fulfill the will of your Father in heaven." Visible underneath, in the niche of the Torah ark, are earlier paintings of the tablets of the law flanked by griffins, floral decorations, and pomegranates. Ritual objects from the synagogue are displayed in the city museum and were documented at an earlier date by the Center for Jewish Art.

The Bychowa Synagogue built in 1811 is built in the common design of the region with a vaulted ceiling and four large central pillars of the bimah dividing the space into 9 bays. Above the bimah is a depiction of the 'four animal' motif. There are also paintings of musical instruments. These drawings were probably painted during the early 20th century. A niche remains in place of the Torah ark around which are drawings of Tablets of the Law. Texts on either side of the Torah ark mention names of "Our teacher Mordechai, son of our teacher Yitzchak, who sits at the gates of the king," and "Yitzchak ben Yaacov, donor," who was perhaps the son of Mordechai.

The 17th century synagogue in Orla, near Bialystok, had beautiful decorations, as was evidenced in the archival photographs found by the research team. The drawings are very detailed and finely executed. The synagogue, however, has been out of use since World War II and is in a rapid state of deterioration. It had been converted into a warehouse, but today is no longer in use. Funds have yet to be found for restoration.

Like the synagogue in Bychowa, the Orla Synagogue with its nine bays and vaulted ceiling was designed in the Baroque style. The drawings which were made in the beginning of the 19th century, appear around the stucco Torah ark, which only partially survives, on the many pilasters around the synagogue and over the main entrance. Above the latter, on the Western wall, are depictions of 'the four animals.' Peacocks and lions are found on the eastern wall and birds, garlands and grapevines decorate the columns.

Another synagogue in the Bialystok region is the Tykocin (also known as Tyktin) Synagogue, built in 1642 and restored after World War II. The synagogue is used today as a Jewish Museum. The inner walls of the structure are inscribed with prayers and psalms, surrounded by drawings. These framed texts are characteristic of synagogue painting of the period. It is suspected that the first synagogue wall paintings were like those found in Tykocin, texts surrounded by decorative borders.

In three small towns in the Silesia region, near the capital city of Wroclaw (Breslau), the research team found three old buildings which were at one time synagogues and have since been converted into churches. These buildings were discovered by Center researchers examining local archival sources.

Although Silesia was part of Germany throughout most of its history, it was incorporated as part of Poland in 1945. There was a Jewish presence in the area around Wroclaw from the 12th century, some of the Jewish newcomers having fled the Crusades. The success of the Jewish money-lenders and merchants brought about further Jewish immigration in the 13th and 14th century. The community's prosperity aroused much animosity from the neighboring Christian population and eventually led to Jewish expulsion from the region. By the 15th century almost no Jews were left in Middle and Lower Silesia.

The Strzegom Synagogue, 1370, and the Jawor Synagogue, 1364, are both Catholic churches today, the Olesnica, from the 15th century, is an Evangelical church. The Jews of Strzegom were given land by Duke Bolko II to build a Synagogue in 1370. When they were expelled from the area in 1454, expansive renovations were made on the synagogue and it was dedicated as a church.

The Jawor Synagogue, built in shape of an octagon, was most likely built as a church. It was given to the Jews by Duchess Augusta in 1420 and reverted back to a church when the Jews were expelled in 1446. There is no architectural evidence left to show that this structure or that in Strzegom, were once synagogues.

Olesnica Church and former synagogue, early 15th centuryThe former synagogue visited by the researchers in Olesnica was built in the early 15th century, although records show there were Jewish residents in the town as early as 1329. As in other towns in the area, the Jews of Olesnica were expelled at the end of the 15th century, but gradually returned . In 1530 an architect was invited from Prague to renovate the synagogue. That same year the first Hebrew book printed in Germany by a Jewish printer, Hayyim Schwartz, was produced in Olesnica. The synagogue was dedicated as a church in 1695. Protruding bricks on the exterior eastern wall, suggest remains of a Torah ark niche. Interestingly, the structure of the former synagogue, as it stands today, is reminiscent of the Altneushul in Prague, probably due to the renovations made by the architect between 1530-1535.

The work carried out during this expedition represents an integral step in our task of "reconstructing" the mosaic of Jewish culture in Poland from before the sixteenth century until its virtual destruction during World War II.

This expedition is made possible through the generous support of Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons' Foundation, in cooperation with the Project Judaica Foundation of Washington, D.C., Mark Talisman, President.


Documenting Synagogues in Germany

In 1994 the Center for Jewish Art initiated a pilot project in conjunction with the Institut fuer Baugeschichte headed by Professor Dr. Harmen Thies of the  Braunschweig University, to document all extant synagogues built before 1933 in the German state of Lower Saxony. By studying the documentation of over forty 18th to 20th century synagogues, it will be possible to analyze the architecture of the synagogues, ritual baths and cemetery halls in this area. This project is due to be completed by the end of 1997.

The project has been such a success, that efforts are  now moving ahead to document in other regions of Germany. One such project will be the documentation of synagogues, ritual baths and cemetery halls in eastern Germany (Mechlenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Sachsen and Thueringen).  In preparation for this next stage of documentation a conference was held at the Frankeschen Stiftungen in Halle (Sachsen-Anhalt) in November 1996.  Attending the conference were members of the Conservation Departments of art and architecture of the different states, members of museums, universities, archives and private institutions interested in Jewish culture. The participants of the conference viewed the  results of the Lower Saxony project, and agreed that it was necessary to start a similar project in eastern Germany.

