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Torah case, late 18th c., Djerba, TunisiaNewsletter 14

Jerusalem, Summer 1998

Documenting the Material Legacy of the Jewish Community in Tunisia
Exploring the Visual Remnants of the Jewish Community in Azerbaijan
Uncovering and Documenting Jewish Art and Architecture in Western Romania
In Search of Jewish Art in Western Ukraine
Documenting the Rich Visual Legacy of Georgian Jewry
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in Vienna
"Jewish Art in Greece"
Jewish Art Seminar at the Jewish University of St. Petersburg
Teaching Jewish Values through Jewish Art
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in Modena
Update: Documentation of Ritual Buildings in Germany




Dear Friends,

The year 1997 was an extremely exciting and productive period for Center researchers who traversed three continents from North Africa to Europe and Central Asia in their quest to find and document Jewish art. Extensive documentation of synagogue architecture and interior design, ritual objects and tombstones characterized this fruitful year of exploration.

The year began with an expedition to Poland where researchers have traveled every year since 1990 in their thorough investigation of the artistic tradition of this once considerable Jewish community. This was followed by an engaging excursion to Tunisia where researchers delved into the ancient community of Jews on the island of Djerba. The expedition to Azerbaijan provided a fascinating glimpse of a disappearing community of Jews in the southern regions near the mountains of Iran.

Researchers' second trip to Romania revealed the multi-cultured traditions of Jewish communities in the western regions of Romania. Returning to the Ukraine proved to be productive as researchers explored the shtetls and towns for remnants of the once flourishing Jewish community. And finally last Fall, researchers conducted an expedition to war-torn Georgia where, according to tradition, Jews have resided since the destruction of the First Temple.

The journeys were productive, but mostly full of anguish as researchers often were able to view no more than remnants of what were once thriving, vibrant communities.

The Center for Jewish Art concentrates all its efforts to document the unprotected, fast disappearing cultural remains, so that each Jewish community worldwide will have a name and a cultural witness to its rich past, at least in virtual reality.

Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, Director
August 1998

Save a Synagogue

Synagogue Podhaytsy

This 17th century synagogue in Podhaytsy, Galicia is being documented with the generous support of Madeleine and Albert Erlanger, Zurich, in loving memory of their mother Clarisse Erlanger-Hirtz, 1898-1989.




Documenting the Material Legacy of the
Jewish Community in Tunisia

According to legend, Jews have resided in Tunisia since the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, in 586 BCE. While this cannot be substantiated by historical evidence, it is known that Tunisia was home to the most important center of Jewish life in North Africa during the period of the Roman Empire. In June 1997 an expedition from the Center for Jewish Art, set out to explore this rich legacy. The focal point of the survey and documentation expedition was the island of Djerba, which has the largest population of Jews in Tunisia today.

Center researchers were familiar with Tunisian ritual objects and synagogue design through their explorations of the North African communities in Israel. Researchers discovered many similarities between the Libyan and Tunisian communities, which is apparent in the similar shape, decoration and motifs of ritual objects. The beautiful wood painted Torah cases, six of which can be found in Israel, were a center piece of their discoveries in Djerba. Finding dozens of such Torah cases was indeed a surprise and assisted researchers in identifying distinctive characteristics of each culture.

Various accounts are given of the origins of Jewish settlement in Djerba, the most ancient Jewish community in Tunisia. The popular version is that following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, a group of priests (Cohanim) found their way to Djerba. They carried with them one of the gates of the destroyed Temple, and set it in the foundation of the synagogue they built in Djerba called the Ghriba Synagogue (el Ghriba). Thus, they preserved the memory of the Temple within the very fabric of their own synagogue.

Interior of the Cohanim De'getiyah Synagogue in the hara kebira in Djerba.
Interior of the Cohanim De'getiyah   
Synagogue in the hara kebira in Djerba. Djerba is comprised of two major groups: the Cohanim, who were the original Jewish residents in the hara zrira (small quarter) of Djerba, and the B'nai Yisrael (Tribes of Israel) community comprised of Jews who originated in Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, and live in the hara kebira (large quarter). Some Cohanim later moved to the hara kebira and constructed a synagogue known as the Cohanim De'getiyah (those who belong to the door) Synagogue.

The most important and oldest synagogue in Djerba is the Ghriba, built by the Cohanim in the hara zrira. The Ghriba

Synagogue is considered a pilgrimage site throughout North Africa. In view of its importance, visitors have donated many gifts to the synagogue, creating a significant collection of ritual objects. At the end of the nineteenth century, in order to maintain the prominence of the Ghriba Synagogue, Djerba rabbis declared that no other synagogues in the hara zrira would keep a Torah scroll on its premises. Although most Jews have moved to the hara kebira, and many of the yeshivot of hara zrira have since closed, the Ghriba Synagogue remains at the center of all Jewish communities in Djerba.

The Ghriba Synagogue became an architectural model for almost all of the synagogues and yeshivot built in Djerba because of its importance as a holy place. Thus, the basic structure of all the synagogues is the same. They are composed of an inner courtyard surrounded by roofed loggias with columns and arches. The prayer halls, which one enters from the outer courtyard, are also surrounded by columns and arches. Though they are entirely enclosed, the halls are similar in construction to the courtyard. Above the central part of each synagogue hall is a square clerestory consisting of twelve windows, three on each wall, which provide light for the entire synagogue. The tradition of the twelve windows probably derives from the Kabbalistic Book of Zohar where it is said that all synagogues should be built with twelve windows representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Directly beneath the clerestory is a large tevah (reader's desk). One wall is made up of a series of separate Torah arks. The seating is along the periphery of the prayer hall and around the tevah. The yeshivot in the hara zrira were also built according to the design plan of the Ghriba Synagogue, but they do not have Torah arks.

Researchers documented eight of these synagogues in the hara kebira and surveyed nine yeshivot in the hara zrira. Unfortunately, they were unable to document the Ghriba Synagogue because the expedition took place during the peak tourist season and the synagogue was overflowing with visitors. They also documented approximately 250 ritual objects.

The wooden Torah cases documented in the hara kebira of Djerba have between eight and sixteen facets. Some are colorful and painted with floral and geometrical motifs (similar to those researchers were familiar with from collections in Israel), while others are decorated with stucco and painted with silver and gold. Still others are of plain wood. On the upper portion of the Torah cases are wooden coronets with facets in the shape of the cases. Two of the earliest Torah cases which researchers documented are from the eighteenth century. One is painted red and decorated with wreaths of flowers, and the other is plain wood decorated with metal nails.

19th c. Silver Torah finials from Djerba
19th century silver Torah finials from Djerba Researchers documented both wood and silver Torah finials. Some of the silver Torah finials are faceted and tower-shaped and are similar to those commonly found in other countries, such as Libya, Morocco, and Italy. Other silver Torah finials, the oldest documented during this expedition, are tower shaped and composed of stacked globular units, which is probably a local Djerban design. Researchers found earrings in Djerba with a similar shape. Researchers documented a number of silver coronets, which are constructed to fit the contours of the Torah cases, and are placed over the wooden coronets. Although local community members believed that the coronets were from Libya, researchers were able to determine by the hallmarks that some of them were actually made in Tunis.

Torah case wrappers, most of which are made from velvet fabric and embroidered with silver and gold threads, were found on many of the Torah cases in Djerba. Most wrappers were nailed directly to the case, while the plain wood Torah cases had special knobs affixed for hanging them. It is very likely that the old local tradition was to leave the decorated Torah cases uncovered, which explains why no knobs were found on the earlier ones. The use of Torah wrappers was probably adopted from the Libyan tradition.

Most pointers documented by our researchers in Djerba have the same shape: leaf-shaped with an elongated bar and an extended index finger. The pointers bear dedicatory inscriptions and are decorated with floral motifs.

Various types of Hanukkah lamps were documented, both wooden and metal with glass oil containers. Researchers documented several cast open-work copper lamps, composed of a horizontally divided back wall, and a lower section comprised of a horseshoe arcade topped by an arch. Eight oil containers with sprouts are attached to the back wall of the lamp.

No doubt that other expeditions to Djerba and to other cities in Tunisia will provide a fuller picture of the visual heritage of Tunisia and Djerba and will reveal the links between the Djerban community and those of Libya and Italy. Researchers concluded last year's expedition with a survey of Jewish art and architecture in the capital city of Tunis and the towns of Zarzis, Sfax and Gabes. If the political climate permits, Center researchers will return to Tunisia to complete documentation of its rich material heritage.

This expedition was made possible with the generous support of the Fanny and Leo Koerner Charitable Trust, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Rich Foundation, Tel Aviv.




Exploring the Visual Remnants of the
Jewish Community in Azerbaijan

Our previous Newsletter featured a letter from Center Director Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, written from Privolnoe, a remote village in Azerbaijan. Privolnoe is home to a community of Gerim and Sobbotnik Jews. The existence of these rapidly diminishing Jewish communities came to light in 1994, during the Center's first expedition to Azerbaijan. The 1997 expedition included Dr. Cohen-Mushlin, researcher Boris Chaimovitch and architect Zoya Arshavsky, photographer Michael Hefetz and videographer Grigory Maniuk and two ethnographers from St. Petersburg, Dr. Valery Dimshitz from the Jewish University and Vladimir Dimitryev, from the State Ethnographic Museum.

The village of Privolnoe is located in the northern range of the Talysh Mountains, twenty kilometers from Iran and three hundred kilometers from Azerbaijan's capital, Baku. It was established in the early nineteenth century by Gerim (or Gerei Tzedek, righteous converts) ethnic Russians who converted to Judaism about two hundred years ago, and Sobbotniks, whose name is derived from the Russian word for Sabbath. This community of Sobbotniks identify themselves as Karaites. Very little is known about the original conversion of the Gerim, although we do know that they originated in the regions of the Volga and Don rivers, as well as Central Russia and the Northern Caucasus. Both the Gerim and the Sobbotniks were expelled from these areas in the early nineteenth century, after the authorities tried and failed to suppress them. Local inhabitants give different dates for the foundation of Privolnoe, but the claim that they arrived in Privolnoe around 1824 can be substantiated by the presence of a Ger tombstone dated 1831.

The Gerim and Sobbotniks cleared the heavily forested area of Privolnoe, and established small private farms. The authorities not only granted them land, but also exempted them, temporarily, from taxation and conscription. Thus, it was named Privolnoe ('free'), and became the central and largest settlement of Gerim in the Transcaucasus, if not in all of Russia.

Center research team in Privolnoe, Azerbaijan with two women from the subbotnik community on the far left and far right.
Center research team in Privolnoe, Azerbaijan with two women from the Sobbotnik community on the far left and far right. The village was divided into four districts, two populated predominately by the Gerim, and two by the Sobbotniks. Rural crafts such as smithery, carpentry and cobblery once flourished, as did several tile and brick making works. 

Interestingly, the oak houses of the Gerim were built in a straight line, with the narrow facade facing the street. This feature also characterized Jewish houses in shtetls throughout the Ukraine, where property taxes were charged according to the breadth of the facade facing the street. 

The Gerim, who once made up thirty-five to forty percent of the population of Privolnoe, follow the Orthodox Ashkenazi tradition. They were relatively well-educated, teaching Hebrew to their children, and sending their young men to yeshivot in Russia and Jerusalem. Each household had a siddur and mahzor (prayer books) in Hebrew and Russian.

