The Wing for Jewish Art and Life presents the material culture of Jewish communities worldwide, from the Middle Ages to the present day, and is conceived to provide a view of Jewish life that integrates both its sacred and its secular dimensions. Showcasing the aesthetic value of objects as well as their social and historical significance, the comparative display unfolds in five themes that highlight the individual and the communal, the sacred and the mundane, and the heritage of the past, and the creative innovations of the present. The reconfigured wing includes a new Synagogue Route, unique to the Israel Museum, containing four synagogue interiors from the continents of Europe, Asia, and the Americas; a dramatic introductory display focusing on the Jewish life cycle that features singular treasures from the collections relating to the ritual ceremonies of birth, marriage, and death; a new gallery space to showcase the Museum’s holdings of rare illuminated manuscripts; and the integration of works of contemporary art and Judaica.
Highlights on view include:
• Maimonides’ Mishne Torah (15th century), a rare copy of this monumental halakhic text from Northern Italy, featuring extraordinary examples of Renaissance illumination and previously unknown legal responsa and glosses. Recently deposited with the Museum on long-term loan and restored by the Museum, the work is presented for the first time in the new manuscripts gallery, alongside other rare treasures such as the 14th-century Nuremberg Mahzor and the 13th-century Spanish bible from Soria.
• Zedek-ve-Shalom Synagogue (18th century), recently restored from the once-vibrant Jewish community of Suriname and displayed as an integral component of the new Synagogue Route, featuring three other complete synagogues from Germany, Italy, and India and including important ritual objects of 17th and 18th-century Dutch heritage from the same community.
• The newly restored Fishach sukkah (19th century), originally built for a family home in Fischach, Germany, and meticulously painted with scenes of rural Germany and of Jerusalem. The recent restoration process exposed new and surprising details of the sukkah’s history.
• Burial society (hevra kadisha) carriage from Hungary (19th century), made of carved and painted wood, which served to carry the deceased in funeral processions. This majestic carriage exemplifies the central Jewish tradition of honoring the dead.
• Ogadéro necklace and bracelets from Izmir, Turkey (late 19th century), a type of jewelry typically given to a bride by her husband or father, and often kept into adulthood as security in order to purchase a burial plot.
• Man’s hooded cape (akhnif) from the Atlas Mountains (late 19th–early 20th centuries), a standard garment worn by both Muslims and Jews. Unique to the collection, the cape was typically black with an intricate woven pattern on the back. Jews were required to wear the garment inside-out to signal their religion, in accordance with local law, and could only expose the stunning pattern by rolling up their sleeves.
• Bezalel Arts and Crafts from the Alan and Riva Slifka Collection (early 20th century), created by artists working in Jerusalem during the first Bezalel period. Objects from the collection, such as Hanukkah lamps and jewelry, are integrated throughout the galleries. A standalone installation of key works is displayed at the junction of the Wing for Jewish Art and Life and the Fine Arts Wing, underscoring the critical connection of this art historical moment with its roots in 19th-century European Art and the Jewish cultural imagery that would provide the inspiration for Israeli Art in the early 20th century.
• Display of 120 Hanukkah lamps from 15 countries, in a new installation that evokes the windows in which the lamps are traditionally lit during the Hanukkah holiday. The Museum’s collection of Hanukkah lamps is the most comprehensive in the world, and many are on view for the first time.
The curatorial team of the Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life is led by Daisy Raccah-Djivre, Chief Curator of Jewish Art and Life. Studio de Lange Design, Tel Aviv, oversaw the re-design of the wing.
The Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life presents the religious and secular material culture of Jewish communities worldwide, spanning centuries from the Middle Ages to the present day. Important examples of objects from the public and the private realm, drawn from our extensive collections, are integrated into a multifaceted narrative. This comparative display explores the objects’ history, and the social context in which they were used, while underscoring their aesthetic qualities and emotional resonance. It reflects a vivid cultural tapestry weaving together the individual and the communal, the sacred and the mundane, the heritage of the past and the creative innovations of the present.
Five principal themes unfold as you walk through the galleries:
The Rhythm of Life: Birth, Marriage, Death: A display highlighting the coexistence of joy and sadness, life and death, memory and hope at each of these junctures in the life cycle.
Illuminating the Script: Hebrew Manuscripts: A display from our collection of rare medieval Hebrew manuscripts, shedding light on their history and revealing their artistry.
The Synagogue Route: Holiness and Beauty: Four restored interiors of synagogues from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, along with Torah scroll ornaments, showing the unity and diversity of Jewish religious architecture and ritual objects.
The Cycle of the Jewish Year: The sanctity of the Sabbath and the traditional celebration of religious holidays, as well as the new commemoration of special days in the State of Israel, have given rise to a wealth of finely crafted objects and imaginative artworks.
Costume and Jewelry: A Matter of Identity: Environment, custom, and religious law all play their role in creating the rich variety of Jewish dress and jewelry from East and West presented here.
We hope that you enjoy your journey through time and across continents, as you explore the many layers of Jewish culture.