With the aid of archival research, approximately 90 of these buildings in Eastern Germany have been located to date. While in 1933 these were still functioning synagogues, today they are in private hands and some in danger of being totally destroyed. We expect to find at least another one hundred synagogue buildings in this region.

In February 1997, the Center organized another architectural workshop in Wolfenbüttel with experts working in computer-aided documentation  who can expand this project to a national level. By carrying out the project throughout Germany, the Center for Jewish Art will be bringing to light the remnants of the countries rich Jewish architectural heritage.

The Center also participated in a conference on "The Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Berlin and Hannover", which took place in Hannover in October 1996. Funds have been donated by the Environmental Department of the Republic of Germany to preserve deteriorating tombstones in Jewish cemeteries.  A pilot project has been started to analyze the cause of dilapidation of tombstones in these cemeteries and other stone monuments throughout Germany.

Research has revealed that the caretakers of the cemeteries used to coat the stones with a certain preserving material. However, the Jewish  communities were not allowed to tend to their cemeteries after 1933, and the tombstones began to deteriorate. It has been determined that part of the deterioration is caused by industrial pollution from metal factories and also by micro-organisms which erode the stone. Part of the project will be devoted to preserving these monuments.  Since the preservation process is very expensive, it has been decided that 60 of the most important tombstones in three Berlin and Hannover cemeteries would be preserved.

Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin delivered a lecture at the conference on the Center's documentation of synagogues and tombstones. She explained the Center's philosophy is to document sites, especially those which cannot be restored, in order yto have this information of our past on record. Documentation of tombstones consists of photographing, measuring, writing down all inscriptions and making a plan of the cemetery.  Using this method of documentation the cemetery will be preserved forever on computer.

The Center is now planning an architectural workshop in which its German partners and other experts from around the world will share innovative techniques used in computer aided documentation and presentation of synagogues.

The project to document synagogues in Lower Saxony is supported by the Ministry of Sciences and Culture of Lower Saxony, Germany.



The Modern Jewish Art Section Documents Pavel Zaltzman, 1912-1989

This year the Modern Jewish Art Section of the Center for Jewish Art's Index of Jewish Art, has chosen to document the work of 20th century avant-garde artist, Pavel Zaltzman. The artists chosen to study from the CIS are selected not only because they are Jewish and talented, but because their Jewish identity is expressed in their art.

Many of these artists, have been unknown in the West and have not exhibited.  Those who were more fortunate were able to find work in the theater or as book illustrators or lecturers, and occasionally their work was acquired by collectors from abroad. It is quite unusual, therefore,  to come across an artist from the former Soviet Union who, for the most part, enjoyed artistic freedom and was able to make an income from his work. Pavel Zaltzman was such an artist.

Born in Kishinev, Moldavia in 1912, Zaltzman spent most of his childhood in Odessa.  He was quite young when he started to paint and was considered to be a very gifted artist.  He moved to Leningrad when he was 18 years old where he came under the influence of avant-garde artist Pavel Filonov. Filonov was one of three main figures in art during this period, along with Vasily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich. He was known for his School of Analytical Art, in which he taught his students to look for each object's inner law of nature, and to analyze and depict the objects' very essence. Zaltzman was very close to Filonov's school, and the influence on Zaltzman can be seen in his work throughout his life.

Although Zaltzman was an assimilated Jew, his vivid memories of his life in Odessa,  described faithfully in the stories of Isaac Babel,  kept alive his Jewish identity.  During his years in Leningrad, Zaltzman traveled to shtetls in Moldavia and the Ukraine to paint scenes from shtetl life.  After World War II he returned to these same places to paint scenes of destruction.

Zaltzman studied at the Leningrad film school and together with the entire school moved to Kazakhstan during the blockade on Leningrad in World War II. In Alma Ata, capital of Kazakhstan, he worked in a movie studio as a set designer and taught art and art history at the art school. Here, Zaltzman found himself in a very close society of artists from similar backgrounds. Many of the artists were Jewish and in a like manner separated from their families during the war.  Most artists returned to their homes after the war only to find that many of their family members had perished in the Holocaust. Zaltzman chose to remain in Alma Ata.

Because he was  cut off  from the center of the country, the hub of artistic activity, he held onto the earlier influences of his life. From an artistic point of view, he was unlike the 'official artists' who painted in the nationalist style, and his removal from the center enabled him to work with a bit more latitude. At the same time, because of his remoteness, he was never known outside the Soviet Union.

He was intrigued by the environment in which he found himself, which had a feel of the ancient East. His Jewish identity was strengthened in this "Biblical" atmosphere which was expressed in his paintings of biblical scenes, embodying a prophetic vision. The powerful influence of the Holocaust can also be seen in many of his many paintings in the post-war era. Painting scenes of desolation and destruction, he depicted an apocalyptic vision of the modern world.

Zaltzman resided in Alma Ata until he died in 1989. In 1992 his daughter, Lotta, moved to Israel and organized an exhibition of his work at Beit HaOmanim in Jerusalem. The exhibition aroused much interest in his work. Interestingly,  the experts on Russian art from the CIS in the Modern Jewish Art Section became familiar with Zaltzman's work only after coming to Israel. To date, over 100 of Zaltzman's 300 paintings in Lotta's collection have been documented, providing us with a vivid portrayal of Russian Jewish life over the past century.



