Breaking news: Rabbi Yaakov Ariel: Anyone not vaccinated violates Jewish law and “Bind Them As A Sign On Your Hand . . .”By Saul Jay Singer and Texas student maps every Manhattan address that used to be a synagogue and my trip to Prague Czech Republic pictures four of four and 14 Fascinating Facts About Prague's Altneuschul On the Historic "Old-New Synagogue"By Yossi Kwadrat and Rabbi Schwartz Jokes and every day you have the choice between a blessing and a curse
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Choices. We encounter them daily, sometimes even feeling bombarded or overwhelmed by the decisions we must make. In truth, every assessment comes down to two primary choices, blessing, and curse. Our parashahbegins with the declaration, "See that I am placing before you today, a blessing and a curse" (Devarim 11;26). Are there really no other choices?
Every morning we begin the morning blessings with thanking Hashem for the ability to discern, "lehavchin', between day and night. Rav Gamliel Rabinovitz understands day as referring to a life of blessing and night to a life of curses. The SefatEmet, quoting his grandfather the ChidusheiHarim, explains that each day we can choose to do good, to lead a life of blessing. Each day is a fresh start with new choices. Hence, we can read our passuk as, "See, I am placing before you TODAY" i.e. I am giving you TODAY, a new opportunity to choose blessing or curse. One need not be locked into the choices he has made in the past. This is further sup-ported by the MeorVashemesh explaining the concept of binah, discernment, as it relates to teshuvah. This first morning blessing exhorts us to take advantage of a new day. It is an ideal time to make the correct choices that will bring us closer to our spiritual potential and bring infinite blessing to our lives
Rabbi Yaakov Ariel: Anyone not vaccinated violates Jewish law
'He may not enter the synagogue to pray; it is forbidden to allow him to remain if he does enter.'
Rabbi Yaakov ArielArutz Sheva
In light of the rising numbers of coronavirus infections in Israel despite the fact that the vast majority of the adult population has been vaccinated against the virus, rabbis are starting to speak out in harsher language against "vaccine refusers," even to the point of making halakhic rulings (citing Jewish law) that anyone who is not vaccinated is not allowed to enter a synagogue to pray with the community.
This week, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, a former chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and considered one of the leading halakhic authorities in the Religious-Zionist community, stated that it was proper to impose sanctions on anyone who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, explaining that as they endanger others, this is the right course of action to take.
"Anyone who is not vaccinated is violating halakhah," he said, "which requires a person to be healthy. We are obligated to demand that everyone is vaccinated, and to tell anyone who refuses the vaccine not to mingle with the community. He should be respectful and remain at home and not infect others."
Rabbi Ariel explained further that, "If someone like this does turn up in a place where people are gathered, he should be asked to leave. Obviously this should not be done in a violent manner, but it is forbidden to allow him to remain. This is a simple humanitarian demand – do not harm others."
Therefore, he concluded, "It is forbidden for someone who opposes vaccines to enter the synagogue, to participate in a prayer quorum, or to have an aliyah (be called up to) to the Torah. He should respect others and stay at home or pray outside the synagogue building."
Israel Hayom also reported on an incident that occurred this week during a Torah class given by Rabbi Ben Zion Mutzafi, a prominent rabbi in the Sephardic community. During the class, a dispute broke out between the rabbi and one of the participants, who said, "The Jewish People are not a research lab. I believe in the Creator of the world."
Rabbi Mutzafi was reportedly furious with the person, demanding that he leave the class.
"More than 6,500 people have died – stop driving us crazy," he said.
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
14 Fascinating Facts About Prague's Altneuschul On the Historic "Old-New Synagogue" By Yossi Kwadrat
The Altneuschul in Prague is one of the oldest functioning shuls in the world. What do we know about this historical place of worship?
1. Its Paradoxical Name
The Yiddish term alt-neu means "old–new." Why the odd name? Although not common today, this nickname was quite common in Europe. One need look no further than Nikolsburg (Mikulov), a mere three-hour drive from Prague, for a synagogue with the same name. What does it mean?
