Sunday, October 10, 2010

Germany: A Dramatic and Entirely New Synagogue Form for Historic Mainz


Above: Old (New) Synagogue of Mainz, destoryed on Kristallnacht (from postcard).
Below: Architect Manuel Herz with model of new synagogue (photo: AFP).


Germany: A Dramatic and Entirely New Synagogue Form for Historic Mainz

Last month Germany opened its newest - and most unusual synagogue building. The Mainz Jewish community is one of Germany's most historic - dating back at least to dynamic intellectual heyday in the Middle Ages. Now the small community is the most contemporary and cutting edge - at least architecturally. As Gavriel Rosenfeld explains in an article in The Forward, architect Manuel Herz's design is something entirely new. It derives not from any traditional (Jewish or otherwise) building vocabulary, but from the very vocabulary and calligraphy of Hebrew prayer. This is in stark contrast to other new synagogues in Germany - notable the monumental synagogue in Munich that recalls the architecture of the Jerusalem Temple in its stark and simply geometry and massing. Formally, the new Mainz synagogue is obviously inspired by the architecture of Daniel Libeskind (with whom Herz studied), most notably at his museums of Osnabruck and Berlin. From what I can tell from photos, the synagogue combines the drama of the Berlin Jewish Museum with the intimacy of the Nussbaum Museum in Osnabruck (which is now being expanded - so what the future holds is still unknown).


For photos click here.


How the New Synagogue in Mainz Has Its Cake and Eats It Too

by Gavriel Rosenfeld

The construction of a new synagogue is always an occasion for celebration, so it was with particular pomp that the Rhineland city of Mainz recently dedicated its new synagogue and Jewish community center. The dedication ceremonies, held September 3, featured an array of German politicians, including German President Christian Wulff. Many of them blessed the new building and underscored its symbolic significance. Yet, while the synagogue received its share of blessings, it also gave physical expression to them in its architectural form. Designed by the German-Jewish architect Manuel Herz, Mainz’s striking new synagogue complex traces its inspiration back to the third “blessing” in the Amidah — the Kedusha. The connection between the word and the synagogue’s appearance is not immediately obvious. But Herz’s drawings for the building reveal that its sawtooth form partly derives from the jagged pattern produced by the word’s five Hebrew letters: kuf, daled, vav, shin and hay.

Read the entire article here.


You can also read more about the synagogue and Mainz here.

USA: Fine Judaica Auction October 27th

Fine Judaica: Hebrew Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters and Graphic Art To Be Offered At Auction On Wednesday, October 27th

(CHAGALL, MARC). Chaliastra. [Yiddish Language Art Periodical]. No. 1. Avant-garde illustrations, including Chagall’s designs to David Hofstein’s poems (pp. 10 and 48). pp. 71, (1). Lightly browned. Original color-illustrated wrappers bound into modern boards, front cover tape-repaired, back cover detached. Sm. folio.
Kestenbaum & Company’s Fall auction of Fine Judaica will take place on Wednesday, October 27th at 1pm at the firm’s Manhattan gallery located at 242 West 30th Street. Viewing beforehand will be held from Sunday, October 24th through Tuesday, October 26th.
The extensive sale of Hebrew Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters and Graphic Art will include American-Judaica and Rare Books from the Library of Gratz College, Elkins Park (Part II); German, Haskallah and Related Books from the Library of the Late Philosopher, Prof. Steven Schwarzschild and Exceptional Rabbinic Autograph Letters from a Private Collector.
Kestenbaum & Company provides the following information about the sale:
Hebrew Incunabula are particularly coveted by discerning book collectors and this auction offers a number of them for sale. Most compelling are several leaves from the first publication of the Talmudic Tractate Kidushin, Guadalajara, circa 1480, at an estimate of $35,000-50,000. This early Spanish fragment is of the utmost rarity (lot 279). Two other incunabula of note include a 1484 copy of Yedai’ah Bedersi’s Bechinath Olam, estimate $10,000-15,000 (lot 53) and a scarce second edition (incomplete) of the Soncino Roman Machzor, 1486, at an estimate of $10,000-12,000 (lot 210A).
Additional important early Hebrew Printed Books include two works by Samson ben Isaac of Chinon -- Sepher Kerithoth, estimate $6,000-8,000 (lot 261) and Peirush HaGet, estimate $3,000-5,000 (lot 262) both were printed in Constantinople in 1515. Good examples of Early Bibles in the sale include the first Polyglot Bible, Genoa, 1516, estimate $4,000-6,000 (lot 55) and Estienne’s splendidly printed pocket Hebrew Bible, bound in 14 volumes, Paris, 1543-46, at an estimate of $4,000-6,000 (lot 56). A later Bible of significance is a Hebrew Pentateuch from Vienna, 1815, government-authorized to be used in the Courts of Law in Prague to administer the Oath to Jewish witnesses, estimate $2,500-3,500 (lot 64).