Reconsidering Herod's Family Tomb

In its survey and documentation work in the field, the Ancient Art Section's researchers are not always forced to venture to remote sites in search of ancient ruins and relics. Inner-city Jerusalem in particular, is scattered with small ancient sites tucked away in public parks and gardens or even nestled between houses and apartment blocks. Some of these small sites are now neglected, others have become such a familiar part of the landscape as to be now virtually invisible.

One such "forgotten" site which has recently raised the interest of the Ancient Art Section can be found in a public garden next to the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, west of the Old City. The site which lies on land of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was first discovered at the end of the 19th century. It is a well-preserved underground burial complex and, for our purposes, an excellent example of ancient burial art.

Since the discovery of the site, various scholars, among them Conrad Schick (a Swiss archeologist who discovered much of the remains of ancient Jerusalem), identified the complex as the burial place of Herod's family built around the 1st century B.C.E., during the Second Temple period. The identification of the site as a royal monument was based on historical references and the impressive architecture of the site. However, as no inscriptions have been found on the site, the identification as Herod's family tomb is problematic.

The earliest reference to the tomb can be found in the work of Josephus Flavius, the first century historian of Jewish history. In his book The Jewish Wars, he mentions the monument of Herod as a topographical landmark of the siege of Titus on Jerusalem (in the year 70 C.E.). It is interesting to note that he refers to it in one place as "monuments" (V 108), and in another place as a "monument" (V 507).

Since Josephus refers elsewhere to Herod's burial place in Herodion, near Bethlehem (The Jewish Wars, V 670-673), scholars concluded that it was Herod's sons or, according to Schick, his wives who were buried in the tomb.

The subterranean burial site is a well-formed and rich architectural complex. The tomb comprises five chambers: a central room with a barrel vaulted ceiling and four burial chambers branching off from it. The walls of these rock-cut chambers were faced with Herodian-style ashlar stones and the workmanship is excellent.  The entrance to the monument is approached from a courtyard in the north, which was sealed by a massive rolling stone (approx. 1.8 m. diameter). Two hard limestone sarcophagi were found in the southern room. One of them is richly ornamented with floral patterns of acanthus leaves and rosettes in bas-relief. Both sarcophagi are now located in the museum of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the old city of Jerusalem.

Remains of a large square structure are positioned before the courtyard in such a way as to make entry to the tomb difficult. The main part of this structure is a massive rock enclosed by heavy ashlar stones on the south and east which form an L shape. Together these stones may have formed the base of a monument which once stood there.  A small part of the western side was also uncovered but the northern side has not been found. Only two courses of these stones have been preserved.

Scholars of the 19th-20th centuries believed that this structure served as a base for a very large Nefesh (a memorial stela or monument erected above or beside a tomb, as in Abshalom's Tomb in the Kidron Valley). Architectural elements such as column bases, capitals and cornice fragments found near the tomb, were considered to be part of the upper section of the structure. During their preliminary inspection of the site, researchers of the Center's Ancient Art Section found some of these architectural elements tucked away in the terrace of the modern park.

The Greek term mnemeion  ("monument") used by Josephus to define the site is unclear, and we do not know whether it refers to a tomb or a Nefesh. He also uses this term in his description of the Tomb of Queen Helena (the so-called 'Tomb of the Kings').

Prof. Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University rejects the identification of the burial complex as the tomb of Herod's family. Instead he suggests that their monument is located on a hill near the modern Damascus Gate that was first revealed by Schick. During further excavations conducted by Netzer in 1977, the remains of a round structure with an opus reticulatum wall (a Roman wall-building technique used in some Herodian monuments) were rediscovered. The round monumental structure which resembles the form of a Roman mausoleum, the fine masonry, and the location of the site, led Netzer to conclude that this site- and not the one next to the King David Hotel- was the monument of Herod's family.

The questions raised here regarding the impressive complex by the King David Hotel have still not been resolved. There is no doubt that it belonged to one of Jerusalem's aristocratic families during the time of the Second Temple - the fine architecture, the sarcophagi and the large structure nearby lead unequivocally to this conclusion. However, all these details still do not constitute sufficient evidence for concluding that it belonged to Herod's family, and a proper excavation of the site may help to shed more light on this question. Meanwhile we shall continue to use the popular name "Herod's Family Tomb," although, with reserve.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate recently locked the tomb's heavy metal door which was originally erected by the Patriarchate during the Ottoman Empire.  The researchers of the Ancient Art Section are now in contact with the Patriarchate which has been very willing to provide assistance, and they hope to re-enter the tomb and continue working on this intriguing site.




The Center for Jewish Art is currently developing educational programs on a variety of different subjects, utilizing its vast wealth of documentation of Jewish art carried out throughout the world over the past 18 years. The basic philosophy of these programs is that Jewish art is a stimulating and effective medium for presenting a wide range of subjects such as Jewish history, literature, tradition and philosophy.

This year the Center is presenting a year long course, a series of ten lectures in Jerusalem for kindergarten teachers on Jewish Art in Life and Year cycles. The program on Life Cycles deals with the rites of passage: Brit Milah, Bar Mitzvah, Wedding, and Death, and the varying customs and visual expressions of the different communities relating to these significant events. The Year Cycle educational program focuses on the holidays and how they are celebrated in different communities. Examining the different uses of objects, the participants explore the varying customs and their sources of influence.