Two Ger synagogues once stood in the village. The first, situated in the Balashov district, is a half-timber structure and was used as a school and orphanage until the late 1960s. A second synagogue, located in Balakley, had an adjacent mikveh (ritual bath) and a matzah bakery – none of these buildings remain. Another brick building in Balakley erected around 1905, and originally intended to serve as a synagogue, was used instead as an electric power station.

The synagogues were closed down during the Stalinist purges of 1936, while the Torah scrolls and books were distributed among the families in the village. About ten years ago, when the community began to dissipate, twenty-eight Torah scrolls were sent from Privolnoe to the Ashkenazi synagogue of Baku. Only one was left, in the house of Esther Danilov.

During the expedition, the Center's researchers learned of various customs which are unique to the Ger community that lived for years in isolation from other Ashkenazi communitites. Indeed, their day-to-day lives represent a unique synthesis of Russian and Jewish lifestyles. For instance,  Ger children used to go to the river on Shavuot and place flower wreaths in the water following the pagan ritual, kumeniye, which is very popular in Russian villages where it takes place on the Trinity Day (Pentecost). An unusual local belief is that a firstborn male who follows after four successive generations of firstborn males, becomes a Cohen, or according to another version, a Levite.

On Purim, the men would fire their guns into the air, shooting down the oppressor, Haman. The kiddush (prayer over the wine) is uttered facing southward in the direction of Jerusalem. The second day of Shavuot is devoted to the memory of departed parents, and while visiting their parents' graves, the locals leave not stones, but cloves of garlic.

Even though the synagogues were closed down in the 1930s and there are no longer any Rabbis, shochetim (ritual slaughterers), and soferim (scribes), the Gerim and Sobbotniks have retained a very high level of religious identification. The older generation of Gerim still strictly observes the laws of kashrut, using three sets of kitchen utensils: for meat, milk and Passover, or, in their own words, myasnaya, skoromnaya and pasheshnaya. Not trusting that the meat has been made properly kosher, the women, who tend to be more observant, have not eaten meat for over twenty years.

Nonetheless, the decline of the community has accelerated in the last few years. This process began in the 1960s, when the Gerim began to send their children to study in Russian universities. Most have not returned, and the average age today is around fifty-five years. The last Ger who was literate in Hebrew left Privolnoe three years ago. It has become increasingly difficult to gather a minyan (quorum) for community prayer services, which are now held only on festivals. The Center's researchers attended two Ger prayer services, on the first and second nights of Shavuot, which were conducted in the living room of the sisters Raya and Esther Danilov. Most of the prayers were said in Russian.

The remaining Torah scroll in the community appears to be from Eastern Europe, judging by the design of the Torah staves. A gold brocade Torah curtain and a shofar, the only remnants of the last active synagogue, are kept together with the Torah scroll. The researchers were also shown two spice boxes, one of silver in the shape of an egg, and the other of wood, made by the Jerusalem Bezalel school in the early part of this century. It is believed that the Torah scrolls of Privolnoe were imported and that the local scribes were active writing only tefilin and mezuzot.

Today, the entire Ger population of Privolnoe numbers about twenty families. We fear that the community will disappear by the end of the century. The Center's researchers were fortunate to be accompanied on this expedition by a videographer who was able to capture the customs and traditions of the last remnants of this unique community.

The Sobbotniks from Privolnoe are Karaite Jews who adhere to the Bible, but not to the oral halakhic tradition. The Sobbotniks, who pray in Russian and have mixed seating during prayer sessions, keep the Sabbath and laws of kashrut, although not in the traditional Orthodox sense. For example, the do not eat milk and meat together, but they do not use separate sets of dishes. They do not add an extra day to the holidays, as do other Jews of the Diaspora, and they do not drink wine on Passover.

Their customs concerning death and the purity of women differ markedly from those of the Gerim, contributing to the separation of the two communities. They are particularly scrupulous with regard to ritual purity; they believe that a corpse and a menstruating woman can pass on their uncleanliness via an object. A dying person is taken into the courtyard, together with the bed, without regard to the weather, so that the house will remain pure. A ritually unclean woman has a special corner in the house, a separate set of crockery, and a separate door handle. However, they do not go to the mikveh to purify themselves, but pour water over their bodies instead. Their strict traditions prevent pious Sobbotniks from entering a Ger house, or shaking hands with a Ger.

The Sobbotniks of Privolnoe have borrowed several religious practices from the Gerim, which are unlike traditions of other more devout Sobbotniks from surrounding areas. They celebrate Shavuot according to the Jewish calendar; light Hanukkah candles; use a Jewish siddur, and place a mezuzah at the entrance of their homes. As is the case with the Gerim, Sobbotnik women are the preservers of the faith, and mostly they attend prayer services.

Today, the Sobbotniks, whose families have for the most part remained intact, and the Gerim are suffering at the hands of the newly arrived Azerbaijani residents. There was a large aliya of Sobbotnik farmers to Israel in the 1920s, and although this population has not decreased at the same rate as that of the Gerim, the community plans to leave Privolnoe for the northern Caucasus to found two new Sobbotnik villages.

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

The Center's researchers documented 120 tombstones from the two Privolnoe cemeteries, which are divided into two sections for the Gerim and Sobbotniks. The tombstones are made of limestone and closely resemble traditional Ashkenazi ones: a vertical stele with a square, triangular or semi-circular crown. Epitaphs on the Ger tombstones are inscribed in Hebrew, in square Ashkenazi script. The deceased's age is also usually included which is not typical of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish tombstones of this period. The date of death is given according to the Jewish calendar. Quite often the epitaph is also engraved in Russian, and in certain cases the Russian name and surname of the deceased are added to the Hebrew inscription. Images of the Star of David and menorah decorate some of the tombstones.

Sobbotnik tombstones are plainer than those of the Gerim, and only the oldest ones have Hebrew epitaphs including the words ish karai (Karaite man).

The second leg of the 1997 expedition was dedicated to the Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan and continued the work carried out during the 1994 expedition. In 1997 researchers revisited the Jewish quarter of Kuba called Krasnaja Sloboda (red suburb), the Jewish community of Baku, and other Mountain Jewish communities around Baku and Kuba.

The Jews who settled in Sloboda came from the adjacent highland and valley villages of Kulgat, Kusari, Chipkent, Karchag, Shuduh and Kryz. In the 1780s Jews from the Persian province of Gilan also moved to Sloboda. Newcomers from each area established their own quarter, mahalla, each with its own synagogue named after their village. Even today the people of Sloboda remember the precise origins of their ancestors. In the only active synagogue of Sloboda, there is a  collection of Torah pointers, finials, and a shield from all the Sloboda synagogues.

Interior of Gilah synagogue in Kuba, Azerbaijan

Interior of Gilah synagogue in  Kuba, documented during  the 1997 expedition.

According to local records, 972 families of Mountain Jews lived in Sloboda at the end of the nineteenth century, running eleven synagogues and twenty Jewish schools.

The population has remained more or less constant since the beginning of the twentieth century, but only one synagogue is still active. A new mikveh has been built next to this synagogue. Unlike Privolnoe, the Jewish community of Kuba is today enjoying a renewal due to their improved economic situation.

The Sloboda Jews who traditionally have been involved in the merchant professions,  now carry out large-scale trade of Chinese goods, leading to a very high standard of living. Under these circumstances immigration to Israel is minimal, and with a high birth rate, there has hardly been any decline in the population in the last three years. Indeed, the Jewish population is even starting to grow, for Mountain Jewish families are moving to Sloboda from the neighboring villages of Kusari, Hachmas and even from Baku.

Construction is also going on everywhere. As old houses are pulled down, new deluxe ones replace them, the owners displaying both their wealth and their Jewish identity with walls and roofs decorated with Stars of David, menorahs, etc. The cemetery and the only active synagogue have also been restored. When restoration of the large Kusari Synagogue, which the Center's researchers visited on the previous expedition, is completed, it will be used as a community center.

Exterior of the Karui Synagogue in Kuba, Azerbaijan.

Exterior and interior of the Karui Synagogue in Kuba, Azerbaijan.

Interior of the Karui Synagogue in Kuba, Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately, the new prosperity has led to the destruction of the old, picturesque Jewish Sloboda homes, built between 1890-1910.

Synagogues dominate the Jewish quarter. Of the eleven which once stood in Sloboda, seven have been preserved. All seven are built of brick, the larger ones decorated with onion domes. Researchers documented the two synagogues which they had been unable todocument on the previous expedition: the Gilah Synagogue built in 1896 by Hillel Ben-Hayim, and the Karui Synagogue, the most sumptuous synagogue to be documented in this area, albeit now in dire condition and with no ritual objects. The large Kusari Synagogue has six decorative domes, while all the synagogues generally resemble the Kuban mosques from the same period.

Commemorating dead relatives is one of the main activities of traditional community life of the Mountain Jews, and many of them know only one prayer: kaddish, the prayer for commemoration. Tish'a b'av (the ninth day of Av locally known as Soroni) is the day of mourning and commemoration, primarily of deceased parents. This day is a major event, attended by the entire village and by family from around the world, from Russia, Israel and the USA. Researchers present at this event during the 1994 expedition, noted how professional mourners raised their cries of woe next to the tombstones, exciting the waiting families to join in, as they passed from one tomb to another. Most of those present were not familiar with the tradition of mourning for the destruction of the Temple on Tish'a b'av.

The Center's research team learned that some of the inhabitants of Sloboda came from the highland Tati village of Shuduh, which Jews had abandoned long ago. When visiting the village of Shuduh the researchers found that one of the clans of the Tati Moslems is called Israili. Members of the clan still remember the Jewish background of their ancestors, and until 1946 there was a Jewish cemetery in Shuduh. It is fascinating that the Moslem Tatis of Shuduh believe the Jews from Sloboda to be their kin and treat them with special appreciation. Apparently, at a certain unknown point in time, some Jews from Shuduh accepted Islam, while others left the village and settled in the newly founded Jewish suburb of Kuba. The Tatis of Shuduh and the Jews of Sloboda still maintain a warm relationship.

In the villages of Hachmas, Devich and Kusari the team visited some of the few remaining Jewish families. The Center's researchers found the remains of a tombstone, which was once part of a large cemetery. While there were few ritual objects to document, it was an opportunity to learn first hand about the traditions of these remote Jewish communities.

During the 1997 expedition, the researchers completed the work commenced on the Center's previous expedition to northern Azerbaijan, and succeeded in recording the last remnants of Jewish culture there. However, it was heart-rending to see how much was lost in recent years, and the feeling that they arrived almost too late, never left them.

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.




Uncovering and Documenting Jewish Art and
Architecture in Western Romania

The Jewish presence in Romania has largely disappeared as a result of successive pogroms, the Holocaust and Soviet oppression. However its rich legacy remains in the form of ritual objects, Hebrew illuminated manuscripts and books, synagogues, former Jewish homes, and cemeteries. Such remnants can be found in cities and villages alike, in local museums and libraries. But whether from neglect, lack of maintenance funds, or sales to collectors abroad, many of these artifacts are in danger of being lost. This situation adds urgency to the Center's mission to find and catalogue the material vestiges of Romanian Jewry.