Highlights among the Passover Hagadoth in the sale include a copy of the second Amsterdam Hagadah with a large folding map of the Holy Land, 1712, estimate $4,000-6,000 (lot 141), a most unusual Hagadah printed in English by the London Times newspaper on August 17th, 1840 in relation to the Blood Libel raised against the Jews during the “Damascus Affair”, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 143) and the Toulouse Hagadah, produced from memory by Jews imprisoned in French internment camps during the Second World War, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 154).
Other notable volumes include two Chassidic Books related to the Chabad movement, both written by Shneur Zalman of Liadi- - Likutei Amarim (second edition), Zolkiew, 1799, estimate $8,000-10,000 (lot 80) and Likutei Torah (first edition), Zhitomir, 1848 and 1851, estimate $3,000-5,000 (lot 83); a Machzor according to the custom of Catalonia, Salonika, 1526, estimate $2,000-3,000 (lot 211) and a Machzor, Amschel Mayer Rothschild’s personal copy, Roedelheim, 1800, at an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (lot 258).
Early medical and scientific books are represented by first editions of Tobias Cohn’s Ma’aseh Tuvia from Venice 1707, estimate $2,500-3,500 (lot 88) and Joseph Solomon Delmedigo’s Sepher Ma’ayan Ganim, Amsterdam, 1629, at an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (lot 98).
Among books relating to Germany and the early Haskallah movement, of particular interest is Johann Jakob Schudt’s Jüdischer Merckwürdigkeiten which chronicles the life of the Jews of Frankfurt, 1714, estimate $1,500-2,500 (lot 126) and the first German edition of the Mishnah, 1760-63, at an estimate of $700-1,000 (lot 236).
The American Judaica section of the sale features unique selections such as a handwritten Hebrew Marriage Certificate dated July 1861 from Peoria, Illinois, estimate $12,000-18,000 (lot 21). Also prominent within the Americana section are a number of “firsts”: Isaac Leeser’sHebrew-English Pentateuch, the Yuly copy bound in five volumes, Philadelphia, 1845-6, the first such translation published in America, estimate $7,000-9,000 (lot 12); Judah Monis’ Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue, the first Hebrew Grammar published in the New World, Boston, 1735, estimate $10,000-15,000 (lot 7), a volume of The Jew, edited by Solomon Henry Jackson, distinguished for being the first Jewish Periodical in America, New York, 1823-4, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 11); and The American Magazine for June 1758, containing a Rabbinic sermon in English, the very first such text published in America, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 8).
Books relating to Israel and Zionism include two significant editions of Theodor Herzl’s important manifesto, Der Judenstaat; The first Hebrew edition, Warsaw, 1896, estimate $2,000-3,000 (lot 285) and the first edition to be printed in America, New York, 1904, at an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (lot 286). Further offerings include an early and fascinating Palestine Telephone Directory from 1938, estimate $1,000-1,500 (lot 188) and the first edition of Charles Forster’s study of Hebrew inscriptions found in the Sinai Desert and published with albumen photographs, London, 1862, at an estimate of $800-1,200 (lot 186).
Other books of interest include the first edition of Baruch de Spinoza’s highly influential philosophical work Opera Posthuma, Amsterdam, 1677, estimate $6,000-9,000 (lot 278), Bernard Picart’s illustrated Histoire Générale des Cérémonies, Moeurs, et Coutumes Religieuses de tous les Peuples du Monde, complete in seven volumes, Paris, 1741, estimate $3,000-5,000 (lot 306) and a Hebrew translation of William Shakespeare’s Othello, which was the first appearance of any of Shakespeare’s plays in the Hebrew language, Vienna, 1874, at an estimate of $600-900 (lot 267).
Prominent among the modern Art and Literary Books is a rare complete set of the short-lived journal Albatros, which had enormous impact upon the modernist Yiddish literary scene in Poland, estimate $1,500-2,500 (lot 139) and Marc Chagall’s illustrations for the Yiddish language art journal Chaliastra, Paris, 1924 at an estimate of $800-1,200 (lot 295). Many illustrated books are featured in the auction including: Meir Gur-Arye, E. M. Lilien, Moritz Oppenheimer, Ze’ev Raban, Reuven Rubin, Issachar ber Ryback, Raphael Soyer, Joeseph Tchaikov, Anna Ticho and Wilhelm Wachtel.
Leading the offerings in the Manuscripts Section of the sale is a large Prayerbook according to the meditations of Rabbi Isaac Luria, 1732-38, at an estimate of $20,000-25,000 (lot 352). The auction catalogue cover lot, a striking Family Tree from Vilna, begun in 1901, is extraordinary for its elaborate and most original artistry. The pre-sale estimate is $15,000-20,000 (lot 349). Additional highlights are Moreh Tzedek an extensive manuscript penned in the 18th century by the Sha’agath Aryeh’s first cousin, estimate $10,000-12,000 (lot 362), a collection of Hebrew medieval manuscript fragments, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 357) and a Pinkas from the legendary Churvah Synagogue, Jerusalem, 1889-96, at an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (lot 351).
The Autograph Letters section of the sale is particularly impressive and is sure to garner buyers’ attention. Consigned from a single Private Collection, on offer are written communications by some of the most important and influential Rabbinic authorities of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Included are letters penned by Israel Abu-Hatze’ira (the Babi Sali), Abraham Mordechai Alter (the Grand Rabbi of Gur), Moshe Yitzchak Gewirtzman (Reb Itzikel), Shlomo Goldman (Reb Shloimkeh Zeviller), Samson Raphael Hirsch, Abraham Isaiah Karelitz (the Chazon Ish), Moses Sofer (the Chatham Sofer) and Yoel Teitelbaum (the Satmar Rebbe) among others. Of special note are letters by Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin (the Chofetz Chaim), estimate $15,000-20,000 (lot 332), Menachem Mendel of Shklov, estimate $25,000-35,000 (lot 337) and Reb Chaim Soloveitchik, estimate $12,000-18,000 (lot 342), a most surprising letter written to Chief Rabbi Kook.
A petite section of Graphic Art rounds out the sale. It includes a particularly striking gouache from the Book of Esther by Saul Raskin, estimate $3,000-4,000 (lot 363).