In May 1997, the Center conducted a four day seminar in Beer Sheva which was attended by teachers and educators from all over the country. The seminar covered many different subjects from synagogue decoration in Eastern Europe to Ashkenazi illuminated prayer books from the 13th to 15th centuries. There were also lectures on synagogue design in Israel and a tour of synagogues in Jerusalem.

A third series of lectures in which the Center participated, was run by the Hebrew University's Institute of Jewish Studies for high-school teachers. The aim of this course was to improve the teaching of Jewish Studies in Israeli schools and the Center's involvement conveyed that Jewish art is an itegral part of Jewish Studies. Professor Bezalel Narkiss spoke about Jewish Identity in art, the adaptation of motifs and imbuing them with a Jewish essence. Ruth Jacoby lectured on the second Temple period, while Ariella Amar compared Jewish and Islamic traditions. Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin lectured on the inter-relationships between Jewish and Christian Art and their representations of the 'Sacrifice of Isaac.'

Moses by E.Lillien, 1908. The image of Herzl has been used here to depict Moses In keeping with the Department of Education's choice of Zionism as a central theme for study in the schools this year, the Center is creating a two-year educational program on Zionism in Art. The first year will cover the beginning of the Zionist period through the 1920's. Next year, when Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary, the material will cover the period from the 1920's to the present.

Teacher's kits prepared for the course include a booklet with background material on art, a slide presentation of 40 slides, and 10 reproductions which will be used for student activities. Individualized learning programs have been customized for every age group, from pre-school through the high school level. The programs are very experiential and written in conjunction with experienced education professionals. This program will be translated into English for use in schools abroad.

Employing this model of Zionism in Art as a pilot project, we are in the process of creating other educational programs including: the Shtetl, The Sacrifice of Isaac, the Symbolism of Temple Implements, Biblical stories, the Jewish Life Cycle, and the Jewish Yearly Cycle.

The Center now plans to develop interactive, multi-media programs for CD-ROMs and Internet, using the Jerusalem Index of Jewish Art as a primary resource. These electronic educational programs are a perfect way to utilize Jewish art - and all its visual, religious and historic components - to bring alive Judaism, and also enable us to recreate Jewish communities which no longer exist. These programs can be developed for different users: educators, students and scholars.





Conference on Art and Zionism

The  Society for Jewish Art held its 29th annual Passover conference at the Israel Museum, on  "Ayin l'Zion Tsofia (Looking for Zion) - Art and Zionism." Over 200 people congregated at the Museum to hear lectures and discussions by well-known historians, art historians, artists, and architects. In addition to lectures on the visual arts, lectures on other related subjects such as film and music were also presented.

Natan Sharansky, Minister of Industry and Trade, opened the conference with a moving personal talk about his experiences as a prisoner of Zion, and his aliyah and absorption in Israel.

Three artists, Dr. Michael Sgan-Cohen, Zvi Goldstein, and Larry Abramson, discussed their work and also spoke about current trends in Zionism and art.

Professor Bezalel Narkiss was Chairman in the session entitled, "From the Vision to the Practice of Art." Among the lecturers  of this session were Professor Avraham Kampf  from Haifa University who spoke about early Zionism and its approach to art, and Professor Haim Finkelstein from Ben Gurion University spoke about the artist Ephraim Moshe Lillien, regarding  his role as a Zionist artist.

In the session chaired by Vice-Mayor and architect David Cassuto, "National Revival - Cultural Revival", Yigal Zalmona of the Israel Museum spoke about "the New Jew - a Cultural Zionist Project". Architect Zvi Efrat spoke about the site-object relationship in Zionist architecture, and Dr. Ariel Hirshfeld gave an analysis of the interpretations of Danziger's sculpture, "Nimrod."

Professor Ziva Amishai-Meisels, professor of Art History at the Hebrew University spoke about the themes of the Holocaust and Israeli wars in Israeli art, and Professor Mordechai Omer of the Tel Aviv Art Museum spoke about the dual-loyalty in the work of  Aryeh Aroch, in the session entitled "Jew, Zionist, Israeli."

In broadening the scope of the conference, lectures were presented on related topics including the lecture by  historian Dr. Yigal Ilam whose topic was "Did the Yearning for Zion give birth to Zionism." Film director and critic Nissim Dayan presented a discourse on "Myth and Anti-myth in Israeli Cinema." Professor Yehoash Hirshberg spoke about musical trends in Israel, from folk music to concert halls. His presentation concluded with a performance of songs by "Musica Eterna."



The Morris D. Baker Scholarships
Two Morris D. Baker Scholarship fund were given in 1997 by Beverly Baker in memory of her husband. Morris Baker, who graduated from the University of Michigan's School of Architecture was a successful developer in Windsor, Ontario. A serious amateur photographer he was also a collector of art and photography. Mr. Baker was interested in and involved with a spectrum of Jewish organizations. He was a member of the National Executive of the Zionist Organization of America, and a member of the National Board of CLAL, the National Jewish Centre for Learning and Leadership. He was also active on the Jewish Community Council Unity Committee in the Detroit area. The breadth of his involvements reflected his wonderful character. It was said at his funeral that "Zionism was the Sabbath of his life". The Bakers have been very dedicated and active supporters of the Center for Jewish Art since the 1980's and participated in the Center's symposia in Turkey and Provence.