When the Jews of a town realized that their shul was too small and it was time to build a second one, the original shul became known as the "Old Shul" while the new shul was called the "New Shul."
What happened when a third shul was built?
The Old Shul stayed the Old Shul, and the third shul became the New Shul. The second shul, the older new shul, automatically became known as the Old-New Shul.
Indeed the Altnueschul wasn't the oldest shul in town, as Prague had its own "Alte shul," which, as its name implies, was much older than the Altneuschul. In 1867 it was torn down, however, and the Spanish Synagogue (which currently functions as a museum) was built in its place, rendering the Altneuschul the actual "alte shul."
What was the third shul, which gave the Altneuschul its name? It is most likely the Pinchas Shul or perhaps the Meisel Shul (the Pinchas Shul was a private family shul, and originally in a private home). Even though it was neither the oldest nor the most modern synagogue, the Altneuschul was and remains the most prominent synagogue in the city.1
2. Its Age
From its gothic architecture, one may assume that the building was erected in the 13th century, making it more than 750 years old.
3. Its Structure
The lower rungs of the ladder leading up to the attic have been removed (Photo: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Although the building may look like it was built all at once, that is not the case. The western room, now designated as the women's section, was built first, in the 13th century. In the 14th century, the main sanctuary was built. A century thereafter, the right hallway was added. This is where the current entrance is. Only in the 18th century was the left wing (which is currently closed to visitors) built.
4. Its Holy Walls
Although the interior walls today are simply painted, they weren't always. For many years no one dared to touch the walls with any tools. Some did try to give the walls a fresh coat of paint, but sadly, one after another they mysteriously died. After that, the walls were left untouched.2
On its southern wall, we still find that the last coat of paint the shul received was more than 400 years ago, in 1618—less than 10 years after the passing of the Maharal of Prague, the synagogue's famed rabbi!
5. Coded Inscriptions
Some of the "codes" (Photo: Deror Avi)
Above the heads of the worshippers, several "codes" are inscribed on the walls. They are actually acronyms for famous Hebrew phrases.
On the mizrach (eastern) wall we find: שייל״ת, דלמא"ע, which represents the phrases שִׁ׳וִּיתִי י״י לְ׳נֶגְדִּי תָ׳מִיד (I place G‑d before me, always)3 and דַּ׳ע לִ׳פְנֵי מִ׳י אַ׳תָּה ע׳וֹמֵד (Know before Whom you stand).4
On the western wall: גה"א ימ"ה and סמו"ט אטלי"ס , alluding to גָּ׳דוֹל הָ׳עוֹנֶה אָ׳מֵן, י׳וֹתֵר מִ׳ן הַ׳מְבָרֵךְ (He who answers 'amen' is greater than the one who utters the blessing),5 ס׳וּר מֵ׳רָע וַ׳עֲשֵׂה ט׳וֹב (Turn away from evil and do good)6 and אַ׳ךְ ט׳וֹב לְ׳יִשְׂרָאֵל ס'לה (Only good for Israel,7 forever).
6. Its Candelabras
The shul has quite a few dark brass candelabras, which hang low in comparison to its very tall ceilings. When the candelabras were lit with hundreds of candles to honor Shabbat or Jewish holidays, their flames looked like swimming stars under its tall, darkened ceilings and walls.8
7. Its Attic
Today the attic is empty. It has been thoroughly cleaned out. But it once contained collections of antique items which used to belong to Prague's rabbis, including the remains of the famous clay Golem of Prague,9 created by the Maharal.10
8. Its Flag
The Jewish flag hangs over the almemor (Photo: Deror Avi)
In the shul, one can find a huge oddly shaped flag.
Many years ago, the Jewish Community of Prague helped the king fight against an enemy. In recognition of their service, the king granted them the right to fly their own flag. Over time, it became moldy. Then in 1716, the Jews held a grand parade to honor the birth of a crown prince in the royal court. To honor the occasion a new flag was created.11
Near the bimah, a staff almost the height of the shul stands, on which hangs a replica of the 1716 flag. Its inscription reads (translated from Hebrew):
"In the year 117, which is 1357, Emperor Charles IV granted the Jewish community the right to raise its own flag. This was renewed in honor of Emperor Charles VI with the birth of his son, Archduke Leopold, in the year 1716."