For further information relating to bidding or any other queries, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

USA: Eldridge Street Synagogue Installs New Stained Glass Window




New York, NY. Eldridge Street Synagogue, views of Ark wall with 1944 windows, and design, installation and projection of new window by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans. Photos: Courtesy of Museum at Eldridge Street.

USA: Eldridge Street Synagogue Installs New Stained Glass Window

Tomorrow - October 10, 2010 - the Museum at Eldridge Street in New York City will introduce a monumental new stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans. This permanent artwork is, in the words of museum's website, "the culminating piece of our 24-year, award-winning restoration of the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, a New York City and National Historic Landmark. The introduction of this installation in our historic sacred site marries the new and the old, and places the museum at the crossroads of art, architecture, history and preservation."

See and hear on video Smith and Gans discuss their concept by clicking here.


The new design will replace a tablet-shaped glass block window, introduced in 1944 after the original stained glass was damaged. At the time, the congregation did not have funds to return it to its original grandeur. The treatment of the replacement in the course of restoration of the entire 19th century synagogue interior highlighted a classic preservation dilemma: How do you treat an important design element that has been lost or altered, and does every phase of a building's history have equal value in the conservation/preservation process.

The Museum staff met with leading architects, preservationists, historians and curators to help decide how to treat the window. I was, in a small way part of this process, when I gave a lecture at Eldridge on the "The Choices We Make." For the Museum, the choices were retain the 1944 glass block, attempt to "replicate" a lost window the original design of which remains unknown, make something new "in the style of" the 1880s, or to create something new and admit it as such. In the end, the latter course was chosen, with the caveat that whatever was new would harmonize with the old. Overall in the tot la restoration of the building the past was well served. There was nothing wrong with acknowledging the present, and looking to the future. According to Robert Tierney, Chairman, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, "With the [upcoming] installation of Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans extraordinary window in this sacred landmark, Eldridge Street's evolution now spans three generations built in the 19th century, preserved in the 20th, and renewed in the 21st." I have frequently written about the Eldridge Street Synagogue project, begun in the 1980s, on just completed last year.

Here are some of the events associated with the window installation:

This Sunday, October 10 marks the first day the new stained-glass window will be open to the public.

Open House from 11am to 4pm

Concert at 4:30pm


Wednesday, October 13 from 6:30 to 8:30pm

Museum at Eldridge Street Benefit

Tickets are $500 & $1,000. RSVP is required.

Honoring Kiki Smith & Deborah Gans and with dedication remarks by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and writer Adam Gopnik and music by Paul Shapiro’s Hester Street Orchestra.


Wednesday, November 17 at 6:30pm

Conversation with Kiki Smith & Deborah Gans

$20 adults; $15 students/seniors

Join Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans for a behind-the-scenes look into their vision and process for the Museum at Eldridge Street’s magnificent new stained-glass window.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Los Angeles Holocaust Museum. Photos: Belzberg Architects.
See more photos here.