Beverly Baker (right) with Center researcher Dana Peleg In this first year since the Morris D. Baker Scholarship was established, two scholarships were generously donated to student researchers at the Center for Jewish Art. The first recipient is Dana Peleg, a talented graduate researcher in the Modern Jewish Art Section. Dana, who received her bachelor's degree from the Hebrew University in Art History, began her graduate studies in 1994. Specializing in Contemporary Israeli art, she is writing her master's thesis on the "Caricatures of Arie Navon from 1933-1950." As a member of the Center for Jewish Art's research team, Dana is contributing her expertise on modern Israeli artists. This year she is documenting and researching the work of Michael Sgan-Cohen, one of the most important artists in Israel today, who consciously addresses Jewish history and identity.

Einat Ron is the second recipient of the Morris D. Baker Scholarship. Einat has recently completed her bachelor's degree with honors in Medieval and Modern Art. She is continuing her graduate studies at the Hebrew University in Art History. A very gifted researcher in the Center's Ritual Art Section since January 1996, Einat has also completed a teaching degree and has been instructing high school students in Art History in preparation for their matriculation exams.

The Asea Furman Scholarship

The Asea Furman Scholarship was established in 1991 by Jacobo Furman of Santiago Chile, in memory of his late wife, Asea, who was an ardent supporter of the Center for Jewish Art. Together with her husband, Asea built one of the most important collections of Jewish ceremonial art in the world. The Center is honored to keep the vision of Asea Furman alive with a scholarship that contributes to preserve and document Jewish art.

This year's recipient of the Asea Furman Scholarship is Michal Sternthal, Head of the Hebrew Illuminated Manuscript Section of the Index of Jewish Art since 1994. Michal is a master's degree student who has been part of the Center's research team since 1992. She participated in the 1992 expedition to survey and document the famous Firkovitch Collection at the St. Petersburg Public Library and spent the 1993-4 academic year working on Italian manuscripts in libraries throughout the British Isles. With her considerable skill as a researcher with a methodical and perceptive approach to the study of Jewish iconography and artistic style, Michal makes a great contribution to the Center for Jewish Art.

During Professor Narkiss's visit to Jacobo Furman in March 1997, Mr. Furman generously announced the establishment of a second scholarship, the Tania Finkelstein Scholarship for graduate students in Jewish Art.

The Steinhardt Scholarship

Michael and Judy Steinhardt of New York, are deeply committed to Israel, to art, and to Jewish education. Their active interest has been demonstrated by their involvement with the Israel Museum, and the establishment of the Steinhardt Family Foundation in Israel for projects to help children at risk, and by their intensive activities throughout the United States in all aspects of Jewish education and continuity. Their knowledge and love of Jewish art is reflected in their collection of Judaica.

This year's recipient of the Steinhardt Scholarship is Boris Chaimovitch, a talented doctoral student originally from St. Petersburg, where he helped found the St. Petersburg Jewish University. At the university, he served as director of the Center for Eastern European Diaspora. As a researcher at the Center for Jewish Art Boris has carried out extensive research and documentation of synagogues, ritual objects and decorated tombstones in Eastern Europe. This summer, Boris is participating in expeditions to Romania, the Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Georgia to document ritual objects, synagogue wall paintings and tombstones.

The Leona Rosenberg Scholarship

The Leona Rosenberg Scholarship has been granted this year to graduate student Sharon Weiser, a very talented researcher in the Ritual Art Section of the Index of Jewish Art since 1996. Sharon completed her bachelor's degree in Art History in 1996, and is now working on her master's degree in modern art. In addition to her work at the Center, she is teaching a course on the Introduction to Modern Art in the Art History Department. This summer she is participating in the Center's expedition to Tunisia.

Leona Rosenberg has been a devoted supporter of the Center for Jewish Art ever since she hosted a lecture by Professor Bezalel Narkiss in her Florida home in 1993. She has participated in the Center's symposia, "Jewish Art in Turkey" and "Jewish Art in Bohemia and Moravia." This is the fourth scholarship she has sponsored at the Center.

The Madeleine and Albert Erlanger Scholarships

Professors Madeleine and Albert Erlanger of Zurich, great enthusiasts of Jewish art and devoted supporters of the Center's activities, have granted two scholarships this year for researchers at the Center of Jewish Art. The first recipient, Michael Tal, a researcher in the Ritual Art Section of the Index of Jewish Art, recently completed his master's degree with honors, with his study on mosaic floors in the Mediterranean countries during the Byzantine period. As part of the Center's research team, Michael has participated in two expeditions to Eastern Europe, where he documented ritual objects and wall paintings. This past year he has been researching the history of synagogues in Israel, a subject that has, up until now, been neglected. He has also recently done extensive work in documentation of synagogues in the Neve Tzedek area of Tel Aviv and in the Lev Ha-'ir area of Jerusalem.

Ivan Ceresnjes, a recent immigrant from Bosnia-Herzegovina, is the second recipient of this year's Madeleine and Albert Erlanger Scholarship. Ivan, who has a degree in Architecture from the University of Sarajevo, is joining the documentation and research team of the Architectural Section of the Index of Jewish Art. In addition to his extensive work as an architect, Ivan was a very active member of the Jewish Community in Sarajevo where he served as President from 1988 until the time of his aliyah, and board member and Vice-President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the former Yugoslavia. He was instrumental in organizing the preservation and restoration of Jewish synagogues, monuments and cemeteries in Sarajevo and other cities in Bosnia, and when synagogues were no longer in use, he assured their proper use for cultural purposes. He was a vital force in the community throughout the recent war in Bosnia where, with the support of the World Jewish Congress and the Jewish Agency, he made possible the aliyah of hundreds of Bosnian Jews. In 1994, he was honored by France with the title of "Chevalier de la Legion D'honneur" for preserving the multi-cultural, multi-confessional spirit of the country, for helping victims of war in a totally non-sectarian way, and for preserving an island of peace among warring parts of the country. We look forward to his participation on the Center staff.

