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The Center for Jewish Art
Documents Endangered Jewish Visual Heritage

 

The only two synagogues in Dushanbe, Tajikistan were demolished on 18th May 2008. Had it not been for the architectural documentation by the Center for Jewish Art of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, another Jewish monument would have vanished without a trace.

Torah Ark before destruction

Synagogues during destruction

Torah Ark before destruction

Synagogues during destruction

Collapse and ruin are the fate of hundreds of synagogues in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and thousands of others throughout the world.  While we can never bring the synagogues and their communities back to life, we can preserve their memory through the documentation and study of their remaining visual culture.

For over thirty years the Center for Jewish Art, a research institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has carried out a comprehensive documentation program of the visual cultural heritage of the Jewish people. Through detailed descriptions and photography by our researchers the vanishing objects are preserved for future generations. The late Prof. Bezalel Narkiss, Israel Prize laureate, established the Jerusalem Index of Jewish Art, in which there are at present about 250,000 documents of objects originating from all over the globe, which range from a coin to a complex of synagogues.

The data is stored as five sections of the Index: Ancient and Modern Arts, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts, Ritual Objects and Jewish Ritual Architecture. The decorated objects are classified according to iconographical subjects, with references to Jewish textual sources.

Our fieldwork of rescue expeditions carried out by postgraduates, Ph.D. candidates and post-doctoral Hebrew University researchers is a race against time, looking for  abandoned monuments and objects which are being sold or stolen. The Jerusalem Index has documented the remains of Jewish heritage in over 40 countries, in Eastern and Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

Researchers documenting Ritual Objects in Torino

Researchers documenting Ritual Objects in Torino

The aim of the Center is to educate the young generation to appreciate the rich and multifaceted Jewish visual culture, in order to strengthen the Jewish identity. It does so by disseminating the researched material through seminars, conferences and publications. 

It is impossible to physically preserve the entire visual heritage of the Jewish people.  It is, however, technically possible and economically viable to virtually preserve much of the cultural treasures through a systematic documentation of all objects and synagogue buildings before they disappear.  Our ultimate goal is to place the material on a computerized database so that it can be accessed by all via the internet. Samples can be viewed in our site: http://cja.huji.ac.il

Documentation Expeditions
of the Center for Jewish Art

1962-2010

Albania  2003
Austria  1994, 1998-2005
Azerbaijan  1994, 1997
Belarus  1993-2003, 2007
Bosnia/Herzegovina  1998-2004
Bulgaria  1998
Canada  1998, 1999
Croatia  1986, 1987, 1998, 2000-2007
Czech Republic  1994, 1995
Dagestan - 1994
Denmark  1979-1989
Egypt  1983, 1984
France  1972-1989, 1999, 2002
Georgia 1997, 1999
Germany  1985, 1994-2010
Greece  1996, 1997, 1999, 2001-2003
Hungary  1986, 1988, 1990
India  1995
Ireland  1975-1980
Israel  1979-2007
Italy  1983, 1985, 1990, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2009

Latvia  2000, 2007, 2008, 2009
Lithuania  1993, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
Macedonia  2003
Moldova  1994
Montenegro  2004
Morocco  1992, 1993
Poland  1991-1995, 1997
Romania  1993, 1996, 1997, 2009
Russia 1989-1994
Serbia  1986, 1987, 2001, 2002, 2004
Slovakia  2001
Slovenia  2000
Spain  1987
Tunisia  1997
Turkey  1992-1994
Ukraine  1991-2003, 2007
United Kingdom  1962-1997
United States  1988-1992, 1998
Uzbekistan  1992, 2000, 2002-2010
Vatican  1985

Before Vanishing Forever

Future rescue expeditions and research projects
 by the Center for Jewish Art

A rescue expedition lasts between 2-3 weeks and includes two architects, two researchers, and a photographer.  The team documents in situ about 10 buildings (depending on their size) and about 200 ritual objects.  Documentation includes: measuring and sketching, photographing and describing in order to produce architectural plans and informative documents about the objects.
A complete research of the gathered material prepared for publication lasts 2-3 years.

Romania
Iasi Synagogue
Iasi Synagogue
Out of 90 remaining former synagogue buildings we wish to document 10 synagogues and ritual objects (presently in various collections).

Emilia Romagna
Mantua Synagogue, Torah Ark
Mantua Synagogue, Torah Ark
We wish to document 10 former synagogue buildings and ritual objects (presently in various collections).

Austria
Hainburg Synagogue
Hainburg Synagogue
Out of 43 remaining former synagogue buildings we wish to document 10 synagogues and ritual objects (presently in various collections).

Belarus
Bykhov Synagogue
Bykhov Synagogue
Out of 67 remaining former synagogue buildings we wish to document 10 synagogues.

Ukraine
Brody Synagogue
Brody Synagogue
Out of 50 remaining former synagogue buildings we wish to document 10 synagogues.

Poland
Orla Synagogue, interior
Orla Synagogue, interior
Out of 352 remaining former synagogue buildings we wish to document 10 synagogues.

Uzbekistan
Bukhara, Aminov House
Bukhara, Aminov House
10 Jewish houses with private synagogues should be documented to complete our 10 year's work in the country.

Tunisia
Cohanim De'getiyah Synagogue
Cohanim De'getiyah Synagogue
We wish to document 10 former synagogue buildings and ritual objects (presently in various collections).

England
Marriage ceremony, Joav Emmanuel Manuscript, Ferrara?, 1452
Marriage ceremony, Joav Emmanuel Manuscript, Ferrara?, 1452 (London, Jews' College Library, Mont.MS 249, fols. 10v-12)
One year scholarship for two Ph.D. students, to complete the second volume of the catalogue: Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Isles, Italian Schools.

Latvia
Daugavpils Synagogue
Daugavpils Synagogue
Salaries for two years for a Ph.D. architect and a Ph.D. historian to write the catalogue and book: Synagogues in Latvia.

 

Join us in preserving the Jewish visual heritage
before it vanishes forever.
Mount Scopus, Humanities Building, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Tel.: (972-2) 5882281 |  Fax.: (972-2) 5400105
E-mail: cja@mail.huji.ac.il
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Last Updated: 21 October, 2014
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