USA: In Los Angeles, a New (and another) Holocaust Museum Opens

The Jewish journal.com reports that a new Holocaust museum will open in Los Angeles next week. While many people assume that the Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance serves as LA's memorial center for Shoah victims and educational center for Shoah victims, that is not really proved to be the case. The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust which traces its origins to 1961, really fills that role. It now finally has a permanent and notable home, designed by
Hagy Belzberg and Belzberg Architects, a small (12) firm of unconventional designers committed to green design. Belzberg and the musuem already won the Design Concept Award from the 38th Annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards (2008). Belzberg is also the architect of the Southern California Center for Jewish Life now in the planning and fund raising stage in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Holocaust museums: L.A. and the rest of the world
by Jonah Lowenfeld

Next weekend, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust publicly opens the plate-glass doors of its brand-new home at the northwest corner of Pan Pacific Park for the first time. Observant visitors might be drawn to the building’s grass-covered roof, or the retro-futuristic shape of the windows, or the repeated use of triangles in a design that seems to nod to the six three-sided black pillars of the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument that sit just outside the museum.

Indeed, L.A.-based architect Hagy Belzberg’s design for the new museum does not look like many other buildings in Los Angeles. Belzberg’s design performs an admirable artistic and political feat: It has nestled a small museum inside a popular and much-utilized public park without raising many hackles among neighborhood residents. And the result is a handsome new home for the collections, with an unbeatable address.

Belzberg’s building doesn’t look much like other Holocaust museums, either. Over the past 20 years, cities around the world have erected structures that attempt to preserve and disseminate Holocaust memory through designs by some of the world’s most prominent architects. Each of these Holocaust museums and memorials bears the unique imprint of its architect, while responding to all the usual architectural challenges — relating to the site, budget and local politics, among others. And Belzberg’s museum is no exception. To best understand the new museum, though, it helps to be familiar with a few of its most influential predecessors.

Read the entire article here.


Poland: New Memorial with Old Gravestones Erected at Radom Jewish Cemetery



Radom, Poland. New Memorial at Jewish Cemetery. Photos courtesy of FODZ.

Poland: New Memorial with Old Gravestones Erected at Radom Jewish Cemetery


(ISJM) The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland has announced the upcoming dedication of a new memorial monument at the Jewish cemetery at the central Polish town of Radom. The monument, erected on the cemetery is a raised lapidarium incorporating many of the gravestones scattered on the site and found in other locations. The ceremonial unveiling is planned for November 8, 2010.

The memorial is being built within the framework of the "Tikkun - Repair" project, created by the Polish and Israeli Prison Service with the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland as a partner.

The monument continues a tradition of "gathering of stones" begun with the erection of cemetery memorials by survivors immediately after the Shoah, and then continued in the 1980s and 1990s at places such as Kazimierz Dolny and
Wyszków.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

USA: Allison Hoffman on Moshe Safdie and the Institute of Peace on the Washington Mall

USA: Allison Hoffman on Moshe Safdie and the Institute of Peace on the Washington Mall

Allison Hoffman has written a fine article about the Israel-born and Canada-raised architect Moshe Safdie, his new project on the mall in Washington, and the difficulties of architecture in Israel today. I'm quoted, though I am no Safdie expert. Safdie is known for many dramatic (and some now iconic) exterior sculptural building forms. He certainly does have a talent for creative shaping of built form. However, as the new United States Institute of Peace seems (I have not seen it yet) to demonstrate, his other skills are about responding to context - when he must do so - and turning his eye inward.

Master Builder

With his U.S. Institute for Peace set to open in Washington, Israeli-born Moshe Safdie takes his place among the world’s leading architects

By Allison Hoffman

When tourists visit Israel, they are, more often than not, following an itinerary designed by the architect Moshe Safdie. From the grand sloping entrance hall at Ben Gurion airport—lined in golden limestone—to the sweeping vistas at Yad Vashem or the tony shops and cafes in the new Mamilla mall just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, Safdie has been singularly responsible for shaping his native country’s modern landmarks. In Canada, where he lived as a teenager, Safdie is famous as the designer of Habitat, a beehive-like housing complex in Montreal that landed him on the cover of Newsweek in 1971—and, with his shock of white hair and bushy mustache, remains so easily recognizable that customs officers sometimes greet him by name. But in the United States, where Safdie has made his home and career for the past three decades, he remains almost unknown, overshadowed by superstars like Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, and Richard Meier.

Now, though, Safdie is going where his competitors have not: the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where construction is nearly complete on the $186 million headquarters Safdie designed for the United States Institute of Peace. The building, which is next door to the State Department, anchors the far western end of Constitution Avenue opposite the Lincoln Memorial—an unusually prominent site, carved out of a former Navy parking lot, that finally gives Safdie a unique opportunity to leave his mark at the symbolic center of his adopted country. “I have three passports and three citizenships, and feel very much part of all three places,” Safdie said. “But it’s evolved so that the architect of the peace institute is an Israeli. That tickles me nicely.”

Read the entire article here.