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The Jewish Museum

VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 10

									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.

								
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