9. Its Seating Arrangement
Today, we expect that most seats in a synagogue face the front (east). This was not always the case. In the Altneuschul, the rabbi and other elders sit facing the community, with the rest of the seats arranged around the walls, and surrounding the almemor/bima structure (see next fact).
10. Its Almemor
The almemor is the enclosed platform which houses the bimah. One ascends via the left rear corner and descends from the right rear corner.
11. Its Organ
One of the most well known features of the Altneuschul was its organ. This is not the same organs that appeared in churches and some non-orthodox temples of that era. Rather, the small positive organ was part of an ensemble, used every Friday afternoon (before the onset of Shabbat) for Prague's traditional musical Kabbalat Shabbat.
12. Psalm 92 Was Said Twice
The Altneuschul had the unique custom to say Mizmor Shir LeYom HaShabbat (Psalm 92) twice (instead of once) on Friday eve. This tradition developed from two different customs:
At the turn of the 16th century, the custom to begin Friday night services with this Psalm spread through Ashkenaz communities.12
Later, the Kabbalistically-inspired Kabbalat Shabbat was introduced. It concludes with this same Psalm, which was accompanied by the musical ensemble.
These two customs were fused together to create the Alneuschul's unique practice.
The first time the Psalm was recited, it was part of the pre-Shabbat service, accompanied by music, the congregants still dressed in their weekday clothes. The musicians would then stow away their instruments, and the congregants would go home and dress in their Shabbat finery. The women would light the Shabbat candles, and the congregants would return to shul for the evening service, which started with this Psalm13 once again.
13. The Permanently Unkosher Torah Scroll
Near the holy ark, one can see the seat of the Maharal, which remains cordoned off (Photo: Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90).
In the Aron Kodesh of the Altneuschul, there was a Torah scroll which was never kosher to be used. ThisTorah scroll was commissioned in the times of Rabbi David Oppenheimer, chief rabbi of Prague in the early 18th century. Some young men in the community were not behaving properly and decided to donate to charity in an effort to find atonement for their misconduct. In time, the money accumulated and was used to commission a new Torah scroll, which was brought in with great pomp and celebration on Shabbat Shirah, 1728.
Alas, the very first week, a mistake was found and the Torah scroll had to be returned to the Aron Kodesh with its sash on the outside, indicating that it was not fit for use. Although they fixed it, mistakes were found continuously for the next few weeks. The scroll was, strangely enough, determined to be unfixable. When Rabbi Oppenheimer discovered its history, he forwarded the case to the Vaad Arba Aratzot (Council of Four Lands), who ruled that it was to be left as is inside the Aron Kodesh, never to be used.14
14. Under Water
Marking the high-water point of the 2002 flooding (Photo: Deror Avi)
In 1501, less than 10 years after the Jewish expulsion from Spain, Prague faced its share of flash floods. The Altneuschul was flooded with so much water that Rosh Hashanah services couldn't be held in the building.15
Ninety-seven years later, in the times of the Maharal, the same thing happened. This time, the neighbouring Pinchas Shul was flooded too, and they were both inaccessible for the following day.16 The Alneuschul was also affected by the 2002 European flood, in which the Vltava swept through the older parts of the city.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TERRIBLE FAT AND SKINNY JOKES OF THE WEEK
Berel the portly chasid walks out of a big Shul Kiddush and turns to his skinny friend Yanky who just arrived and says: "when people look at you, they think the world's starving to death"
Without blinking an eye Yanky responds "when they look at you, they know why"
What did the skinny cow shed farmer say to his wife? I need to whey more
As a fat guy, I tend to avoid wearing skinny jeans. I find it very difficult to pull it off.
My wife turned to me the other day and said, "You are so skinny.". Then she grabbed me by the love handles and said, "Just look at all this skin.
I am an obese man identifying as a skinny man...I am trans-fat.
I also have a morbidly obese friend, but he identifies as skinny. He's trans slender
What do you call a skinny Palestinian cow? A moo-slim
Everyone in my family has extremely skinny legs, so we all have to have our pants custom made. It's terribly expensive. It's those lousy skinny genes.
