At the center of a large architectural edifice, a man contemplates “the terrestrial globe bursting forth from the midst of clouds and receiving luminous emanations from the Most High.” Around this image is a fantastically elaborate array of niches containing narrative scenes, friezes and frames enclosing blocks of text, rows of figures, Kabbalistic symbols and programs, Zodiac signs, and divine names. Beneath, in Hebrew and English, is the title “Origin of the Rites and Worship of the Hebrews”. The work was reproduced and published for the American public in 1859 together with an “Explication”, a one hundred twelve page explanatory booklet translated from the original French, 3 by Max Wolff, rabbi of Ohabei Shalom Congregation in Boston, who later served as a cantor in San Francisco.
The Magnes’ magnificent red and gold Torah ark from India is now on display in the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s year-long exhibition “As it is Written.” It has not been exhibited since the museum’s Telling Time exhibit in 1999-2000 and the CJM show gives it a spectacular setting.
Sukkot celebrates the end of the harvest season. Families and their guests enjoy festive meals in little huts decorated with seasonal fruits and vegetables, recalling the temporary dwellings of the biblical Israelites during their desert wanderings. Share and Enjoy:
Share and Enjoy:
One of the best-known paintings in the Magnes Museum is “The Jewish Wedding,” signed in Cyrillic letters ‘A. Trankowski’. Museum records include some curious information about its provenance but the painting itself is even more of a mystery – who was the artist? When did he paint it? Why did it become so popular? And most of all – is it a forgery?
A stained and torn page was discovered up the Magnes ephemera collection – a copy of a poem hand-written on paper signed at the bottom by Meir Leibush Malbim, Chief Rabbi of Bucharest. But the poem is not a part of the regular Jewish liturgy found in ordinary prayer books – it is a prayer for the welfare of King Alexander Johann I of Romania. There’s no record of the donor of the piece or how it came into the collection. And there is no information about who might have copied it, or why…
A theater poster by artist Felice Pazner Malkin was found in the Magnes collection. It advertises the 1953 Habima production of the play ‘Cruelest of All – the King” and shows a woman with bowed head clutching her red robe about her, hiding her face; the only text is the name of the play and theater. The artist was in important figure in the development of modern Israeli theater poster design and offers a fascinating account of its cultural context.
We use the term ephemera to describe all sorts of works printed or written on paper that had only a temporary usefulness and were never intended to last very long. Our collection contains everything from memorial and devotional plaques to calendars, pictures, synagogue seating plans and donation recorders, all of them collected and sold or donated to the museum at one time or another by curators, donors, volunteers, and members of the community seeking an appropriate home for their treasures and curiosities.
Ephemera offer a look into all sorts of interesting corners of the Jewish community – ephemera blog # 1 introduces us to the Jewish community of Tlemcen, Algeria.
Shavuot celebrates the beginning of the wheat harvest and, according to the Bible, any sheaves or stalks of grain that fall to the ground while the field owner’s reapers are working must be left for the poor.
A devoted but busy mother (my own mother told me this story, trying to make a point) insisted on taking a nap every afternoon. When her children would beat on the door and whine for her to come out, she would answer in Yiddish: קי� דער איך מאך דיר א מאמע– children, I am making you a mother!