The Henriette Noetzlin Scholarship

The Henriette Noetzlin Scholarship was established in 1990 to honor the memory of Henriette Noetzlin for her dedication and love for Israel, art and Biblical studies, by her children Brigitte and Gerard Stern of Geneva. She was a devoted supporter of the Center for Jewish Art and deeply appreciated the Center's dedicated work in the field of Jewish art. This year's scholarship recipient is Efrat Assaf, a graduate student in the Art History Department and talented researcher in the Ritual Art Section of the Index of Jewish Art. Having completed her bachelor's degree in Art History and Literature, Efrat devoted two years to teaching art to children in development areas in and around Jerusalem. Her primary field of study is Medieval Art in which she is studying iconography in Jewish and Christian Art. Efrat is participating in the Center's expedition to Tunisia this summer.

Natan Sharansky Scholarship

Antonina Lifshits is the recipient of the Natan Sharansky Scholarship which has been donated by Center supporters Jerome and Ellen Stern. Antonina, an immigrant from Russia, is presently the Head of the Modern Art Section of the Center for Jewish Art's Index of Jewish Art. She has done extensive research and documentation on artists of the former Soviet Union who were hitherto unknown in the west. Most recently she has documented the work of Pavel Zaltzman. Antonina received her bachelor's degree in Art History from the Moscow State University, where she graduated with honors. She is presently a doctoral student in the Hebrew University's Art History Department.

Jerome Stern has contributed tremendously to the advancement of immigrants from the C.I.S., and has been very involved in the Israel B'Aliyah Party. His association with Minister Natan Sharansky extends to the period when Sharansky was a refusnik in Russia. He met Sharansky standing outside a synagogue in Moscow, several days after his wife, Avital, immigrated to Israel. Sharansky asked Stern if he could help Avital in Israel. Upon visiting Israel, Avital gave Stern a sweater for her husband which Stern personally delivered, making a special trip to do so, only days before Sharansky was arrested. They have been close friends ever since.

Yad Hanadiv Scholarship

Yad Hanadiv has granted a scholarship this year to Gila Pollack to research the documentation carried out by the Center for Jewish Art at the Jewish Museum in Prague. The Center began surveying and documenting the Jewish Museum's vast collection of 30,000 Judaica pieces in 1994, with the support of Yad Hanadiv.

Gila Pollack has been a researcher in the Ritual Arts Section of the Index of Jewish Art for over three years. For the past year and a half her work has concentrated on the Prague collection, researching, in particular, hallmarks on ritual objects. With the Yad Hanadiv Scholarship, Gila is now working on the descriptions, iconography and computerization of the documented objects.

Gila participated in the Center's expedition to Turkey in 1994 documenting collections of ritual objects. She completed her bachelors degree at the Hebrew University in 1994 and is now working on her master's degree in Modern Jewish Art. Gila also works in the restoration department of the Israel Museum.

Sam Solomon Endowment Fund for Scholarships

The Sam Solomon Endowment Fund was created by Mrs. Arlene Rotchin in memory of her father, Mr. Sam Solomon, a pioneer in the Canadian garment manufacturing industry. Mr. Solomon was a fashion designer, an artist and art collector, a successful entrepreneur as well as a philanthropist. After studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Montreal, he established what was to become a very successful dress manufacturing company. Upon semi-retirement at the age of thirty-five, he devoted much of his time to collecting art and to painting. His interests as an art collector were quite varied, from Pre-Colombian and Inuit art to the School of Paris. His own individual work ranged from figurative and abstract styles and later in life, to graffiti art.

His daughter, Mrs. Arlene Rotchin, received a Degree in Journalism from the University of Miami, and later went on to study photography and Phototherapy. In the last ten years she has implemented a program in the Montreal Youth Centers using photography as a catalyst for communication in a spontaneous, non-threatening medium, in order to develop a greater sense of self-esteem. She has been a guest lecturer at Vanier College in Montreal, and exhibited in several group shows throughout Quebec.

The family became involved with the Center for Jewish Art after Director Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, visited Montreal in late 1995. They were very impressed by the work being done at the Center and decided to establishment the Endowment Fund to assist student researchers.

The Cecile and Michael Greenberg Scholarship Endowment Fund

The Cecile and Michael Greenberg Endowment Fund was established by the Greenberg children, Peggy and Melvin Greenberg, Marlene and David Bourke and Lorna Scherzer of Montreal. The Greenberg family connection with the Center began with Lorna Scherzer's participation in the Center's symposium in Prague in Fall 1995.

Lorna Scherzer examining ritual objects during the Prague Symposium, 1995 Lorna, who completed a Fine Arts degree in 1983, had never before studied Jewish Art. Her participation in the symposium led her to a deepened interest in her Jewish heritage and a personal commitment to aid in the documentation work of the Center for Jewish Art. The Cecile and Michael Greenberg Scholarship Endowment Fund is an ongoing pledge to this endeavor.




Visit to Montreal
October 1996

Professor Bezalel Narkiss and Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin were the guests of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University. There they lectured at the National Board Meeting of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University and at the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Study Group, had a parlor meeting at the home of Lilllian and Bryant Shiller and met with active leaders in the Jewish community. As a result, a Friends of the Center for Jewish Art has been created in Montreal under the leadership of Sara Tauben.