My son was depressed because of his obesity. "Trust me," I told him, "skinny people get down too."
"Not when you're on a see-saw with them," he said
Rachel told Leah that she decided to go on a diet. That evening when she called, Leah could hear that her mouth was full, so she asked what her sister was eating.
"A cupcake," Rachel mumbled.
"I thought you just started your diet," said Leah.
"I did. But I got on the scale, and it read 149 1/2 pounds. I decided that was no place to start a diet, so I'm rounding it off to 150."
A man goes to the doctor and says, "Doc, I would like to live a long life. What should I do?"
"I think that is a wise decision," the doctor replies. "Let's see, do you smoke?"
"Oh.. Half a pack a day."
"Starting NOW, no more smoking." The man agrees.
The doctor then asks, "Do you drink?"
"Oh, well Doc, not much, just a bit of wine with my meals, and a beer or two every once in a while."
"Starting now, you drink only water. No exceptions."
The man is a bit upset, but also agrees. The doctor asks, "How do you eat?"
"Oh, well, you know, Doc, normal stuff."
"Starting now you are going on a very strict diet. You are going to eat only raw vegetables, with no dressing, and non-fat cottage cheese."
The man is now really worried. "Doc, is all this really necessary?"
"Do you want to live long?" "Yes." "Well then, it's absolutely necessary. And don't even think of breaking the diet."
The man is appalled. "Doc... Are you sure I'm going to live longer this way?"
The doctor replies "I have no idea, but however long you live, I assure you is going to seem like an eternity!
Texas student maps every Manhattan address that used to be a synagogue
Every address can lead you down a rabbit hole, discovering along the way layers upon layers of New York Jewish history. And it is not just ghosts in empty sockets.
By ANDREW SILOW-CARROLL / JTA
AUGUST 5, 2021 02:47
Writer Luc Sante calls them the "ghosts of Manhattan." Those are the souls of the poor and marginal people, now dead, whose presence can be felt like a shade in the history of now affluent neighborhoods, "where they push invisibly behind it to erect their memorials in the collective unconscious."Sante's poltergeists came to mind after I stumbled on a strange little Twitter account called "This Used to Be a Synagogue" (@OldShulSpots).
Once a day or so the account delivers a photograph of some nondescript street view in Manhattan, with a tweet stating the address and name of the congregation that used to sit on the site.That nail salon at 90 Clinton St.? That used to be Linath Hazedeck Anshei Sadlikoff. The deli at E. 104th St.? Something called Mac'zikei Torath Kodesh.I felt that if I stared at the photos long enough the color would fade and I'd see spectral images of Jewish ancestors entering these long-gone places after dodging horse-drawn carts, or steering boxy automobiles with high fenders and wide running boards.
Even the teeth-cracking names in the old Ashkenazi spellings hinted at something both ancient and familiar, like a cave drawing or the empty mezuzah cases you see in medieval ghettoes.For a time the account didn't explain much about who was behind it. I assumed it was a white-haired amateur historian of the Lower East Side or a Jewish conceptual artist who was making a point about gentrification.So I sent a direct message and soon heard back from the creator, who identified herself as Amy Shreeve and agreed to chat on the phone.
