Presenting a selection of nearly 150 pieces from various sources, this photographic exhibition recreates the history of Salonika (today Thessaloniki) Greece from the second half of the 19th century to the end of the First World War. Men and women are captured in their traditional costumes: modest artisans, porters, traders, members of the local “aristocracy;” society is revealed. Urban modernization is also shown: the quays and the White Tower, cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues; the Countryside sector where the notables established their residence; deprived areas, where emerging industries were established.
But also, in the now Greek city, the great fire of August 1917, an authentic trauma for the Jews who saw their historic neighborhoods, the municipal archives and more than thirty synagogues swept away by the flames, before the geopolitical upheavals caused by the First War worldwide.
The JTS Library exhibit, “A Sacred Space: Synagogue Architecture and Identity” (October 26, 2023 to March 7, 2024), offers an opportunity to view a large selection of rare prints depicting historic synagogues. The exhibit, co-curated by Samuel D. Gruber and Sharon Liberman Mintz, traces the history of European synagogue styles from the 17th to the 19th century, exploring how the image of the synagogue was used by Christians and Jews to present often conflicting ideas of Jewish identity. The 42 prints on view—selected from books, art prints, magazines, and newspapers—showcase a wide range of synagogue types. Notably, the pace of production of these images accelerated in the 19th century, when we first encounter Jewish architects of synagogues, along with the Jewish artists who depicted them.
The exhibit features images of synagogues from the Netherlands, England, France, Austria, and Germany, ending on American shores. Images of the latter will allow us to consider how this pictorial tradition would evolve in a country of immigrants that boasted of religious freedom and cultural pluralism.
“Burning,” an exhibition of paper cuts by Monika Krajewska, is now being shown in Radom, following an exhibit at the POLIN museum in Warsaw. We were privileged to host an online exhibition of some of her works in 2020.
The exhibit consists of 31 works in which the artist, using traditional Jewish paper-cutting technique, refers to objects related to the synagogue, painstakingly recreating the symbolism and ornamentation of Jewish art from East-Central Europe—stylised floral decoration, symbolic representations of animals, a repertoire of traditional sacred Jewish symbols (a menorah, Torah and the Tablets of Law, the Temple) and calligraphic quotations from religious texts and prayers.
In order to introduce reflection on loss and destruction, Krajewska subjects her painstaking work to destruction: she tears apart sections of the works after cutting them out and burns the ends of the sheets. She uses tinted paper as a background for the cut-outs, incorporating the motif of fire, ashes and ruins. And she incorporates quotations from religious texts or classics of modern Jewish literature, in which there are references to flames and destruction, as well as to the hope of salvation.
An exhibition of art-enhanced photographs by Dmytro Polyukhovich based on the carvings on the centuries-old matzevot in the Jewish cemetery in Sataniv (which unfortunately has suffered extensive damage in recent years by a self-appointed Haredi man claiming to restore it).
The images for the exhibition focus on specific details of the carved iconography, which combines religious tradition with folk art — floral motifs, animals (and imaginary animals), symbols, religious allegories, and more.
To create the exhibition pieces, Polyukovich manipulated his original photos of the matzevot in Adobe Photoshop, cutting away everything except for the specific detail of the carving that he wanted to highlight and then adding color.
NOTE: The exhibition will be open every Wednesday and every Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. It is also possible to organize group tours every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
The latest edition of the exhibit Neviditelné Synagogy — Invisible Synagogues, photographs by Štěpán Bartoš.
Bartoš photographs the blank spaces in the Czech Republic where destroyed synagogues once stood and adds a ghostly silhouette of the destroyed synagogue to the exhibition photos of the places where they once stood.
On the Invisible Synagogues project web site (which is in German and Czech) you can see galleries of his photos, without the added silhouette, arranged according to region. They include sites in big cities, small towns, and tiny villages; there are fields and rural spaces as well as modern buildings, crowded city streets, and even artificial lakes.