Happy Hanukkah

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 20, 2011

From The Jewish Museum:

An Artist Remembers: Hanukkah Lamps Selected by Maurice Sendak

The Jewish Museum, New York, 2 December 2011 — 29 January 2012

Hanukkah Lamp, Italy, 18th century (?), copper alloy, wood, and iron (New York: The Jewish Museum)

For this exhibition, the museum invited renowned artist and illustrator Maurice Sendak to choose a group of Hanukkah lamps from the collection. Sendak’s work is characterized by a push and pull between beauty and sorrow, light and darkness. His art is triggered by memories and is also their repository. The world he creates is both dangerous and healing, as he tries to deal with the trauma of the Holocaust, in which many members of his family perished.

When going through the museum’s collection, the sheer number and variety of lamps struck a nerve, underscoring Sendak’s deep, lifelong sense of loss at the destruction of the prewar world of his Eastern European Jewish parents. Having movingly evoked that world in his drawings for Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories (1966) and In Grandpa’s House (1985), he surprised himself by mostly avoiding its rich visual language when choosing lamps for this presentation. “I stayed away from everything elaborate. I kept looking for very plain, square ones, very severe looking,” he explained. “Their very simplicity reminded me of the Holocaust. And I thought it was inappropriate for me to be thinking of elaboration.”

The lamps Sendak finds most compelling and poignant are those that “go right to the heart,” whose “beauty is contained.” Yet his sense of humor is never far from the surface: as he made his choices he often free-associated, whimsically recalling old movies and Catskills family vacations. Above all, he is guided by his sensibility as an artist and author. He is drawn to simplicity of line, to a design “subservient to the basic idea of the piece,” and responds to the depth of emotion that emanates from a work itself or from the stories behind it. Concerned lest the past be forgotten, he hopes that young visitors to this exhibition will keep alive the memory of a vanished world.

Susan L. Braunstein and Claudia J. Nahson

Touro Synagogue — Newport, Rhode Island

Posted in on site by Editor on December 20, 2011

The November/December 2011 issue of Preservation highlights a dozen National Trust Historic sites, across the United States, from James Madison’s Montpelier (1797) in Virginia to the Cooper Molera Adobe (1823) in Monterey, California. One that caught my eye, in particular: the Touro Synagogue (1763) in Newport, Rhode Island. From Lauren Wasler’s article in Preservation:

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In 1658, 15 Jewish families whose ancestors had fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal arrived in Rhode Island by way of the West Indies. Settling in Newport, they established a close-knit community and founded a congregation in a colony already recognized for its religious tolerance. A century later, Isaac Touro became the congregation’s first spiritual leader and was part of the effort to build an elegant house of worship for the faithful.

Today, that synagogue endures atop a hill near the city harbor—a living monument to religious freedom. “This is both a historic site and a functional synagogue. It has two distinct purposes,” says Chuck Flippo, manager of Touro Synagogue’s visitors center. “Come in the afternoon and you’ll see it as a historic site with guided tours. Come back in the evening and it reverts to its other role—its primary role—as a synagogue.”

Touro, the oldest standing synagogue in the United States, remains virtually unaltered since it was completed and dedicated in 1763. Designed by Peter Harrison, a British American merchant, sea captain, and self-taught architect, the two-story Palladian structure accommodates the religious needs of a typical Jewish congregation (for example, the ark containing the sacred scrolls is positioned so that worshipers can pray facing Jerusalem), while also reflecting New Englanders’ preference for restraint. Twelve Ionic columns (one for each tribe of Israel) support a second-story gallery; Corinthian columns ringing the gallery support the domed ceiling. Declared a National Historic Site in 1946, the synagogue became a National Trust Historic Site in 2001. . . .

The full article is available here»

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