Fully adorned Torah scroll from the synagogue in Resita, Romania.
Fully adorned Torah scroll
the synagogue in
Resita, Romania.

In the summer of 1996 the Center for Jewish Art sent its first expedition team to Romania. In addition to documenting synagogues and ritual objects in Bucharest, which lies in the province of Walachia, they extensively documented synagogues, ritual objects and cemeteries in Moldavia and Bukovina, which spans the border of the Ukraine. The findings which were very exciting, included an eighteenth century wooden synagogue, beautiful wooden Torah arks, wall paintings, and impressive collections of ritual objects.
In the summer of 1997, a research team set out to further explore Romania. Traveling to Walachia and Transylvania, which includes the areas of Maramures and Banat, they documented fifteen synagogues, two hundred ritual objects, Torah arks, and tombstones. Participating in this expedition were Boris Chaimovitch, Binyamin Lukin and Bianca Stube from Israel, three researchers from St. Petersburg Jewish University and an architect, Alla Sokolova.

Most of the original Jewish population of Walachia arrived from Turkey and the Balkans and was Sephardi. However, by the nineteenth century the majority of the Jewish population of Romania was Ashkenazi, the result of waves of Yiddish speaking immigrants from Galicia and Russia.

In the region of Walachia, researchers documented collections of ritual objects in Ploiesti and Craiova and much of the large collection of ritual objects in the Jewish Museum in Bucharest. This collection, which researchers partially documented in 1996, contains pieces collected by Rabbi Moshe Rosen, Chief Rabbi of Romania from 1948 until his death in 1994. Researchers documented sixty-five objects in the museum including Torah crowns, finials, shields, pointers, candlesticks, spice boxes, Hanukkah lamps and Torah curtains.

The largest area to be covered by the expedition team was Transylvania, which lies in central-western Romania. Its very central location placed Transylvania on trade routes between the orient and the west, and northern and southern Europe. As in the area of Walachia, the first Jews arrived on trade routes to Transylvania from Turkey and the Balkans. The first Jewish community was in Alba Julia, which has records of Jewish residency as early as 1591. At one time an independent state, Transylvania was later incorporated as part of Hungary, and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Jews continued to migrate to Transylvania in small numbers throughout the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, even though there were residency restrictions until 1848. The number of Jews in historic Transylvania jumped from two thousand in 1766, to thirty thousand in 1880.

Many different cultural influences converged in Transylvania, which was divided between Austria-Hungary, and Romania. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the Hasidim from the north were the predominant culture. A strong Hungarian influence prevailed in the western centers of Transylvania, Oradea and Arad, which became an important center of the Neolog (Reform) community in the early nineteenth century. In Brasov, the southeastern center, German was the dominant culture.

The researchers' first stop in Transylvania was Brasov, where there are one hundred thirty Jewish families today. The Temple Synagogue, which the researchers documented, was built in the neo-Roman/Moorish style by architect Leopold Baumhorn in 1901. Its style is very typical of the large Neolog  synagogues, which were built throughout Austro-Hungary in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

 Interior of early 20th C. Temple Synagogue in Medias, Romania.Interior of early 20th century Temple  Synagogue in Medias, Romania.

In the town of Medias, researchers documented the elaborate neo-Romanesque Temple Synagogue built at the beginning of the twentienth century, as well as a small collection of ritual objects. In Alba Julia, once regarded as the Jewish capital of Transylvania, an Orthodox synagogue built in 1840 still stands.

The synagogue complex includes a school, religious courtroom and attached prison. This neo-Baroque synagogue, featuring corner towers and pilasters segmenting the heavy exterior, was similar to those found in Poland, but unlike any other the researchers documented in Transylvania.

The researchers documented a number of Moorish style synagogues in various towns in Transylvania—in Dej, Carei and Cluj. Cluj was an important intellectual Jewish center throughout most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the Orthodox community prevailed there throughout most of the nineteenth century, by the end of the century, the Neolog community was gaining ground.

The Jewish community in Satu-Mare, formally established in the mid-nineteenth century, once numbered twenty-two thousand people. At one time there were sixteen synagogues in this Orthodox community which had a prominent Hasidic element. Researchers documented the three synagogues which remain in Satu-Mare today. The one still active synagogue, built in the late nineteenth century, houses a large collection of about one thousand religious books. The synagogue features a wooden Torah ark, more than ten meters in height, and ornate wall and ceiling paintings. A second smaller synagogue built in 1923, is a beautiful structure with a large neo-Baroque wooden Torah ark and Baroque style windows, decorated with stained-glass.

In the two cemeteries in Carei, one Neolog and one Orthodox, researchers documented highly ornate tombstones. One, dated 1831, was one of the oldest tombstones found in Transylvania and reminiscent of tombstones found in Galicia. There were over one hundred tombstones from the end of the nineteenth century, some very decorative with various animal and flower motifs.

The Oradea Jewish community was once the most active  both comercially and culturally in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1944, twenty-five thousand Oradean Jews were deported to concentration camps, thus decimating this vital community. Three hundred Jews reside in Oradea today. In the center of the city, towering over other buildings in the area, is the large Neolog Temple Synagogue built in 1878. The unusual cube-shaped synagogue with its large cupola is one of the largest in Romania. Inside there is a large organ and stucco decorations. In 1891, the Orthodox community also built a complex of buildings including two synagogues and a community center.

Arad was also a very important center of Neolog Judaism under the leadership of Rabbi Aaron Chorin who officiated from 1789 to 1844. The community's synagogue built in 1828, is a large building in the center of the Jewish ghetto, but indiscernible from the outside except for a decorative door. The door leads into a huge five story synagogue, with a large, twenty-two meter diameter cupola. The Torah ark resembles a neo-classical church altar, very typical of the period. An enormous organ, known to be one of the best in Europe, covers an entire wall.

Timosoara, a city bordering the Balkan states in the Banat region of Transylvania, was first settled by Turkish Sephardi Jews. In later centuries, German culture became predominant. In 1762, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi synagogues were built. In 1865 the imposing Citadel Synagogue was built by the Ashkenazi Jews, who soon after declared themselves as Neologs.

Center researchers documenting a collection of ritual objects in Timosoara, Romania.
Center researchers documenting
a collection of ritual objects in Timosoara.

An Orthodox community was established soon after and in 1906 they built the Moorish style Josefin Synagogue. Center researchers documented both synagogues together with a few collections of ritual objects. Approximately 1,000 Jews remain of this still active Jewish community, most of whom are middle-aged or elderly; all are Orthodox.

The region of Maramures lies in the northwestern corner of Transylvania, in the Carpathian mountains. The home of a largely Hasidic community, the prominent language of this region was Yiddish. The Jews in Maramures came to Romania from Bukovina and Galicia and were very different culturally from the Jews of the central and southern areas of Romania. No Jews remain in this region and there are few material remnants of this once large Jewish community, as researchers discovered when they visited the towns of Baia-Mare, Moisei, Viseul-de-Sus, Ruskova and Rozavlea. Villagers, however, were able to recall some details of the former Jewish community. A mikveh in Moisei built near the river still remains and is used today as a public bath. A very ornate synagogue in Viseul-de-Sus was destroyed in the 1970s, as was the synagogue in Rozavlea. In Ruskova, a stone synagogue has been converted into a store, and there are no visible signs of its previous function.

The researchers' various findings reflect the cultural diversity of the Jews of these regions of Romania. During the three week expedition the researchers gathered important material which will add to our knowledge of the development of Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions in Europe.

This expedition was made possible with the generous support of the Fanny and Leo Koerner Charitable Trust, Cambridge, Massachusetts.



In Search of Jewish Art in Western Ukraine

 Since the early 1990s, the Center for Jewish Art has been conducting expeditions to the Ukraine, once one of the flourishing centers of East European Jewry, to document the remnants of Jewish art there: sacred and ceremonial objects, synagogues and cemeteries.

The expedition team to the Ukraine in August 1997 set out to further explore and document the cemeteries and synagogue architecture of the shtetls and towns in the regions of Galicia and Volyn in northwest Ukraine. This expedition revealed two important finds. The first is a wooden synagogue in Skhodnitsa, Galicia, probably the only remaining wooden synagogue in the Ukraine. The second is a cemetery located in the town of Kremenets, which includes 120 tombstones from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.

In addition to their Jewish iconography, tombstones are invaluable documents of Jewish community life. From their details chiseled in stone, researchers gather illuminating information regarding Jews of previous eras: their social status, the structure and size of Jewish families, patterns of birth and life-expectancy, trends in marriage as well as crafts and professions practiced by Jews. A cemetery thus reflects the life of the community, and since the world of East European Jewry was devastated, cemeteries often serve as the best documents of this by-gone world.

17th C. tombstone with animal motif in Kremenets, Ukraine.
17th century tombstone with animal motif in Kremenets, Ukraine.

One of the first stops on this expedition was the town of Kremenets, one of the oldest Jewish communities of Volyn, dating back to the fourteenth century. This very cultured and prosperous community played an important role in the economy of the town until World War II. In the eighteenth century leaders of the Hasidic and Haskalah movements resided here. Over 6,500 Jews lived here on the eve of the Holocaust, from which only fourteen survived. Today there are no Jews, and the remaining synagogue is used as a bus station. The town has the look of a typical Jewish-Polish shtetl. However, most of what remains of the vibrant Jewish life of Kremenets exists only in a photographic collection in the local historical museum, which was examined by researchers. A large cemetery sits on a hill overlooking the town. The old section of the cemetery is in a state of deterioration, with some of the tombstones crumbling, and engravings legible on seventy-five percent of the remaining tombstones. Researchers documented fifty tombstones from the sixteenth century, and seventy from the seventeenth and eighteenth century, some of which were beautifully decorated with animal and flower motifs, a very rare find in tombstones of the early seventeenth century. Newer tombstones with unusual motifs were also documented, such as a nineteenth century tombstone with a pitcher motif, designating the tombstone of a Levite.

Wooden synagogue in Skhodnitsa, Ukraine, late 19th century This late 19th century synagogue in Skhodnitsa,  is probably the only  remaining wooden  synagogue in the Ukraine.

It was believed that all wooden synagogues of the Ukraine were destroyed, and so researchers were quite surprised and delighted to come upon a wooden synagogue thirty kilometers from Drogobich, Galicia, in the town of Skhodnitsa. The design of this synagogue is very similar to other wooden synagogues, with an external gallery, high roof and twelve windows. This late nineteenth century synagogue is one story tall and has external signs of what was once a women's gallery. The synagogue was in use until World War II, and has been used since as a sewing factory. The synagogue was probably saved because the town is small and remote. Today no Jews nor any other trace of Jewish life exists in Skhodnitsa. The town of Korets was once a well-known center of Hasidism. Four important Hebrew printing presses were established there in the eighteenth century contributing to the spread of Hasidism. At the end of the nineteenth century Jews comprised over seventy-five percent of the population. When the Soviets entered Korets in 1939, Jewish institutions and political parties were disbanded. Most of the remaining Jews were murdered or dispersed after the Germans entered Korets in 1941. The only trace of this once important Jewish community, is part of a cemetery with only six remaining tombstones. Four of these are from the seventeenth century and one is decorated.

Novograd Volinsky, another town which once claimed a thriving Jewish community, has several typically Jewish homes and a new cemetery. Our research team visited three other towns but found no sign of Jewish life: Kostopol, Berezne, and Veliki Mezhirichi.