Conference in Hannover, Germany
October 1996

A conference on "The Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Berlin and Hannover" took place in Hannover in October 1996. A research project has been undertaken to analyze the cause of dilapidation of tombstones in Jewish cemeteries and other stone monuments throughout Germany. Donations have also been made to preserve deteriorating tombstones in Jewish cemeteries in Berlin and Hannover. In a lecture delivered at the conference, Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin talked about the Center's approach toward preservation, and described the Center's method of documentation, and the importance of documenting what can not be preserved.

Course, Jewish Art in Year and Life Cycles
Fall-Spring, 1996-97

The Society for Jewish Art presented a year course to kindergarten teachers on Jewish Art and its expression in the celebration of holidays and rites of passage. During the course, they examined varying visual expressions of Jewish culture in different Jewish communities.

Course, Hebrew University Rothberg School for Overseas Students,
Fall 1996

Center for Jewish Art Deputy Director, Ruth Jacoby, presented a two-part course for one year students on Year Cycles and Synagogues Through the Ages. The students examined ritual objects associated with Jewish holidays and learned how to observe these seemingly familiar objects from the viewpoint of an art historian. With the new observation skills they developed throughout the semester, they were able to see these objects in an entirely new light.

Teachers Course, Cultural Encounters
Fall-Spring 1996-97

A course conducted by the Society for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University, explored the use of Jewish motifs in Jewish and other cultures.

Conference in Germany
November 1996

At a conference held at the Frankeschen Stiftungen in Halle (Sachsen-Anhalt) in November 1996, the participants of the conference viewed the results of the Lower Saxony synagogue documentation project, and agreed that it was necessary to start a similar project in Eastern Germany. Attending the conference were members of the Conservation Departments of art and architecture of the different states, members of museums, universities, archives and private institutions interested in Jewish culture.

Professor Bezalel Narkiss' Festive 70th Birthday Celebrations
December 10, 1996

One hundred students and colleagues of Professor Narkiss joined him in a special symposium held at the Hebrew University in honor of his 70th birthday. The symposium, sponsored by the Department of Art History and the Center for Jewish Art, featured 28 lectures as well as well-wishes by President Hanoch Guttfreund, Rector Yehoshua Ben Arieh, Dean of Humanities Menahem Milson, Department of Art Head Professor Elisheva Ravel-Neher, Ministry of Education's Religious Cultural Department Head Rabbi Yohanan Fried and Center for Jewish Art Director Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin.

The participants paid witness to the immense impact which Professor Narkiss has had training a generation of Jewish art experts and in establishing Jewish art as a serious academic discipline. Each of the speakers--whether a student, professor, architect or archeologist--credited Professor Narkiss's tremendous influence in developing their methodology, perceptions and academic approaches.

Professor Marcel Dubois of the Department of Philosophy related to conversations which he had with Professor Narkiss on the nature of religious art. Zev Weiss, archeologist at Zippori, credited Narkiss' publications in changing the way he approached the mosaics which were excavated. Haya Friedberg, one of the 14 lecturers who graduated from the Hebrew University as a student of Professor Narkiss, discussed the search for holiness and anarchy in modern ritual objects, thus reflecting the pluralistic and eclectic influences of her mentor.

Rector Ben Arieh, who opened the symposium, poignantly discussed Professor Narkiss's contribution to Judaism, Zionism and science, while President Guttfreund talked about Narkiss's special contribution to the Hebrew University and Jewish Art.

Professor Gabriella Sed-Rajna, a close colleague of Professor Narkiss from Paris who worked with him on the first volumes of the Index of Jewish Art, was the symposium's guest of honor. She articulately traced Narkiss's unique scientific approach to the field of Jewish art and his illustrious academic career.

The event closed with Professor Bianca Kühnel presenting Professor Narkiss with the Table of Contents of the upcoming issue of Jewish Art which is being published in his honor.

Mordechai Narkiss Prize Ceremony and Lecture Series in the Israel Museum
December 1996

A special Hanukah ceremony on December 12 1996, opened the Center's annual winter lecture series at the Israel Museum with the presentation of the Mordechai Narkiss Prize. The Narkiss Prize, given to a student who displays outstanding scholarship in Jewish Art, was presented this year to Center researcher, Michael Tal, who recently completed his master's degree with honors in Art History. The prize pays tribute to Mordechai Narkiss, founder of the Bezalel National Museum, which later became the core of the Israel Museum. The Narkiss Prize was established by his wife, Nassia Narkiss and family friends Abe and Rachel Bornstein of Boston, Joseph Stieglitz of Tel Aviv and Dr. Kurt Grunwald of Jerusalem. As part of a series of lectures on the Jewish Built Heritage, Michael Tal spoke about the synagogues of Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv. In subsequent weeks, lectures were presented by Ariella Amar who spoke about the synagogues of Lev Ha-'ir in Jerusalem, and Sharman Kadish who spoke about synagogues of England.

Lecture Series in the United States
February-March 1997

Professor Narkiss was the guest of the American Friends of Hebrew University in Palm Springs where he spoke at Temple Isaiah and at a reception at the home of Center supporters, Lee and Philip Hixon.