Shreeve explained that she started the account as an academic project in something called commemorative geography, which is the study of memory and location. She said that she was a history major and had accessed a public database from the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan.The database listed over 1,000 names and addresses of past and present Manhattan synagogues and Jewish organizations. Shreeve created a big spread sheet and then "geocoded" a Twitter bot using Google APIs and Python (I admit she lost me at this point), scheduling the bot to automatically post Google Streetview photographs of the places where synagogues and Jewish organizations used to be.She said she was "originally curious about naming patterns and mapping out where people came from" and "really interested in thinking about the geography of Eastern Europe and see how people organized in New York based on where they originally came from.""So you're a student?" I asked."At the University of Texas, in Austin.""Graduate school, I presume?""No, I'm an undergraduate. My major is rhetoric and history.""Wait," I asked. "How old are you?""I just turned 20," Shreeve said. "It was just last week, so I am not used to saying that."So forget the white hair. And to cut to the chase here, you can also forget the Jewish part. Shreeve describes herself as a descendant of Mormon pioneer immigrants on her father's side and "Irish famine immigrants" on her mother's."This is honestly weirdly random even for me personally," she said. "I have no family connections. I'm just a big fan of Jewish history."And why is that?"Because I am a huge fan of Yiddish," she said. "I needed to take a language class. When I heard that my school in Austin was teaching a language with less than 2 million speakers, I thought it was a rare and unique opportunity to learn a niche language."Her professor was Itzik Gottesman, whom it turns out I knew when he was an editor at the Yiddish Forward and is a notable figure in New York Yiddish circles. Shreeve had read an article that Gottesman had written about how synagogues in Brooklyn had become churches, gymnasia and YMCAs. For a separate geography course, she decided to combine mapping with what she learned in Yiddish class.(Gottesman referred to Shreeve in an email as a "star student.")On her own website, Shreeve explains the impetus behind the project."People following this bot get regular reminders that New York City used to be … different. Different people lived and gathered there and had a different way of life," she writes. "This bot encourages people to explore their own cities and wonder 'What used to be here? Who gathered here?'"I find the site addictive. Every address can lead you down a rabbit hole, discovering along the way layers upon layers of New York Jewish history.
And it is not just ghosts in empty sockets: Occasionally there are signs of the original synagogues. At 317 E. 8th St. in the East Village downtown, you can still see the tall sanctuary windows and Star of David motif that now provide a funky historical motif for a condo owner's living room. The Anshei Kalusz (people of Kalusz, Ukraine) Lechetz Yosha building was sold to a developer by its Orthodox congregation in 2000 following a battle with a rabbi and medical marijuana activist who had hoped it would become a nondenominational worship space for artists and other creatives. It was the last synagogue in the once-gritty Alphabet City neighborhood.At 58-60 Rivington St., plaques representing the Ten Commandments and two roaring lions of Judah mark what had once been the Warschuer (Warsaw) Congregation, which itself had supplanted a congregation from Jassy, Romania. The original congregation had hired a young architect to design the current building in 1903. That architect, Emery Roth, would go on to build various New York landmarks, including the Ritz Hotel Tower and The Beresford. Some 10,000 people attended the synagogue's dedication.After the Warschuers inherited the building in what appears to have been a hostile takeover, it became a favorite for local celebrities, including the Gershwins, Sen. Jacob Javits and the comedian George Burns. Or at least that was the shul they didn't go to.The neighborhood changed, and by 1973 the building was derelict. It was bought by the artist and metalworker Hale Garland in 1979 and apparently still functions as an artist's studio.Happily, some of the addresses aren't ghosts at all. There is still a synagogue at 137 E. 29th St. Congregation Talmud Torah Adereth El says it has held services at the same location (albeit not the same building) since 1863 — the longest continuous service at the same site in the city. New York's oldest congregation, Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, was established in 1654, but it has only been in the same location since … 1897.And 308 E. 55th St., once known as Chevra Bnei Leive and founded in 1906, is now Congregation Or Olam, which became a Conservative synagogue in 1966.And yet most of the tweets feature gas stations, apartment buildings, housing developments and churches where Jewish communities flourished, struggled and eventually moved on, replaced by other groups and institutions that represent the city's never-ending process of regeneration.If there is a connection for Shreeve between old Jewish New York and present-day Austin, it is in the experience of immigrants."The demographics of New York are different [than Austin], but you still see how immigrants totally change the landscape," she said. "Comparing the history of the Jewish people and Hispanics and immigrant at large, you see how history does have a tendency to repeat itself."Shreeve has 1,016 entries in her database and said she expects the project to wind up soon. She hopes to find records for the other boroughs, especially Brooklyn, although a notoriously inept remapping of Brooklyn's streets in the mid-1800s might make that project impossible. She also hopes to get to New York one day, perhaps when the pandemic is really over."Looking at a map is not the same as walking the streets and seeing that what is currently a movie theater or a parking lot once housed minyans or charity organizations," she said. "I want people to reflect on the space, and to think of the immigrant stories and religion stories that came from there."