Having carried out seven years of surveys and expeditions to the Ukraine, researchers of the Center for Jewish Art have documented a major portion of the vast material culture of this once important Jewish center. Yet to be completed is the documentation of important cemeteries in southern Galicia, and synagogues in Eastern Ukraine, which researchers hope to carry out in the near future.

This expedition was carried out with the generous support of the Fanny and Leo Koerner Charitable Trust, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The expedition was also assisted by grants from the Samuel Mandell Foundation, Pennsylvania, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Oklahoma.




Documenting the Rich Visual Legacy of Georgian Jewry

Documenting the Rich Visual Legacy of Georgian Jewry

 Georgia, a country situated between the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, is on the crossroads of Europe and Asia. The Jews of Georgia trace their history to the time of the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. In fact, this year, the government of Georgia plans to celebrate the 2,600th anniversary of the Jewish community there.

The Georgian Jewish community is culturally rich and diversified, reflecting the influences of the old Russian and Ottoman Empires, of Sephardi, Ashkenazi and Eastern traditions, and the later impact of Hasidism. Having lived for centuries in peace with their Christian neighbors, the twentieth century has seen the Jewish community depleted by war and immigration, and today numbers no more than three thousand souls. While a wealth of synagogues and ritual objects are testaments to this once-thriving community, this visual heritage is in danger of disappearing

.Cylindrical wooden Torah case with large crest, red velvet

kabah" and silver-plated Torah finials from the large synagogue in Kutaisi. The unusual feature of protruding staves was found in Georgia."
Cylindrical wooden Torah case with large crest, red velvet "kabah" and silver-plated Torah finials from the large synagogue in Kutaisi. The unusual feature of protruding staves was found in Georgia.

An expedition of the Center for Jewish Art set out for Georgia in September 1997. Three researchers and two photographers, led by Center director Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, traveled over one thousand miles through areas devoid of electricity and running water to document the artistic and architectural remnants of Georgian Jewry. Center researchers documented a total of fourteen synagogues, some of them damaged by natural disasters or closed due to lack of congregations, and an abundance of ritual objects.

In the two synagogues still in use in the capital Tbilisi, researchers saw unusual wood carved Torah finials, an Ottoman Torah pointer, a variety of Torah cases, some cylindrical and others with eight and sixteen facets, bound in velvet or studded leather.

The Torah cases are covered by a small garment (kabah) which resembles a Torah mantle with a flat top and an opening fastened by six ribbons. Above the garment, the Torah staves are adorned with many kerchiefs, and surmounted by Torah finials.

The Akhaltsikhe Synagogue of the Georgian Jews, built in 1905, consists of two large halls. The upper hall which has a women's gallery is sumptuously decorated with geometrical motifs. The spacious lower hall is used by men for daily prayer services and has no women's section.

The early twentieth century Ashkenazi synagogue is a very lavish synagogue with a barrel vaulted ceiling decorated with four Stars of David, clouds and stars around its axis. Above the ark is a round window with Tables of the Law flanked by two stained glass windows. As in other Ashkenazi synagogues, the Torah scrolls are covered with mantles and not cases which is most common in Georgia.

Researchers traveled next to Gori, Stalin's birthplace, but were unable to find anyone responsible to show them the small synagogue. Tskhinvali, which lies in the Osetiya region of Georgia, was their next brief stop. They were told that the Jews fled during the 1993 civil unrest, when South Osetiya tried to gain independence from Georgia and the remaining synagogue was burned down. There is a UN outpost here and researchers encountered UN soldiers on both the entrance and exit of town, and again when they left the region.

Interior of the synagogue in Kutaisi, 1886. Interior of the large synagogue in Kutaisi, dated 1886.

In the remote village of Oni the researchers documented a stone synagogue built in 1895 with a large cupola and arches, which researchers were told was modeled after an earlier structure in Warsaw. Among the ritual objects recorded were a pair of Torah finials in the Austro-Hungarian style, and a pair of local, conical shaped finials covered in black velvet, probably used on Tish'a b'Av.

Torah arks (heikhalim) in Georgia are constructed in two or three sections adjoined side-by-side. In the nine-bay Oni Synagogue the Torah scrolls were divided between the two sections of the Torah ark. Researchers documented five cylindrical Torah cases with staves protruding from both the top and the bottom. Since Torahs in cases are traditionally read in an upright position standing on the tevah, these protruding staves present a slight logistic problem, whereby two persons must balance the Torah and case, while a third is reading.

At one time, the Jews of Oni comprised fifty percent of the population. In the aftermath of a destructive earthquake in 1991, which partially destroyed the famous synagogue, many of the remaining Jews left. Today only one hundred Jews reside in Oni. The synagogue was renovated in 1995 on its one hundredth anniversary.

Exterior of the synagogue in Kutaisi, 1886.  Exterior of the large synagogue in Kutaisi, dated 1886.

A visit to Kutaisi, whose two hundred year old Jewish community numbers one thousand today, revealed three yellow stone synagogues, all sturdily built in the latter half of the last century, featuring porticos at the entrance, decorative wall paintings and arched windows. All three synagogues are in use today. Documented in these synagogues were several pairs of Torah finials, some spool-like and strung with silk, a design unique to Georgia. There was also a cartouche-shaped Torah shield, dated 1885, from Poland. Many of the cylindrical shaped Torah cases with staves protruding from the bottom are topped with different shaped crests, which open together with the cases to reveal dedicatory inscriptions. In the rural village of Kulashi, once predominately Jewish, three synagogues were documented, one of them a rectangular structure built entirely of wood, another made of red brick, and a third half-timbered. The synagogues still house a number of empty Torah cases, empty prayer shawl and phylactery bags, books, and two abandoned Torah scrolls. No Jews remain in Kulashi today, all having fled during the civil war, and the delapidated synagogues are guarded by local Georgians.

The sumptuous synagogue in Vani, now home to only two Jewish families, contained several pairs of finials, one of which reflected Persian influence, and another Austro-Hungarian. Also stored in the three-section Torah ark were four Torah cases, three cylindrical and one twelve-faceted.

Interior of the synagogue in Surami, Georgia.
  Interior of the large synagogue in Surami, with view of tevah, heikal, and wall and ceiling paintings.

Researchers documented two synagogues in Surami, home to an active Jewish community of three hundred. The larger synagogue is situated below a medieval citadel. The interior is decorated with landscape paintings of mountains and lakes and beautiful fan motifs on the slanted ceiling. Fifteen Torah cases were documented, one of them octagonal and fashioned from beach wood, as well as a noteworthy collection of finials and pointers. Only one Torah scroll remains in Surami; the rest were stolen. Among the books lay a 1783 edition of the Zohar, printed in Poland. In Akhaltsikhe, near the Turkish border, there are two synagogues, one of which now serves as a sports hall. Both structures were built for the Sephardi community there. The active synagogue, dated 1863, features a very large central tevah. The Torah ark is on the west wall, the entrance is in the south, and the women's gallery with its high latticed screen is on the east wall opposite the Torah ark. Among the ritual objects documented in the sumptuous Akhaltsikhe Synagogue were a silver Torah pointer with a flattened hamsa hand from 1881, a brass Hanukkah lamp, and a nineteenth century faceted leather Torah case. The Torah cases in Akhaltsikhe, in contrast to those in Oni, Kutaisi and Surami, have a flat base and the Torah staves jut out above only, as in Tblisi.

In the cemetery, which sits on top of a hill opposite the synagogue, researchers documented some unusual tombstones from the mid-nineteenth century which reflected the wealth of the community. Some are constructed with a high base of grey stone, with a rounded top like a sarcophagus, made of red stone. Others are three-tiered, in the Armenian mode and unlike other Jewish tombstones found in Georgia.

Twenty-four Jewish families remain in the town of Kareli, researchers' last stop in Georgia. A new synagogue was built there eight years ago on the spot of an older synagogue which burned down in the 1970s.

The videographer who accompanied this expedition was able to record on film the ritual objects found in synagogues and private homes, Torah readings and other traditional ceremonies in the synagogue. Elders and leaders of the community were also interviewed on video.

This expedition was carried out with the generous support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York and Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation in cooperation with the Project Judaica Foundation of Washington, D.C., Mark Talisman, President.






Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in Vienna

In January and February of this year, Alissa Fried, researcher from the Hebrew Illuminated Manuscript section of the Index of Jewish Art, conducted a survey of Hebrew illuminated manuscripts in the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek collection in Vienna.

In total the collection holds 244 Hebrew manuscripts, thirty-eight of them containing decorations appropriate for the iconographical Index of Jewish Art. Alissa's first task in Vienna was to survey all the Hebrew manuscripts in the collection as well as the twenty-one incunabula (books printed before 1501). This time-consuming activity was both exciting and productive. One of the most significant manuscripts surveyed had been mis-shelved for many years amongst the printed books and was omitted from the inventory compiled by Franz Unterkircher in 1959.

Hymn of Unity -  Ashkenazi Hebrew illuminated manuscript, 1415.
Ashkenazi Hebrew illuminated manuscript, dated 1415, of a "Hymn of Unity" recited during evening prayers in the event Yom Kippur falls on a sunday (Vienna, NB Hebr. 242 fol. 190)

Most of the manuscripts are Ashkenazi in origin and were executed during the fourteenth century. The decoration does not include narrative scenes but is predominantly of heraldic animals, multi-colored hybrids and grotesques enclosed within rectangular panels with many Gothic architectural elements. These panels incorporate the opening words of prayers and appear at particularly important divisions within the text. This type of decoration is influenced by the Lake Constance school of illumination of the early fourteenth century which produced Latin manuscripts such as the Aich Bible and the Gradual (book of music for Mass) of St. Katharinental. Also of interest was a Rosh Hashana mahzor of Ashkenazi rite of 1344-47 (Cod. Hebr. 163), which is the first half of a two volume set. The second volume, which continues with the prayers for Yom Kippur, is held in the JNUL (Jewish National and University Library) collection (Ms. 5214). Both volumes of the set were copied by the same two scribes and are decorated with identical fleuronne penwork, which runs along the text column of the manuscript. Two other manuscripts are known to have been copied by the first scribe: Sefer Mitzvot Gadol [SeMaG] (Vienna, ONB, Cod. Hebr. 34/I-II) and a manuscript of the Hagiographa (one-third of the Old Testament) (Cambridge, Univ. Libr. Ms. Ee 5.9). The colophon of the Cambridge manuscript includes the name of the scribe, Haim and the date, 21 Tevet 5107 (January 4, 1347). The sample get (divorce) text included in the SeMaG is dated 1344. These dates served as the basis for the dating of the mahzorim which Alissa examined.

Alissa recorded codicological data of some manuscripts, including ruling and pricking, counting quires, and copying historical information usually relating to the purchase and sale of the manuscripts and significant events in the lives of the owners. She was greatly assisted in her work by library researcher, Dr. Andreas Fingernagel.

In Jerusalem, Alissa will research the material and then computerize it into the Index of Jewish Art. The Center will be sending a researcher in 1999 to continue the documentation of this important collection.

This survey was conducted with the help of a friend who wishes to remain anonymous.