Narkiss also spoke at New York City's Congregation Emmanu-el on "Searching for our Jewish Visual Heritage in Eastern Europe: New Discoveries." In Washington D.C., Narkiss spoke to friends of the Hebrew University at the home of Dalya and Edward Luttwak and gave a public lecture at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center. In Pittsburgh, Narkiss met with members of the Pittsburgh Index of Jewish Art which was created by the Center's long-time friend Kitty Ruttenberg. In Philadelphia, friends of the Hebrew University met Narkiss in the home of Sivy and Fred Blume to discuss the Center's recent activities to document endangered Jewish art and met with Jewish artist Jonathan Mandell and his wife Monica.

Course, Hebrew University Rothberg School for Overseas Students
Spring 1997

Ruth Jacoby, Center Deputy Director, presented a course to new immigrants on Synagogues Through the Ages. The students, mostly from South America, learned to discern various elements in synagogue decoration and the differences and similarities between Sephardi and Ashkenazi synagogues.

Visit to San Diego, Chile
March 1997

Jacobo Furman

Jacobo Furman, of Santiago, Chile, standing next to a display of his collection of Hanukah Lamps.

Jacobo Furman, a well-known Judaica collector and Center for Jewish Art long-time friend, invited Professor Bezalel Narkiss to San Diego. There Professor Narkiss was able to examine the impressive Furman Collection and meet with leaders of the Jewish community.


International Book Fair
April 1997

The Center for Jewish Art displayed its 35 publications at this international gathering held every two years in Jerusalem.

Conference on Zionism and Art
April 23-24, 1997

"Ayin l'Zion Tsofia (Looking for Zion) - Art and Zionism." was the subject of the Society for Jewish Art's 29th annual Passover conference at the Israel Museum. Lectures by well-known historians, art historians, artists, and architects attracted over 200 participants, who came to hear lectures on the visual arts, as well as other related subjects such as film and music.

Seminar, Synagogue Decoration
May 1997

The Society for Jewish Art presented a four day seminar in Beer Sheva for teachers and educators from all over Israel on the subject of Synagogue decoration.

Hebrew University Board of Governor's Tour of Lev Ha-'ir
June 4, 1997

A tour of the Lev Ha-'ir neighborhood, brought members of the Hebrew University Board of Governors to one of the quiet corners in the bustle of downtown Jerusalem. Hidden in the narrow alleys and lanes of this neighborhood, also known as Nahlaot, one can find many treasures of the early settlement of Jerusalem outside the walls of the old city. The participants visited with Center researchers two of Nahlaot's 100 synagogues, the Hasidic Batei Rand Synagogue and the Aleppo community's Ades Synagogue. The Center is now conducting an intensive project to document and research the ritual objects and synagogues in Lev Ha-'ir. The tour's participants were able to get a glimpse of the Center's efforts to preserve the rich artistic and architectural heritage of this neighborhood.



SPOTLIGHT: Michael Tal

Michael TalMichael Tal, researcher in the Ritual Object Section of the Center's Index of Jewish Art, comes from a background not typical for one dealing in Jewish Art. A former kibbutznik from Hashomer Hatzair Kibbutz Gazit in the Jezreel Valley, he was educated at neighboring Kibbutz Ein Dor. One familiar with the different kibbutz movements will recognize that this particular movement is well known for its anti-religious leanings. However, oddly enough, it was during his high school years at Ein Dor that he began to connect with his Jewish identity, with an inspiring teacher, Dr. Regina Ya'ari, of Jewish Studies.

Prior to his army service, Tal had occasion to hear several lectures on the subject of Jewish spiritualism by Beit Hatfutzot historian, Dr. Eli Ben Gal. Tal was very attracted by Ben Gal's new interpretation of Judaism and his descriptions of the spiritual and cultural world of Judaism. Tal says that it was quite clear to him during this period that he would someday study Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

Tal served in army intelligence, two years of which he spent in Sharm-el-Sheik in the Sinai desert, and upon completion of his army service, traveled for two years in the Far East. He returned to study at the University of Tel Aviv where he enrolled in two major fields of studies. The first being Art History, and the second Jewish Studies, including philosophy, literature, poetry, and mysticism. Tal was particularly drawn to studies in the Midrash and Jewish Mysticism , Kabbalah. After his first year he transferred to the Hebrew University where he later completed his first degree.

His connection to the Center began in 1991 when, after taking a course in Gothic Art with Director Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, she asked him to join the Center's research team. He joined the Ritual Object Section which was just beginning its intensive work in Eastern Europe.

Tal has joined two expeditions to Eastern Europe. One was to Prague where the research team surveyed and documented ritual objects in the Jewish Museum. He was especially affected by what he found in his second expedition to Lithuania and to Byelorussia, where very little remains of the once thriving Jewish communities. Viewing the synagogues, which were often the largest and most impressive edifices in a very simple landscape, Tal felt the loss of the communities most poignantly. Tal is utilizing his experience in Eastern Europe in his present research for the Index on synagogue wall paintings and the ritual object collection of the Museum of Historical Treasures of the Ukraine.

Tal has recently completed his master's degree in Art History at the Hebrew University, for which he wrote his master's thesis on mosaic floors in the Mediterranean countries during the Byzantine period. Now beginning a Ph.D. program in the Hebrew University Art History Department, Tal will continue as a researcher in the Ritual Objects Section of the Center. He is also teaching Jewish Art at the Kibbutz Seminary where he hopes that the subject will enrich his students' Jewish identity as it has for him.

Michael Tal is this year's recipient of the Mordechai Narkiss Prize for outstanding Research in Jewish Art and the Erlanger Scholarship for the 1997-1998 Academic year.