Recent Publications on Jewish art, Architecture and Historic Preservation 2019-2020
Stürzebecher, Maria and Claudia D. Bergmann, eds. Erfurter Schriften zur jüdischen Geschichte BAND 6 Ritual Objects in Ritual Contexts. (Jena/Quedlinburg: Bussert & Stadeler, 2020).
Bazelon, Bruce S. “The Trek Uptown: The Migration of Harrisburg’s Jewish Community in the Early Twentieth Century,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies. 87:1 (Winter 2020), 179-191.
Cooper, Alanna E. “Windows Without a Home,” Tablet Magazine (July 13, 2020) online at: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/community/articles/stained-glass-windows-without-a-home
Fine, Steve. “Some Thoughts on the Petersberg »Menorah« and the History of Seven-Branched Lampstands in Medieval Europe,” Erfurter Schriften zur jüdischen Geschichte BAND 6 Ritual Objects in Ritual Contexts, 52-56.
The seven branched lampstand within a church was thus a symbol of Christ and his Church. In theological terms, it had nothing to do with Jews – except to supersede them. This is a very important point in dealing with the Petersberg Lampstand, and all Christian lampstands. — The biblical lampstand in Christian contexts was not a Jewish »menorah« as some today would call it, but the lampstand of Christ Jesus. It is a mistake, then, to refer to the Christian lampstand as a menorah, as I myself did in The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel. This use of Jewish terminology, drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures for Christian lampstands, wipes away what is distinctly Christian in these lamps and what is distinctly Jewish about the menorah. While such elision may be comforting in our own world, it takes away from the history of both communities, asserting false closeness between the majority and the minority in medieval (and modern) Europe. When adopted by contemporary Christians – Evangelicals and sometimes Catholics and mainline Protestants – it is for their own theological and cultural purposes in their own search for a »usable history«.19 In Germany it is all the more complex, a facet of the regrettably not-yet-complete postwar rapprochement between Christians and Jews. My sense is that the next steps require us to reassert and celebrate the distinctive in each community, even as we continue to seek out all that Jews and Christians share(d).
Gruber, Samuel D. “Four Synagogues and A Hillel House: Notes from a Quick Trip to Rhode Island” Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association Notes, 2019.
Gruber, Samuel D. “The Brunner Plan for the Harrisburg Capitol Complex,” ” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies. 87:1 (Winter 2020), 155-163.
Seligman, Jon. “Between Yerushalayim DeLita and Jerusalem—The Memorial Inscription from the Bimah of the Great Synagogue of Vilna” Arts 2020, 9(2), 46
Abstract: During excavations of the bimah (the platform for reading the Torah) of the 17th-century Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius, Lithuania), an important memorial inscription was exposed. This paper describes the new finds associated with the baroque-rococo architecture of the bimah and focuses on the inscription and its meaning. The Hebrew inscription, engraved on a large stone slab, is a complex rabbinic text filled with biblical allusions, symbolism, gematria, and abbreviations. The text describes the donation of a Torah reading table in 1796 in honor of R. Ḥayim ben Ḥayim and of Sarah by their sons, R. Eliezer and Shmuel. The inscription notes the aliyah (emigration) of Ḥayim and Sarah to Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel. The interpretation of the inscription shows the use of multiple messianic motifs. Historical analysis identifies the involvement of the Vilna community with the support of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Ottoman Palestine) and the aliyah of senior scholars and community leaders at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Amongst these figures were Ḥayim ben Ḥayim and Sarah, with Ḥayim ben Ḥayim going on to represent the Vilna community in the Land of Israel as its emissary, distributing charitable donations to the scholarly Ashkenazi community resident in Tiberias, Safed, and later Jerusalem.
Simhony, Naomi. “Exceptionally Jewish: Israeli Synagogue Architecture in the 1960s and 1970s“, ARTS
This article examines three exceptional synagogues designed in Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. It aims to explore the tension between these iconic structures and the artworks integrated into them. The investigation of each case study is comprised of a survey of the architecture and interior design, and of ceremonial objects and Jewish art pieces. Against the backdrop of contemporary international trends, the article distinguishes between adopted styles and genuine (i.e., originally conceived) design processes. The case studies reveal a shared tendency to abstract religious symbolism while formulating a new Jewish-national visual canon.
Singer, Matthew Frederick. “Faith in Beauty and Progress” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies. 87:1 (Winter 2020), 97-107
Fine, Steven, ed. Jewish Religious Architecture From Biblical Israel to Modern Judaism. (Leiden: Brill, 2019).
Yaniv, Bracha. Ceremonial Synagogue Textiles: From Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Italian Communities (Liverpool: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization in association with Liverpool University Press, 2019).
Articles & Chapters:
Cooper, Alanna E. “Saying Kaddish for a Rust Belt Congregation,” Tablet Magazine (Jan. 8, 2019) online at https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/kaddish-for-a-rust-belt-congregation
Simhony, Naomi. “The Modern Israeli Synagogue as an Experiment in Jewish Architecture,” in Israel as a Modern Architectural Experimental Lab: 1948-1978, Edited by Inbal Ben-Asher Gitler and Anat Geva, (Bristol, UK and Chicago, USA: Intellect books, 2019) 173-198.
The present chapter analyses the exceptional designs of three synagogues built during Israel’s first three decades of statehood. In the reviewed period, Israeli architecture was devoted to the building of a nation and the forging of a new Jewish and Israeli identity. The architecture of several synagogues built in that period is characterized by exceptional expressive features. Such are the synagogues reviewed in this chapter: the Central Synagogue in Nazareth Illit, designed by architect Nahum Zolotov (1960–1968); the Military Officers’ School Synagogue in Mitzpe Ramon, designed by architects Alfred Neumann and Zvi Hecker (1967–1969); and the Heichal Yehuda Synagogue in Tel Aviv, designed by architect Yitzhak Toledano and structural engineer Aharon Rousso (1972–1980). Architectural historian Amiram Harlap describes these synagogues in his book, where he portrays them as expressing Jewish symbols and ideas. I maintain that Harlap’s interpretation contributed to these buildings’ later reception as canonical Israeli synagogues. The present research investigates the tension between the synagogues’ designs and their interpretations.