Jewish Art in Greece

The sixth biennial symposium of the Center for Jewish Art was held in September 1997 in Greece. Thirty-five friends of the Center from the United States, France and Israel joined Center staff and distinguished lecturers for an eleven day tour to extant Jewish communities in Corfu, Ioannina, Athens, Rhodes, Halkis and Salonika. The symposium was enormously successful and informative and participants were welcomed with warm hospitality by their Greek hosts.

Participants of the symposium 'Jewish art in Greece' at the Jewish Museum in Athens.

Participants of the symposium 'Jewish art in Greece' examining ritual objects at the Jewish Museum in Athens.

The Jewish community of Greece is composed primarily of two groups, Romaniot (old local community) and Sephardi. During the Holocaust almost ninety percent of the Greek community was annihilated, thus almost decimating one of the oldest Diaspora communities and its rich artistic tradition. Today the five thousand remaining Jews of Greece are divided predominantly between the cities of Athens and Salonika, with smaller communities distributed in fewer than ten other towns and villages.

During the symposium, participants were struck by the strong sense of identity of the Romaniot community. Although they consider themselves a distinct community, much of their material culture and traditions have been greatly influenced by other Mediterranean countries. For example the bi-polar structure of the synagogue, which features the tevah (bimah) and heikhal (Torah ark) on opposite ends of the synagogue, is also commonly found in Italy. Their use of tikim (Torah cases) instead of Torah mantles, is common in several North African countries as well.

There are customs which may be distincly Romaniot and have not been previously seen by Center researchers. Special charms, shadai'ot, are often found on Torah curtains, and the perimeters of the Torah ark door are decorated with Torah finials. The Romaniots also produce a unique document for the Brit Milah called an "Aleph". In addition, some of the features of their ketubbot (wedding documents) are notable. For example:Ø the ketubbot are dated from the destruction of the Second Temple; and it is written that the husband and wife are mutually obligated in all aspects of the marriage.

The Romaniot and Sephardi communities have traditionally remained separate, which can be seen today in places such as Ioannina and Halkis, which have remained strictly Romaniot. Each group still retains its distinct identity. Until recently, the Sephardi Jews spoke Ladino, and Romaniot prayer books written in Greek with Hebrew script were common. However, today the Romaniots and the Sephardi Jews do intermarry for the simple reason that so few Jews remain in Greece.

The symposium began on the island of Corfu, located in northwestern Greece. A lovely opening night dinner set the pace for an exciting week and a half of lectures and touring. The following morning informative talks about Greek Jewish history, architecture, and ritual objects prepared the participants for the riches they were about to see.

During the first day's excursion, participants visited the island's only remaining synagogue, the seventeenth century Venetian style Scuola Greca. A double staircase leads to the second story synagogue, which is situated above the community offices. The elaborately decorated tevah and the heikhal are located on opposite sides of the synagogue with long benches running lengthwise between these two focal points. Decorating the opening of the heikhal are rimonim (Torah finials). Inside the heikhal, which has both an exterior and interior parokhet (Torah curtain), are the Torah scrolls which are stored in tikim. The tikim are colorful and richly decorated and reminiscent of Italian style.

Particularly noteworthy were a black tik with black rimonim used for Tish'a b'Av, and a small tik (without a Torah inside) used for children on Simchat Torah.

On the second day of the tour, participants traveled by ferry and bus and an arduous climb to the town of Ioannina. They began their visit with lunch in a restaurant with a breathtaking view of the lake and the old quarter. They later walked to the old quarter where they visited the remaining Yashan (old) Synagogue. Unlike the synagogue in Corfu, the heikhal did not have the decorative surrounding rimonim, although hooks for the rimonim were evident. In typical Romaniot fashion, the parokhot had hooks for hanging shadai'ot. A beautiful parokhet, which was once used as a dress, was decorated with elaborate Ottoman-style gold embroidery. The many Torah cases had cloth wrappers.

Participants also visited an ethnographic museum in Ioannina, which houses among its collection, Jewish costumes and other Jewish objects. Before departing for Athens they went to see a memorial dedicated to the Jews of Ioannina who perished in the Holocaust.

Symposium participants spent the next few days in Athens where they heard several lectures and were introduced to the large and important collection of the Jewish Museum of Athens. Guiding participants through a selected part of the collection was the museum's founder, Nikos Stavroulakis, one of the symposium's guest lecturers. While packing up the collection for the move to its newly renovated home, curators of the museum were surprised and delighted to discover that it was considerably larger than they had thought (see Events).

A one-day trip to Rhodes brought visitors to the old Jewish quarter where participants visited the old Kahal Shalom Sephardi Synagogue and the cemetery. According to Stavroulakis, this synagogue with its four antique columns was built in 1575 and is the oldest surviving synagogue in Greece. The Center staff was disappointed to discover that the few remaining ritual objects, which they saw the previous year, were no longer to be found in the synagogue.

The town of Halkis claims a continuing Jewish presence for two thousand years, although this can not be substantiated. The eclectic style of the synagogue reflects the many changes and renovations which have been undertaken since the synagogue was rebuilt in its present form in 1854. The Romaniot synagogue has two entrances, and antique columns which were part of an older structure, divide the interior space. Although the Jewish community in Halkis is Romaniot, several tombstones in the old cemetery have names of Spanish origin. The cemetery also contains Ottoman tombstones, some dating from the sixteenth century. Community members are very proud of their cemetery, whose style of tombstones are unique in Greece, and therefore believed to be special and typically Romaniot. Center researchers, however, have seen similar tombstones in Morocco.

Although not much remains of its once flourishing Jewish community, many of the symposium participants accepted the Salonika Jewish community's invitation for an optional day of touring. The old Sephardi community of Salonika came to an abrupt end when most of its Jews were deported to Auschwitz during World War II. A new community of returning survivors was established here after the war. Community members who shared stories of the rich heritage of the old community graciously received participants.

Interspersed with tours of the ancient Jewish communities and their artifacts were fascinating lectures about the history of the community, its architecture and ritual objects. Professor Yom Tov Assis treated our participants to several lectures including one on "Romaniot Jewry: Cultural and Religious Life" which described the Greek-speaking community, its distinct traditions and customs and how they differ from both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities.

In his lectures about ritual objects of the Jews of Greece, Professor Bezalel Narkiss described some of the special characteristics of the objects and rituals of the Sephardi, Romaniot and Italian communities. He also lectured about the shape, decoration and usage of an unusual Hanukkah lamp, which developed in Salonika during the seventeenth to twentieth centuries.

Symposium coordinator and Center Deputy Director Ruth Jacoby, presented lectures on the ancient synagogues and cemeteries of Greece.

Dr. Shalom Sabar enlightened our participants with information about Greek Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts and ketubbot. He also presented a lecture on "Book Printing and Shabtai Zvi."

Architect Elias Messinas, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the National Technical University of Athens, gave a general lecture on synagogue architecture of Greece and its many influences from Jewish Spain to the Ottoman Empire. He also presented a photo exhibition of synagogues of Salonika.

Nikos Stavroulakis spoke in one lecture about liturgical textiles such as Torah curtains and Torah mantles and their iconographic and geographic significance, and in a second lecture about Jewish costumes of Greece.

Many of the cultural riches of the Jewish community of Greece were revealed during the symposium. However, we were also reminded that precious objects, if not closely guarded, tend to disappear. In the one-year interim since the Center began its work in Greece, we have seen evidence of this unfortunate trend, and we are reminded of the urgency for documenting objects in the small dwindling communities. Therefore, the Center hopes to send in the near future the first of three expeditions to document the Jewish art of Greece.



Jewish Art Seminar at the Jewish University of St. Petersburg

The Center for Jewish Art conducted its fourth biennial Jewish Art Seminar at the Jewish University of St. Petersburg as part of its continuing efforts to enhance the knowledge of local professionals involved in Jewish culture and education. The framework of this year's Seminar, which was organized in cooperation with the St. Petersburg Jewish University and its Institute for Problems in Jewish Education, was widened to incorporate a large number of courses in different fields of Jewish Studies. In addition to courses in Jewish art, courses in Hebrew Literature, Modern History and Jewish Education were also offered. Guest lecturers from Bar Ilan and Ben Gurion Universities joined the lecturers from the Hebrew University, contributing in making this the most successful Seminar yet.

The Seminar took place from June 23-July 7, 1998, at the ORT School in a beautiful neighborhood in central St. Petersburg. Participating were approximately 120 Jewish educators including Hebrew teachers, Bible teachers, and art teachers. They came from regions throughout the former USSR, as distant as Uzbekistan, Moldavia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and cities all over Russia. The lecturers noted that they were particularly impressed with the successful blending of teachers from all movements of Judaism: teachers from Habad schools learning alongside teachers from Reform and Conservative schools.

Scholars from the Center for Jewish Art presented a range of lectures on Jewish art as diverse as "Zodiac Signs in Ancient Synagogues" and "Women Artists in Modern Jewish Art." In a series of lectures discussing "The Problem of Modern Jewish Art," Professor Ziva Amishai-Maisels' first two lectures dealt with emancipation, "Self-identification of Jewish artists during the Emancipation Period," followed by "Assimilation of Jewish Artists." In her lecture dealing with the search for an international style, she spoke about avant-garde art versus Zionist Art. Another lecture dealt with the reflection of the Holocaust and Nazism in Jewish art. Her final two lectures related to the second half of the twentieth century and discussed the return to abstract art and art imagery, and problems regarding Jewish women artists in modern Jewish art.

Boris Chaimovitch, currently a doctoral student at the Hebrew University and senior researcher at the Center, was one of the founders of the St. Petersburg Jewish University, and organizer of the bi-annual Seminar. He presented six lectures dealing with the subject "Verbal and Visual Metaphors in Jewish European Culture." In one lecture Boris presented an overview of Jewish monuments of the Middle Ages and modern period in Western Europe. In another lecture he discussed how symbolic images from Jewish texts are portrayed in visual art. Another lecture dealt with tribal images and the heraldic tradition. He later examined the images of miracles in graphic books and synagogue wall paintings, and finally eschatological images in Jewish folk-art.

Michael Tal, also a doctoral student in Art History at the Hebrew University and senior researcher at the Center, presented a broad series of lectures dealing with: mosaic floors in ancient synagogues, in which he discussed, among other topics, the adaptation of the Zodiac design in Jewish art; the image of Isaac and Moses in Jewish art throughout the ages; and the year cycle as it is presented in Jewish art.

In conjunction with the Seminar, art teachers, several of whom participated in the Center's 1997 summer course on Jewish art, organized an impressive exhibit of drawings by children in Jewish schools.

Toward the close of the Seminar, the art teachers delighted the participants with the creation of a large and very clever collage, which incorporated images that were presented by the lecturers during the courses.

Organizers and participants alike were very pleased with the success of this year's Seminar, the diversity of the courses offered and the level of scholarship. The lecturers were likewise impressed by the seriousness and high level of the participants and look forward to the next Seminar which will take place in summer, 2000.

This seminar was supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).



Teaching Jewish Values through Art


Participants visiting the Second Temple model in Jerusalem. Participants visiting the Second Temple  model in Jerusalem.

The Center for Jewish Art, in cooperation with the Jewish University in St. Petersburg and the Society for Jewish Art, conducted a three week intensive seminar in Jerusalem, on Teaching Jewish Values through Jewish Art in August, 1997. Twenty Jewish art teachers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and ten Israeli art teachers, new immigrants from the CIS, participated in this exciting and successful seminar.