I have tefillin on my mind – as opposed to its usual location on my head, hopefully lined up properly on my hairline between my eyes – for two reasons. First, because at a recent Shabbat lunch, when the conversation turned to our outstanding memories of the first time we were in Israel, I remembered a Lubavitcher emissary I met at the Kotel in 1971, who was approaching strangers and gently inviting them to put on tefillin. He did not speak English, and most of his "customers" were American, so I decided to spend a memorable day helping him out. Even now, I am still amazed by the number of people who were willing to go along and, in particular, I recall one young man who told me "I remember that my grandfather used to do this, so why not?"
Second, my grandson, Judah, recently asked me to prepare him for his bar mitzvah and to teach him Torah reading. The sheer thrill of even being asked, let alone our weekly sessions learning together, is one of the highlights of my life. Naturally, my thoughts turned to the bar mitzvah itself and, with Hashem's help, being able to see him put on his tefillin for the first time.
As such, in this article I exhibit a number of my favorite items relating to tefillin.
Israel military mail: Chabad card regarding tefillin.
In honor of that Chabad ambassador at the Kotel half a century ago, let's start with this Israel military mail Chabad card: "It is your duty not to forget to put on tefillin every day." Accompanying that message are two quotes which are so beautifully appropriate for the men who serve in the defense of Israel – and the defense of all of us in the Diaspora.
The first quote is from the Medrash on Bamidbar, " 'A thousand will fall from your side' refers to the tefillin shel yad, for which 1,000 angels are given to guard and preserve it." The second is from Gemara Brachot: "`And all the nations of the earth will see that the name of Hashem is upon you, and they will fear you,' this is the tefillin shel rosh."
On Shabbat, June 3, 1967, the final Shabbat before the Six-Day War, the Lubavitcher Rebbe directed his followers to commence a worldwide campaign to encourage Jewish men to put on tefillin, with particular emphasis on soldiers in Tzahal (the Israel Defense Forces). Taking advantage of the incredible spirituality that infused Israel in the wake of Israel's miraculous victory, Chabad representatives stationed themselves at strategic locations at the Kotel on the morning after Shavuot, a few days after the war, offering thousands of Jews the opportunity to put on tefillin.
The Boston Globe reported that by the end of November 1967, "more than 400,000 members of the Jewish faith are estimated to have observed the commandment to wear Phylacteries – tefillin in Hebrew – at the city's Western Wall, formerly known as the 'Wailing' Wall." Through Chabad's well-known campaign, which continues in full force today, countless millions of Jews have put on tefillin who otherwise might not have done so.
In his autobiography, My Life (1931), famed artist Marc Chagall describes how he had an epiphany during a visit to his birthplace of Vitebsk, when he contemplated the imminent disappearance of the Jewish traditions in which he was raised and which had become so familiar and beloved to him. Determined to preserve these cherished traditions through his art, he undertook a series of paintings reflecting his deep nostalgia for the old Vitebsk way of life, including The Praying Jew, exhibited here.
In this Cubist rendering of his father in his tallit and tefillin, Chagall rendered his subject in simple black and white. As was his practice of painting several variations of his favorite works, there were actually three versions of The Praying Jew, the first painted in 1914, after which his visit to Vitebsk was prolonged by the outbreak of WWII. He took this painting with him when he returned to Paris in 1923 and, when he learned that most of the work that he had left there had been lost during the war, he was inspired to paint two additional versions, which differed from the original only slightly.
Intriguingly, he paid an itinerant beggar to pose for the painting. As he described it in his autobiography: "Sometimes I was confronted with a face so old and tragic that it looked almost angelic. But I couldn't keep it up for more than half an hour because he stank too much."
Exhibited here is The Morning Prayer, an original engraving by Herman Struck (1876-1944) and originally signed by him.
