On Board: New Index Student-Researchers
In November 2001, a reception for potential student-researchers was held at the Hebrew University's Beit Meiersdorf. It brought together all current students and staff of the Jerusalem Index of Jewish Art with candidates for CJA scholarships. Prof. Bezalel Narkiss opened the event followed by a musical interlude of Ladino songs sung by Kokhava Levy accompanied by Betty Klein on harp and mandolin. Ariella Amar, Section Head of the Synagogues and Ritual Objects Section delivered a lecture “Tracing the Past” using the “Menorah of Zechariah" to illustrate the Index of Jewish Art’s approach to iconographic material and diverse traditions.
Candidates chosen from this group were given a 2-week course which included excursions and a survey of Jewish art through the cycle of life and the Jewish year. Advanced students in the Index prepared and delivered these lectures. Five new student-researchers were accepted into the program and have begun their work in various sections of the Index.
Eleven Years and Thriving: Seminars for Russian-Speaking Educators
Since 1991 annual seminars on Jewish art have been offered in collaboration with the St. Petersburg Jewish University, alternating venues between Jerusalem and St. Petersburg. They are organized by the CJA and the Society for Jewish Art and sponsored by the Joint Distribution Committee. In spring 2000 CJA lecturer Boris Khaimovich taught a full-semester introductory course on “Ashkenazi Visual Tradition” to 40 students at St. Petersburg. He was joined by Dr. Naomi Feuchtwanger-Sarig of Bar-llan University. In addition Boris taught a full-semester course on Jewish art at the University of Minsk in spring 2002 in Belarus.
In summer 2001, the ninth seminar in Jerusalem that brought together 20 artists and educators from the CIS and 30 Russian-speaking artists and educators living in Israel. The theme of the seminar was “Symbol and Narrative: Biblical Images in Jewish Art.” A follow-up symposium explored “Jewish and Israeli Identity in Art,” and featured among others, a one-woman performance by Russian actress Rachel Spector on the topic of cultural identity.
In autumn 2002, our seminar for Russian artists and educators took place in Kiev and Czernowitz as a joint venture with the Chase Center for the Study of Russian for Jewish Art. It was entitled “Towns, Palaces and Roads” and the organizers were Ilia Devorkin and Ariella Amar. Czernowitz was chosen because it has an active Jewish community, several synagogues and a good central location, allowing for travel and fieldwork to local shtetls. It is situated in a multicultural region where Hasidic and Mitnagdic movements flourished amongst other cultures and nations. This year, the scope of the courses was also enlarged to include Jewish history, mysticism, music, and theatre. Two exhibitions were shown in the CIS, offering the visual impressions of places visited by the artist-participants and one in Jerusalem at Beit Shmuel with a reception at the President’s house. It took place on December 23 to coincide with a daylong follow-up conference. Next year’s seminar will deal with the cultural ties between Ancient Rome and Jerusalem.
For more information, please contact Amia Boasson, Director of the Society for Jewish Art, tel. 02-5882280.
Situated in the Upper Rhine region, Alsace is the product of two overlapping cultures: German, and French. The Alsatian Jewish community, in existence since medieval times, is a unique amalgam of French and German-Jewish cultures reflected in its customs and art. In the fall of 2001 the Center for Jewish Art conducted a successful ten-day symposium in Alsace for thirty-five people. It was the eighth in a series organized by the CJA every second year.
Lectures and tours highlighted the visual and cultural legacy of Alsace, led by Prof. Bezalel Narkiss, Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, Ruth Jacoby and Cindy Mack. Among the guest lecturers were Prof. Yom-Tov Assis and Prof. Shalom Sabar of the Hebrew University, Prof. Freddy Raphael and Dr. Anny Bloch of the Marc Bloch University, Dr. Katia Guth-Dreyfus from the Jewish Museum of Basel and Lawrence Sigal of the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris. The contribution of the scholars and the hospitality of the local Jewish communities made this symposium particularly spirited and stimulating.
In the course of viewing hundreds of sacred and ceremonial objects and visiting what remains of synagogues and communities in this region the group gradually came to recognize the hard facts. When Hitler annexed Alsace, most of the Jews were annihilated; those who returned after the war could only partially reconstruct this special culture of Jewish life. What remains of the Alsatian visual legacy is rapidly disappearing and the CJA is planning an in-depth documentation of the art and architecture of Alsace following the survey.
“Once Upon a Picture”
An interactive educational multi-media program for children was produced in collaboration between the Center of Jewish Art and the Melton Center of the Hebrew University’s School of Education. The CD-ROM entitled “Once Upon a Picture” created by Ariella Amar, Gabi Fletcher and Debbie Katz, was presented by Ariella Amar (CJA) and Dr. Zvi Beckerman (Melton) at a conference in Columbus, Ohio in July 2002. The CD utilized the Biblical subject of “The Flood” to explore how pictures enhance our experience and understanding of Judaism. This CD showcased the approach of the Center for Jewish Art and Hebrew University’s Melton Center to Jewish education through the visual arts for a web-site currently being planned by the Melton Institute. Cultural and educational institutions were represented at the conference including Ohio State University, Columbus, various local museums, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Jewish Museum, NY. Ariella Amar delivered a lecture “Sacrifices: Test Case for a New Identity.” Founder Florence Melton participated in this event, energizing the proceedings with her enthusiasm for excellence in Jewish educational projects.
REDEEMING THE PAST:
Preservation and Restoration
The Center for Jewish Art is often called upon by local and international groups for advice on preservation and restoration of Jewish sites and art objects. This is an important bi-product of our work for the Index of Jewish Art.
The pursuit of reclaiming objects and sites in Vilnius, a community known for the famous Rabbi Eliahu, the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797) has been an ongoing one. In July 2000, CJA Director Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin participated in an international seminar in Vilnius devoted to “Problems and Protection and Reconstruction of the Vilnius Jewish Ghetto.” It brought together members of the Lithuanian Parliament, notably Emanuelis Zingeris, architects and heritage protection specialists to discuss the proposed reconstruction of three areas in the Vilnius Jewish ghetto. At this time, the reconstruction is successfully underway. In 1993 the Center documented the collection in the Jewish Museum in Vilnius (see CJA Newsletter 9, Spring 1994).
Coincidently, the IJA was called upon by the Landmark Preservation Committee in 2002 to a synagogue in Tel Aviv established by a community of Mitnagdim originating from Vilna. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the Beit Knesset HaGaon MiVilna has wall paintings made by a local artist. Like the structure itself, the paintings are in need of preservation. Ariella Amar, Head of the Synagogues and Ritual Objects Section offered her recommendations for preservation and restoration.
Ariella Amar is currently involved in consultations with the Landmark Preservation Committee on restoring the wall-paintings of the Yeshiva Ha-Gedolah in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood and Jewish ritual objects in Safed’s Abohab Synagogue.