A major goal of the seminar was to give the participants a broad and basic knowledge in the field of Jewish art and tradition. Seminar organizers also sought to help the teachers use this material as an integral part of their art instruction in the schools in Israel and the CIS, where there are presently three hundred Hebrew schools operating. An additional objective was to establish a dialogue between Jewish teachers and artists in the CIS and in Israel, and to strengthen the connection of the younger generation in the CIS and of new immigrants in Israel to Jewish tradition and Zionism.

The seminar examined the visual sources of Jewish culture from biblical times to contemporary times, and included lectures on Jewish culture and art, workshops, study tours in museums and Jewish sites, and meetings with Israeli artists. The lectures covered such themes as: Heroes of the Bible; the Kabbalah and Hassidism in Jewish tradition; Iconography in the Bible; Jewish Holidays and their Symbols; Jewish Life Cycles and more. All lectures were translated into Russian. Professional staff from the Hebrew University, the Jewish University in St. Petersburg, and other educational institutions presented lectures.

During the workshops, teachers discussed problems in teaching art to children, particularly the problems of teaching Jewish art, and they shared their solutions with one another. In a special session, one of the teachers from the CIS demonstrated a computer program for teaching Jewish art to children and examined ways in which an Internet program might be developed.

The participants of the course were very pleased by the high level of the lectures, and most importantly, they felt that they were well prepared for integrating the material into their own teaching. This intensive and unique seminar gave the Russian and Israeli participants the opportunity to deepen their own connection to Jewish art, tradition and values. With this greater understanding, it is hoped that the teachers in the CIS and Israel will be able to nurture the Jewish visual tradition in future artists and Jewish leaders.

On the basis of this seminar, a teacher's manual is being prepared in Hebrew and Russian for the use of teachers throughout Israel and Russia (about two hundred teachers in Russia and a similar number in Israel). Due to the great success of the course, another course for the summer of 1999 is being planned.

Moses parting the Red Sea
Moses parting the Red Sea as drawn by a pupil of one of the teachers who participated in the Center's teachers' course on Jewish Art.

This seminar was sponsored by the Joint Program for Jewish Education of the State of Israel—Ministry of Education and Culture, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization. It was also assisted by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). <





Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in Modena

A major project of the Hebrew Illuminated Manuscript Section of the Jerusalem Index of Jewish Art, has been the research of material accumulated during documentation expeditions to Modena, Italy in 1985 and 1995. During the expeditions researchers documented fifteen important Hebrew illuminated manuscripts, fourteen from the Biblioteca Estense and one from the Archivio di Stato. These manuscripts include various texts - Bibles, Passover haggadot, mahzorim, siddurim, an Evronot book (a book of calendar calculations) and Esther scrolls - made from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries in different places of Jewish settlement around Europe, such as Spain, Ashkenaz and Italy. Also documented were Italian ketubbot (marriage contracts) from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

modena One of the earliest manuscripts of the entire collection is a mahzor of the Ashkenazi rite, written in Franconia in Germany. The manuscript can be dated to around 1300 on the basis of stylistic comparison with the Bamberg Mahzor (JTS Ms. 4843) from 1279. The Bamberg Mahzor is one of the earliest dated Ashkenazi manuscripts known today. In both these mahzorim, the decoration program highlights the main sections of the manuscript, with the prayers arranged according to the yearly cycle. In both cases emphasis is given to the opening words which are surrounded by flourishes including wriggle work and half-palmette motifs. Grotesque animals fill the letters or appear as decorations in the margins of the text - for example, the opening panel for the Yotzer of the first day of Passover "Or Yesha Me'usharim," (fol. 41v and JTS fol. 29). This decorative style is characteristic of manuscripts from Franconia of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It appears for example, in another Ashkenazi mahzor from Franconia from the beginning of the fourteenth century (Bodleian Lib. Opp. 645, fol. 61v).

The collection of Hebrew manuscripts in the Biblioteca Estense in Modena also includes one of the earliest extant Spanish Bibles. It features in its decoration program two carpet pages with depictions of Sanctuary/Temple implements (Ms. T.3.8., Or. 26, Fols. 25v-26). To date we know of some thirty Bibles featuring depictions of Sanctuary/Temple implements, spread over two or more complete pages. These Bibles were made in Spain from the end of the thirteenth century until the end of the fifteenth century (the period of the Jewish expulsion from Spain). A number were made in Castille while others, like the Bible in Modena, were made in Catalonia.

A comparison of the Sanctuary/Temple implements in the Modena Spanish Bible with illustrations from the other Spanish Bibles show that the Modena Bible depictions belong to the earliest group of illustrations, in relation to the compositional arrangement of the vessels. This group comprises five Bibles, the earliest being the Toledo Bible made in 1277, now in the Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, (parms 2668, Fols. 7v-8). Other manuscripts of this group include a Bible copied in 1299 in Perpignan (Biblioteque National, Ms. Hebr. 7, fols. 12v-13) and a Catalonian Bible made in 1301 in Copenhagen (Cod. Heb. II, fols. 11v-12). We also know of an undated Bible with a similar arrangement of implements, which was previously in the Frankfurt Stadtsbibliothek (Ausst. 4, fols. 25v-26) but which is now in private hands.

The details of the implements in the last Bible are very similar to those which appear in the carpet pages of a Latin manuscript, "Scholastic History" by Peter Komestor, which was copied in Aragon in the fourteenth century. However, the depictions of the Sanctuary/Temple implements in the Spanish Hebrew Bibles do not include figures of people or animals, while in the Latin manuscript a figure of a lamb is depicted on the Altar of Sacrifice, in accordance with its Christian interpretation.

Amongst the manuscripts documented in the collections in Modena, were two Italian ketubbot, the earliest of them written on August 31, 1629 (Estense, Alpha L2). This ketubbah is special because it includes - in addition to the usual information (names of bride and groom, date and the place of marriage, Carpi) - a colophon of the artist noting his name, Elisha of Ascoli, and Mantua. Since the text incorporated within the decoration of the ketubbah's frame was made with the same script and in the same hand as the text of the ketubbah itself, it is possible to conclude that the entire ketubbah was prepared in Mantua and then brought to Carpi for the wedding ceremony. Indeed we know of a practice whereby decorated ketubbot were made in advance, with the precise details of the couple, date etc. being added later, upon purchase of the ketubbah. However, this phenomenon only occurred from the eighteenth century.

The ketubbah is lavishly decorated with a wealth of subjects and colors, as well as gold and silver leaf, and micrography. The upper part of the ketubbah is decorated with a scene of Jerusalem and a seven-branched menorah comprised of the words of Psalm 67. This is amongst the earliest known ketubbot decorated with a scene of Jerusalem. The earliest surviving ketubbah to include this scene was made in Rome two years earlier, in 1627 (Israel Museum Collection, 179/316: see Shalom Sabar, Mazal Tov, item nine). The tradition of writing Psalm 67 in the shape of a menorah developed in Italy from the fourteenth century, and was based on a kabbalistic interpretation of the Psalm, which ascribed properties of safekeeping and protection. The menorah appears rarely in ketubbot.

A coat of arms is depicted at the bottom part of the ketubbah, in the center of the lower margin. It is shaped in the form of a heart divided into two sections and includes a tree on the left, and on the right, a rampant lion supporting a tree. Apparently these are the symbols of the bride and groom's respective families, as was customary in Italian ketubbot. Six Biblical scenes enclosed within medallions also decorate the square frame of the ketubbah: the temptation of Adam and Eve; Mordechai the Jew being led by Haman; Isaac and Rebekkah leaving Laban; Jacob by the well; Esther before Ahasuerus; and the angels visiting Abraham and Sarah in their tent. It can be assumed that at least some of the Biblical scenes are linked to the bride and groom by the names of the characters depicted. It is possible, for example, to associate the scene of the temptation with the name of the bride, Chava (Eve) bat Raphael Yehoshua Ravina; or to link the scene of the angels' visit to Abraham with the groom's name, Shmuel Chaim ben Avraham Padova.

Another detail of interest in this ketubbah is the micrography which comprises the oval frame inlaid with cartouches. The micrography includes the words of verse one of Psalm 27: [A Psalm of David] "the Lord is my light and saviour." It is customary to say this Psalm at the end of the morning prayer from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Simchat Torah, and indeed, the date on the ketubbah shows that the wedding took place during the month of Elul.

Researchers are continuing their analysis of this outstanding collection of manuscripts, thus supplementing the Index of Jewish Art's wealth of information on Hebrew illuminated manuscripts.

This research project was assisted by the Amelia Valent Vigevani Memorial Fund.





Update: Documentation of Ritual Buildings in Germany

Following the completion of the four-year synagogue documentation project in Lower Saxony, the Center for Jewish Art and the University of Braunschweig have begun working together on the documentation of former synagogues, mikvaot and cemetery chapels in Sachsen-Anhalt, one of the federal states in eastern Germany. More than forty former synagogue buildings have been identified in Sachsen-Anhalt, approximately twenty-five still extant. This project, initiated in October 1997, has been made possible with the generous support of the Alfred Freiherr von Oppenheim-Stiftung, through the Stifterverband.

Approximately seventy architecture students from the University of Braunschweig are participating in the new project in Sachsen-Anhalt, providing detailed measurements, drawings and descriptions of the extant Jewish buildings in the region.

In conjunction with these documentation projects, a conference on "Architecture of Jewish Ritual Buildings in Eastern Germany" was held on February 10th, 1998 in Halle, Germany. This conference at the Franckeschen Stiftungen was held under the auspices of Israel's Consul in Berlin, Miryam Shomrat, in honor of Israel's fiftieth anniversary. The conference marked the inauguration of the three-year project to document synagogues in Sachsen-Anhalt and the successful completion of the documentation project in Lower Saxony.

Professor Dr. Paul Raabe, Director of the Franckeschen Stiftungen, opened the conference and introduced Consul Shomrat who underscored the importance of cooperation between Israeli and German scientists and students, not only to promote understanding of Jewish culture and history in Germany in the past, but also for mutual understanding in the present.

Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, Director of the Center for Jewish Art, gave a brief report on the Center's work on Jewish art and architecture. She underlined the significance of the synagogue documentation projects in Germany by architecture students who study the subject as part of their curriculum, and her aspiration for documenting endangered synagogues all over the world.

70 students studying the synagogue in Celle Professor Dr. Harmen Thies and Professor Dr. Ralph Busch with 70 architechture students studying the synagogue in Celle. These students are participating in the documentation of ritual buildings in Saschen-Anhalt.

Professor Dr. Harmen Thies, of Braunschweig University, who together with his team of architecture students has been partner in the documentation project with the Center for Jewish Art, spoke about the importance of Jewish ritual buildings as examples for documentation, description and analysis of architecture. Although the synagogue has been a common architectural structure for two thousand years, the styles have changed significantly with the adaptation of local styles. Professor Thies also stressed the great enthusiasm of the students working on this project.

Prof. Dr. Harmen Thies of Braunschwig University.

Professor Dr. Harmen Thies of Braunschweig University speaking at the conference in Halle, Germany.

Katrin Kessler and Ulrich Knufinke, two Ph.D. students at Braunschweig University who specialize in synagogue architecture, gave overviews of their work in Sachsen-Anhalt, showing some examples of former synagogues and cemetery chapels, some nearly destroyed, and some used as dwellings or museums.

