Letter from Director
The local and worldwide disturbances of the past two years have delayed the publication of this newsletter but it has not thwarted the work of the CJA. If anything, the current wave of anti-Semitism directed against Jewish synagogues, cemeteries and art objects around the world has only renewed our determination to document Jewish art wherever it is found. Now, more than ever, we must join together and save the historical visual legacy which is threatened with destruction. Our researchers are continuing their systematic work inside and outside of Israel. The documentation expeditions of the past two years to Ukraine, former Yugoslavia, Germany, Italy, Greece and Uzbekistan have been successful in enlarging our knowledge of the visual culture of these communities. In some places, evidence of Jewish life remains in the form of illuminated manuscripts, ritual objects, architecture and painting; in many, the visual culture is long gone.Working with other cultural organizations through the Council of Europe, we are enlarging our efforts to preserve Jewish visual culture through documentation and computerization. Our Save-a-Synagogue program is being broadened to include art and ritual objects, photographs, verbal and historical documentary evidence, which will give a comprehensive image of a community. We continue to document these endangered sites and objects with the help of patrons and communities sponsoring our excursions in Israel and abroad. Countless sites still await documentation and others have not had the good fortune to survive the passage of time. Our team of researchers documented the synagogues and ritual objects in the remote island of Djerba in Tunisia. Unfortunately they were not allowed to document one of the community’s most important treasures: the large synagogue of el Ghriba. This was the site of a recent terrorist attack where some twenty tourists were killed. We were recently informed that the 18th-19th century wooden synagogue in Rozalimas, Lithuania was dismantled by two businessmen who wanted its wood for a new building; we were unable to raise the necessary $2000. in time to stop this from happening.We are in a race against time to fully document those buildings and their ritual treasures which are in constant danger of abandonment, collapse or disappearance. It is an enormous endeavour, one which requires many hours of preparation and a large team of student-researchers to do the on-site documentation, the post-expedition research and finally, the input of written and visual information into the computer database. As always, the work ahead looms large, with so much yet to be uncovered and documented.Occasionally, we must stop and look back upon what has been accomplished. This newsletter gives expression to the tireless work of student-researchers and supporting staff of the Center for Jewish Art who together are moving our enterprise forward during these difficult times. We trust you will enjoy catching up on the Center's activities of the past two years.