A fervent Zionist, Jewish activist and founder of the Mizrachi Religious Zionist party, Struck was considered the artistic soul of the early Zionist movement. One of the most important print artists of Germany and Eretz Israel in the first half of the 20th century, his favorite artistic technique was copper etching and its related processes, though he also was a master of the lithograph. Although he will always remain renowned for his etching, he later turned to the use of color to represent the stark beauty of the Levant and to better reflect the ever-changing nuances of light in the landscapes of Eretz Yisrael.
Exhibited here is an original engraving rendition of An Askenazim, a watercolor by Carl Haag from the London exhibition of the Society of Painters in Water Colours published June 26, 1875. Note in particular how the artist has accurately captured both the correct position of the tefillin shel rosh and the proper binding of the tefillin shel yad.
The establishment of exhibitions in Great Britain was one of the great innovations in 18th century art, and the Society of Artists opened in 1760 with the Royal Academy holding its first exhibition in 1769. Watercolors, which were not taken seriously, were exhibited as "drawings" at these early exhibitions, and the Society of Painters in Water Colours was founded in 1831 to challenge the refusal by the British Royal Academy to accept watercolors as serious art.
The Bavarian-born Haag (1820-1915) became naturalized as a British citizen, was the beneficiary of patronage from Queen Victoria, and was elected to the Society of Painters in Water Colours. Between 1858 and 1860, he traveled through the Middle East, including Jerusalem, and became an important and prolific painter of Eretz Yisrael scenes, some of which are exhibited in the Israel Museum.
Schatz (1866-1932), "the Father of Israeli Art," is best known as the founder of the Bezalel Academy of Arts, named after Bezalel ben Uri ben Chur, the legendary biblical artist and creator of the Mishkan and for whom he named his son and his Academy. Exhibited here is Schatz's invitation to Bezalel's bar mitzvah, which features a drawing by him of a young man putting on tefillin.
Schatz is credited with reviving a Jewish aesthetic consciousness and planting the seeds for artistic culture in Israel, and his vision of arts as a necessary component of Zionism played an important role in Israel's singular commitment to the arts. Schatz's own work, which was heavily influenced by his traditional training in Europe, reflects romanticized, sublime and sentimental visions of Jewish personalities, religious practices and sites in Eretz Yisrael.
Shown here is a December 13, 1917, correspondence on Block Publishing Company letterhead explaining that ". . . The very best price we can make on T'fillin is 3.00. . . . The increased price of T'fillin is due to their scarcity, as few have reached this country since the beginning of the war." This dramatic supply shortage came at the very time when demand was greatest due to significant Jewish immigration to the United States, particularly among Jews fleeing the Russian pogroms.
Shown here is the original hand-painted designer's artwork for Israel's stamp honoring Elijah Ben Shlomo Zalman, also known as the "GRA" and best known as the Vilna Gaon, who is beautifully depicted wearing his tefillin.
The Vilna Gaon (1720-1797), was perhaps the greatest talmudist, halachic authority, and kabbalist of the modern era and was the foremost leader of non-Chassidic Jewry. His name is particularly familiar in the context of a dispute regarding which of two types of tefillin should be worn: the commonly used Rashi form, and a very slightly different form advocated by Rabbenu Tam. The Vilna Gaon, who wore his tefillin all day long, is reputed to have worn both forms simultaneously to assure his fulfillment of the mitzvah, but this is critically disputed by many authorities.
Around 1876, Alphonse Levy (1843-1918) began creating lithographs devoted to portraying family Jewish life in Alsace. Exhibited here is Kavanah (concentration in prayer), a rendition of a man praying in his tefillin, in which he depicts his subject in caricature form and employing his classic satiric style. It was shown as part of The Jewish Life, an 1886 exhibition, which was well-received by the critics; however, ironically, when he published his collection of Jewish scenes in 1903, it was poorly received by the Jewish community in Paris, which accused him of showing a miserable and foul humankind.
Levy was particularly struck by the beauty and majesty of Jewish worship and tradition, which formed the core of the subject matter of his works and which he infused with a rare combination of whimsy and love. Born into a family of strictly observant Jews, he grew up in a rural village in Alsace and, though he moved to Paris at age 17, his best-known works remain the exaggerated, yet affectionate, depictions of the rural Jewish community of his childhood.