Professor Dr. Wolfgang Niemeier, of Braunschweig University, and Dr. Friedrich Balck, of Clausthal University, presented several methods for measuring buildings. With the use of computer aided tachymetres and laser-scan methods, exact documentation of synagogues can be done in a short time. The documentation can then be transformed into three-dimensional models on computer. Dr. Sergei Kravtsov of the Center for Jewish Art and Professor Dr. Manfred Koob and Marc Grellert of Darmstadt University, presented several examples of 3-D computer models of extant synagogues. They gave a moving presentation of three monumental synagogues in Frankfurt-am-Main, destroyed in Kristalnacht in 1938, which they reconstructed on computer and made into a film.

In the evening, the audience was greeted by Professor Raabe and Dr. Klaus Faber, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt. Following was an address by Consul Shomrat in which she gave a short overview of the successful development of Israel in the twentieth century.

The organizers of the Halle conference expressed their desire to start further projects in other states of eastern Germany in the coming years. The impressive participation at the conference, which included members of the von Oppenheim family, scholars, architects, historians, representatives of Jewish communities, members of scientific institutes, representatives of organizations working for monument preservation, and politicians, demonstrated that there exists significant interest in the research of Jewish culture and history, especially among young students.

The project to document Synagogues and ritual buildings in Sachsen-Anhalt is being generously supported by the Alfred Freiherr von Oppenheim-Stiftung, through the Stifterverband. The project to document ritual buildings in Lower Saxony was supported by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony.

Documenting Ritual Buildings in Germany

This synagogue in Norderney is one of the 40 Jewish ritual buildings documented in Niedersachsen, with the University of Braunschweig. Their successful project is serving as a model for the newly initiated Sachsen-Anhalt project.

Synagogue in Norderney (3-D model)

Synagogue in Norderdey (current state)

In 1997 Center's researchers documented the Norderney Synagogue in Niedersachsen, Germany, which is used today as a Steakhouse. With the aid of photographs and plans, researchers were able to 'rebuild' a 3D computer model of the synagogue.






The Asea Furman Scholarship

Efrat Assaf-ShapiraThe recipient of the 1997-98 Asea Furman scholarship is graduate student Efrat Assaf-Shapira, a talented researcher in the Ritual Objects Section of the Jerusalem Index of Jewish Art. Efrat is currently studying for her Master's degree in the Art History Department of the Hebrew University, focusing her studies on Jewish art and iconography. Last summer Efrat participated in an expedition to document synagogue art and architecture in Tunisia, her first expedition with the Center. She is currently involved in an extensive survey and documentation project in the Lev Ha-'Ir neighborhood, established in the late nineteenth century as one of the first neighborhoods outside the walls of Jerusalem's old city. Her fieldwork and hands-on experience have contributed greatly to her graduate studies.

Jacobo Furman of Santiago, Chile established the Asea Furman Scholarship in 1991 in memory of his late wife who was an important collector of Jewish Art and dedicated supporter of the Center. The Center is honored to keep the memory of Asea Furman alive through this scholarship.

The Tania Finkelstein Scholarship

Jacobo Furman and Tania Finkelstein FurmanJacobo Furman of Santiago, Chile has established a second scholarship this year in honor of his wife, Tania, who shares his love and appreciation for Jewish Art as well as his passion for collecting. Together they own one of the most important collections of Judaica in the world and have recently published a beautiful volume of selected pieces from this collection. This year's recipient of the Tania Finkelstein Scholarship is graduate student, Boris Chaimovitch, one of the founders of the Jewish University in St. Petersburg, and part of the Center's research team since 1994. Boris has participated in numerous expeditions to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe including those to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Ukraine in the past year. He is currently preparing the groundwork for expeditions to Bulgaria and Ukraine to take place in 1998. The focus of Boris' research at the Center has been the iconography of synagogue decoration and tombstones. He taught these subjects this summer at the Center's Jewish Art Seminar held in St. Petersburg.

Boris Chaimovitch (far left) Boris Chaimovitch (far right) recipient of the Tania Finkelstein Scholarship, with the Center research team in Georgia.

Yad Hanadiv Scholarship

Yad Hanadiv has generously continued its involvement in the project to document the ritual objects in the Jewish Museum in Prague for its fourth consecutive year. The Center began its work surveying and documenting the Jewish Museum's large collection of over 30,000 pieces in 1994. The process of integrating the vast amounts of material into the Center's computer Index has been the intensive project of Center researcher Gila Pollack, who will again be this year's recipient of the Yad Hanadiv Scholarship. Gila will continue this year to work on the descriptions and comparative iconography of the items documented in the 1994 and 1995 expeditions. She is currently working on her Master's degree in Modern Jewish Art and also works in the Israel Museum's restoration department.

This porcelain "netilat yadayim" (hand washing vessel), dated 1843, has a painting of the Dresden Synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938. This object from the Prague collection is one of so many items currently being researched by Gila Pollack, recipient of thew Yad Hanadiv Scholarship.

Netilat yadayim (1843)Netilat yadayim (1843)

The Madeleine and Albert Erlanger Scholarship

The Madeleine and Albert Erlanger Scholarship has been granted this year to Heidi Bransome, Head of the Ancient Jewish Art Section of the Index of Jewish Art. Heidi, who is currently working on her Master's degree in Biblical Archeology and Art History, is particularly interested in studying the iconographical motifs in ancient art and their anthropological implications. In addition to the comprehensive work of computerizing material for the Index, she is currently researching the mahta which is one of the sanctuary implements. Although mahta is most often translated as snuff dish, researchers find that this translation is insufficient, as it does not properly describe the function of the object. In the Bible there are references to the mahta in relation to the altar and to the menorah. Its appearance is not certain nor is its exact function. It is also not known whether the mahta described in the Bible and depicted in mosaics, on capitals, and illuminated manuscripts, is that of the altar or that of the menorah, or whether or not they are the same implements. In her research, Heidi is trying to understand what this implement was, how it was used and what it symbolized for the Jewish people in ancient times.

Professors Madeleine and Albert Erlanger, great enthusiasts of Jewish art, are devoted supporters of the Center's activities. This is the fifth scholarship they have sponsored and they are also supporters of the Center's "Save-a-Synagogue" project.

The Leona Rosenberg Scholarship

Eliad Moreh, a gifted new researcher in the Ritual Art Section of the Index is this year's recipient of the Leona Rosenberg Scholarship. Currently a Master's degree student specializing in Art History with an emphasis on Modern Jewish Art, Eliad holds a B.A. in Art and English Literature from the Hebrew University. Eliad, who immigrated to Israel from Paris, was selected from amongst a group of students who participated in a documentation course given by the Center in February of this year.

Leona Rosenberg of Chicago has been a great friend of the Center's for many years, and has participated in the Center's symposia in Turkey and Bohemia and Moravia. This is the fifth student scholarship she has sponsored at the Center showing her great commitment and generosity to Jewish culture, education and the Hebrew University.

The Lillian and Harry Freedman Scholarship

Recipient of the Lillian and Harry Freedman Scholarship for the 1997-98 academic year is Michal Sternthal, who has contributed her excellent research skills to the Index of Jewish Art since 1994. She was the recipient of the prestigious Mordechai Narkiss Prize for Outstanding Research in Jewish Art in 1997. A graduate student in the Art History Department, Michal is specializing in Medieval Art and Illuminated Manuscripts. Her thesis project is the Regensburg Pentateuch and its affiliated manuscripts. The Regensburg Pentateuch was executed in Southern Germany ca. 1300. The earliest known record of the Pentateuch is from the Cracow Jewish community in 1601. It has been located at the Israel Museum since 1963.

As Head of the Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts Section of the Index, Michal coordinates her section's research, documentation and computerization. She has been especially busy with the project to update the computer system of the Index's database. The Section's current major project is the publication of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) collection, one of the most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts in the world. In conjunction with the JTS, Michal is coordinating the publication of twenty-two of the most beautiful and important manuscripts in the collection. This is the sixth volume to be published by the Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts Section, the Center's most prolific section with regard to publication. The upcoming volume will include illuminated prayer books such as mahzorim, siddurim and Passover haggadot as well as a Bible and a volume of Maimonides' legal treatise, the Mishneh Torah. The manuscripts span the period between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, and originate from regions all over the world, including Ashkenaz, Italy, Spain and Yemen.

Lillian and Harry Freedman of Newton, Massachusetts are very dedicated to the preservation of Jewish culture, and have generously supported the Center's project to document Jewish art in Poland. This is the second scholarship the Freedman's have sponsored.

Bloomfield/Schachter Grant for Architectural Research

In November 1997, the Center for Jewish Art's founder, Professor Bezalel Narkiss, gave a number of lectures in Montreal to Friends of the Hebrew University. At that time, he had the pleasure of meeting Evelyn Bloomfield Schachter who shares a deep interest in the Center's activities to preserve the Jewish artistic heritage, especially the documentation of endangered synagogues. As a result of that meeting, the Bloomfield/Schachter families, great friends of the Hebrew University, have decided to support a post-graduate research grant. The recipient of this grant is architect Ivan Ceresnjes, a recent immigrant from Bosnia-Herzegovina where he was the president of the Jewish community of Sarajevo.

The Center has been very fortunate to have Ivan as part of its team in the Architecture Section. Bringing with him both expertise in Central European architecture and an intimate knowledge of the Jewish community there, Ivan is now heading a most important project the Center is embarking on to document all the extant synagogues and Jewish sites in the former Yugoslavia. Ivan has conducted a survey of all extant Jewish sites in the former Yugoslavia and is planning the first expedition there which will take place this fall. Ivan has also been undergoing intensive training in the Center's methodology of documenting synagogues and in building three-dimensional models of synagogues on the computer.

The Philip and Lee Hixon Scholarship

Dr. A. Cohen-Mushlin and Prof. B. Narkiss with Lee Hixon (on the left)
Dr. A. Cohen-Mushlin
and Prof. B. Narkiss with 
Lee Hixon (on the left)

As longtime devoted friends of the Center for Jewish Art, Philip and Lee Hixon have been active supporters of the Center's documentation project in Poland. They are also veteran members of the Washington Chapter of the American Friends of the Hebrew University. In the past year, the Hixons hosted a double lecture by Professor Bezalel Narkiss and Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, at which time they announced the establishment of the Philip and Lee Hixon Scholarship.

Einat Ron, researcher in the Ritual Arts Section of the Index of Jewish Art, is the first recipient of this scholarship. Einat is presently a Master's degree student in the Department of Art History. In the past year she has extensively researched the 'Sacrifice of Isaac,' a central theme in Jewish art, at which time she delved into the documentation carried out in Poland. She is currently working on the image of the Tabernacle in Samaritan ritual art and preparing for an expedition to Bulgaria. Einat has completed her teaching degree and has been assisting high school students prepare for their matriculation exams in Art History.

The Albert E. and Eva Holland Scholarship

Professor Eva Engel Holland has generously donated a scholarship to the Center for Jewish Art. The Albert E. and Eva Holland Scholarship is dedicated in loving memory of her husband, Albert E. Holland, a great humanitarian and educator, who served as Vice-President of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges as well as Vice-President of Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachussetts. Holland was committed to the importance of community effort and to the needs and basic goals of intellectual excellence. Eva Engel Holland is a scholar of German language and Jewish history and is the general editor of the writings of Moses Mendelssohn, now in its thirtieth volume.

