VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 10 POSTED ON: 11/16/2012
Chaya Leverton Scrapbook In my quest to connect with my past through the art of today, I chose to visit the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side. The museum traces Jewry throughout the ages, from antiquity until today. The exhibits are set up chronologically and lead the visitor through a magnificent maze of time. I climbed stairs and turned corners, becoming more and more fascinated with each step I took. I kept a steady pace walking through the exhibits, stopping to gaze and reflect periodically. But when I came across “The Ancient Synagogue” exhibit, I allowed myself to linger a while longer to take in its splendor. What immediately fascinated me was the Middle Eastern flair of the room- the walls are light blue and the floor is an intricate circular mosaic design divided into 12 sections, each containing an animal or a symbol. I assume that the 12- piece circle represents the Jewish calendar and the symbol associated with each month. A tablet on the wall explains the exhibit. In 70 CE the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Without their Temple, the Jews had to rely on other strategies for maintaining their religion and cultural identity. As a result, religion shifted to the prayer-and-study based practices of rabbinic Judaism. The synagogue, designed for communal prayer and study, became the primary religious institution for Jews (in Israel and the rest of the world). The exhibit features ancient remains of synagogues from Israel. Beginning in the 3rd century CE, synagogues were sometimes decorated with mosaic floors and wall frescoes. Jewish symbols, motifs, and Biblical figures were often incorporated into the design. Representations of animals and bird were also common. Israel, 6th-7th century Cut stone ;mortar Israel Antiquities Authority 87-113/5 Restoration funded by Estate The mosaic contains shofrot (ram’s horns), pomegranates, and grapes. The floor was part of a bench-lined room that was part of a synagogue complex. Probably Israel, late 4th-5th century Cut stone; mortar Private collection, London “This panel from a synagogue floor features an important motif that emerged in Jewish art in antiquity: a Torah shrine flanked by Temple implements (menorah, plants related to the pilgrimage holiday of Sukkot, and a shovel for incense…” Israel, 4th-6th century Cut stone; mortar Gift of Erwin Harvith The Inhabited scroll design became popular. I continued on from one exhibit to the next through a whirlwind of history, culture, religion, nationality, architecture, customs, and art. I saw both tragedy and despair and celebration and hope. I saw worlds destroyed with a vengeance and worlds rebuilt with vigor. And, most importantly, I got a flashback into my past and a glimpse into my future.
"The Jewish Museum"