The Albert E. and Eva Holland Scholarship has been granted to Levana Tsfania, a researcher in the Ancient Jewish Art Section of the Index of Jewish Art. Levana is now completing her Master's degree in Classics and Art History at the Hebrew University, where she also completed her first degree in Archeology and Art History. The subject of her Master's thesis is the "Tower of Winds" monument in Athens, an ancient sun and water clock. Her current project within the Ancient Jewish Art Section of the Index is an ancient building in Hulda, which contains a mosaic panel of the sanctuary implements. There has been much conjecture about the function of the building, which may have been a mikveh, place of prayer, or most likely, a wine press. Levana who has been a researcher at the Index of Jewish Art for a year also works at the Antiquities Authority where she is working on a Samaritan ritual site on Mt. Gerizim in Nablus.

The Morris D. Baker Scholarship

This year's recipient of the Morris D. Baker Scholarship is Irina Chernetsky, a talented new member of the Ritual Arts Section of the Index of Jewish Art. Irina, who immigrated from Moscow in 1990, received her Bachelor's degree from the Hebrew University in the History of Art and Sociology and is studying Medieval and Renaissance art for her Master's degree. This past year she has taught art to kindergarten children in a program funded by the CRB Foundation. Irina recently participated in a documentation workshop given by the Center and was chosen from amongst the potential candidates to join the Center's staff.

Morris Baker, a successful developer in Windsor, Ontario, was also a serious amateur photographer and collector of art and photography. He was a devoted supporter of the Center for many years and was also involved with a spectrum of other Jewish organizations. Upon Morris' passing in 1996, Beverly established the Morris D. Baker Scholarship in his loving memory. This is the third scholarship she has given in his name.




Documentation Course

February, 1998



Teaching Jewish Values Through Art

Course, August 3-23, 1997

Twenty art teachers from the CIS and ten Israeli art teachers who immigrated from the CIS participated together in a course presented by the Society for Jewish Art on Jewish Art and Tradition. The goal of the course was to introduce the teachers to Jewish culture and assist them in integrating this new material into the regular art curriculum in their schools.

Jewish Art in Greece Symposium

September 8-18, 1997

The Center's very successful sixth biennial symposium took place in Greece and has led to preparations for future documentation expeditions.

One-year Enrichment Course for Kindergarten Coordinators and Teachers on "The Hebrew Year Cycle"

Course, September 1997-June 1998

 This course, presented by the Society of Jewish Art for teachers in the Tel Aviv region, covered the study of Jewish Art as expressed in traditional Jewish holidays as well as the secular holidays such as Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day. In addition to lectures by Center researchers, artist Yael Hoz presented a daylong workshop in June on Jewish Paper-Cutting.

Courses, Hebrew University Rothberg School for Overseas Students One Year Program

Fall 1997

 Dr. Shalom Sabar presented a one-semester course entitled "From Cradle to Grave: The Jewish Life-cycle in Art and Tradition."

Fall-Spring 1997-1998

Ruth Jacoby visiting the ancient synagogue in Corzin with students from her 'Synagogues through the ages' course.Three courses have been presented this year by the Center's Deputy Director Ruth Jacoby at the Rothberg School for Overseas Students: "Ancient Jewish Art," "Synagogues Through the Ages," and a course on "Archeology of Jerusalem," which was also offered in the preparatory program for new immigrants. For the first time, several non-Jewish students participated in the course about synagogues.

Visit to the Center for Jewish Art

October 28, 1997

Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin and Dr. Klaus Faber Dr. Klaus Faber, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany visited the Center for Jewish Art and was introduced to the ARC+ 3-D computer program which Center architects use for synagogue documentation.

Mordechai Narkiss Prize Ceremony

December 28, 1997

The recipient of this year's Mordechai Narkiss Prize for Outstanding Research in Jewish Art was Michal Sternthal, Head of the Hebrew Illuminated Manuscript Section of the Index of Jewish Art. The festive evening began with a candle lighting ceremony for the fifth night of Hanukkah and musical selections by Musica Eterna. Professor Bezalel Narkiss gave a moving tribute to his late father, Mordechai, founder of the Bezalel National Museum. Michal Sternthal, who has been part of the Center's research team since 1994, gave a lecture on the Regensberg Pentateuch.

Hanukkah Lamp Raffle

World-renowned Israeli artist Moshe Zabari generously donated an exquisite Hanukkah Lamp to the Center for Jewish Art, which was raffled at the Narkiss Prize Ceremony. Henry Vorenberg of New Jersey who owned the winning ticket generously re-contributed the prize to the Center. All the proceeds of the raffle are going towards the 1998 expeditions to document endangered art and architecture.

Israel Museum Lecture Series

December 1997-February 1998

This year's winter lecture series focused on documentation expeditions by Center researchers to Tunisia, presented by Ariella Amar and Georgia by Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin. Ruth Jacoby who led last Fall's biennial symposium to Greece, presented a lecture entitled "Jewish Art in Greece: A Reflection of the Multifaceted Community." All three lectures had record attendance.

Lectures in the United States and Canada


While Professor Bezalel Narkiss has been on sabbatical at the National Gallery of Art, he has used this opportunity to speak on Jewish Art and the activities of the Center for Jewish Art to friends in America from coast to coast.

Montreal: November 1997: Professor Narkiss was the guest of the Montreal Chapter of the Friends of the Hebrew University. His visit there included a reception at the Montefiore Club hosted by Edward Winant, during which Professor Narkiss talked about the Center's 1997 documentation expeditions. The evening began with a moving introduction by Sara Tauben, who heads the group of Friends of the Center for Jewish Art there. Professor Narkiss also visited the Holocaust Museum and lectured at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, where he also led a documentation workshop at the Library Museum.

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center
Visiting the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center are (from left to right), Professor Bezalel Narkiss; head of the Friends of the Center for Jewish Art in Montreal, Sara Tauben; Chairperson of the Archives Committee, Carol Burke; Archivist, Carol Katz; and Executive Director of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center, Bill Surkis

March, 1998: Linda and Hal Robinson hosted an evening for the Center for Jewish Art in Philadelphia where Professor Narkiss spoke on the Center's efforts to document endangered Jewish art and architecture.

March, 1998: The Vancouver Chapter of the Friends of the Hebrew University organized a stimulating and fruitful week for Professor Narkiss and Center Director Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin. Events included a Judaica Road Show where people brought their treasures from home for an explanation, receptions at the homes of Michael and Susan Hayden and Jean and Peter Cooperberg, a meeting with local Jewish professionals, and a luncheon with Vancouver artists.

The Friends of the Hebrew University in Vancouver
A visit with the Friends of the Hebrew University in Vancouver (From left to right), Nadia Kaplan,  Nomi Kaplan, Inge Manes, Susan Quastel,   Professor Narkiss, Dr. Cohen-Mushlin, Jerry  Growe, Dvori Balshine

March 1998: Professor Narkiss and Dr. Aliza Mushlin visited California where they lectured at the Concordia Club in San Francisco, and lectured at Temple Isaiah and then participated in a reception hosted by Lee and Philip Hixon in Palm Springs.

April 1998: Professor Narkiss and Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin were guests of the Friends of the Hebrew University in Boston where they presented the work of the Center at a reception hosted by Anne and Martin Peretz.

Architectural Conference in Halle, Germany

February 10, 1998

Center Director Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin and architect Sergei Kravtsov, attended this conference in Halle which celebrated the completion of the Neidersachsen Synagogue Documentation Project and the inauguration of a similar project in Sachsen-Anhalt.

Documentation Course

February, 1998

Center's researchers in the Museum of Art, Ein Harod.An intensive course in Jewish art documentation was given for graduate students of the Hebrew University's Art History Department. Researchers from the five different sections of the Index of Jewish Art presented a thorough review of their work in Jewish Art through a series of lectures and workshops. The course culminated with a field trip to Kibbutz Ein Harod where participants viewed a collection of ritual objects and to the Galilee region where they visited some of the important archeological sights and experienced, first hand, the methodology of fieldwork. As a result of this course, five graduate students have joined the team of the Index of Jewish Art.

Opening of the Jewish Museum in Athens

 March 10, 1998

 Deputy Director Ruth Jacoby, represented the Center for Jewish Art at the official opening of the Jewish Museum of Greece which took place at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens. Among the 1,500 guests attending this important event for the Greek Jewish community were government representatives and the Museum's new curator, Zanet Battinou. The Center is working closely with the museum in documenting this important collection of Romaniot and Sephardi Jewish art.

Seventh Annual Seminar on the "Hebrew Letter"

March 24, 1998

The Society for Jewish Art, in conjunction with the Emunah College conducted the seventh annual seminar on the "Hebrew Letter." The topic of this year's seminar was "Hebrew Writing in Art." Over 150 people attended.

50 Years of Israeli Art

April 13-14, 1998

The Society for Jewish Art held its thirtieth Annual Passover conference at the Israel Museum with a record attendance of over four hundred participants. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the State, the lectures dealt with the conflicts in Israel as reflected through Israeli Art. In addition to lectures by renowned scholars, the Israel dance company, Inbal, performed at the opening night reception.

Lecture Series on Jewish Art

May 1998

A teacher enrichment series on the subject of Jewish Holidays was presented in three lectures at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem by the Society for Jewish Art. Among the topics presented by Center researchers Michael Tal, Alissa Fried and Yael Klipper, was "The Modern Illustrated Haggadah."

Jewish Studies Lecture Series

May 1998

A series of lectures covering five subjects including: Synagogues and Ritual Objects; the Art of the Hebrew Book; Biblical Iconography; the Jewish Life Cycle; Jewish Year Cycle, was presented by the Society for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University School of Education. The six-lecture series presented over the course of three days will be continued during a summer course and a subsequent year course. Dr. Shalom Sabar, Dr. Rina Talgam, Ariella Amar, Michael Tal and Einat Ron presented lectures.

Judaica Fair

May 3-7, 1998

The Center displayed its many publications at this international gathering which is held every two years in Jerusalem.

Jewish Art Seminar at the St. Petersburg Jewish University

June 23-July 7

The Center held its fourth intensive seminar on Jewish Art for students, educators and community leaders from all over the C.I.S.


The Center for Jewish Art is saddened to mark the passing of Philip I. Berman, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, a devoted friend and supporter of the Center.

Mr. Berman, a noted philanthropist and art collector, was a staunch supporter of the Hebrew University, which granted both him and his wife honorary doctorates. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Friends of the Hebrew University and was deeply committed to supporting research in the fields of medicine, archeology and the arts. Together with his wife Muriel L. Berman, he contributed the Philip I. and Muriel M. Berman Center for Biblical Archeology, the Philip I. and Muriel M. Berman National Medical Library, and the Philip I. and Muriel M. Berman Scholarship and Fellowship program. His tremendous efforts on behalf of the University earned him the prestigious Scopus award, the highest honor given by the University.

With great foresight in understanding the importance of computerization, the Bermans donated to the Index of Jewish Art its first major computer, a Digital MicroVax II, in 1987.

Philip Berman's generosity and commitment to the Hebrew University are legendary, and he will never be forgotten.