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Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey (a Series of Podcasts From the Jewish Museum)

Updated on June 21, 2018
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When I'm not being a photographer, a dancer, or making jewelry, I write. Specifically art history. I plan on writing about other subjects.

One example talked about in the series.

"The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn, Italy" by Solomon Alexander Hart 1850 {{PD-1923}}
"The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn, Italy" by Solomon Alexander Hart 1850 {{PD-1923}} | Source

Technical Aspects

This podcast series focuses on Jewish art from nearly all over the world and every era, Ancient to Modern.

Jumping from one era to another in a (somewhat) nonlinear style, the Jewish Museum organized these podcasts by medium. For instance, they put all the Hanukkah lamps in one cluster and the paintings and sculptures in another. Furthermore, the Museum grouped artifacts and pieces of ruins into their own sections.

The longest acoustiguide section does not even go over two minutes and thirty seconds. If you click on the link below to listen to the entire series, they do have some images showing the work discussed in the audio, but not all of them.

Another example of the art discussed in the podcast.

"Jewish New Year's Greeting" Happy Jack, 1910 {{PD-1923}}
"Jewish New Year's Greeting" Happy Jack, 1910 {{PD-1923}} | Source

What Do They Talk About?

As the introduction explains, the 65 podcasts, each dedicated to an artwork, stand as a symbol of the Jewish Diasporas' long endurance in world history. The U.S., the United Kingdom, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and India figure into this series with the earliest dates coming from the Roman Empire (and even further than that era) and the most recent originating from the last decade. I recommend checking this series out just for the topics they delve into that I have never heard of during my art history education.

For example, I learned about a rarely discussed era of architecture they call "Modernist synagogues” made in post World War II America in the Ibram Lassaw podcast. In fact, the Modern era that influenced the design and creation of holy objects comes in and out along with the art of the Jewish subcultures added this nice sense of nuance. Also interesting is that non-Jewish artists made Jewish related art themselves during times of great prejudice such as the Lord Mayor’s Tray by John Ruslan. Also, some have this air of whimsy such as a Hanukkah Lamp that has a clock engraved in it. For those curious about any mention of women, female curators and archeologists make their voices heard. They even introduce archeologist Susan Braunstein and let her speak about art and her days in the field. There are also a few female artists. Furthermore, gender segregations' reality creeps up as a fact of life.

They do speculate on theories of art that has mystery surrounding them such as the Israelite Female Figurine. With these works of art, the narrators talk about the reforms and changes that happened in the Jewish faith. Old and new traditions plus local influence continuously work with each other in these pieces. This series even explains the level of use seen in an artifact. Plus, as explained in the series, each artifact represented the owner’s status on the social ladder.

Paintings, ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, and architecture work as the main mediums of choice. Holy objects such as Torah scrolls, Mezuzahs, and lamps come up too. While I knew about these religious tools, I did not know about the Torah crown (I think), and they sound wonderfully epic. The artistic quality, use of materials, symbols, and historical contexts figure heavily in each podcast. The narrators describe what they look like and the functions behind these pieces, especially important when people used them in religious rituals. One podcast reveals that they even found a Renaissance era artist named Joseph de Levis. They do profiles on artists and their art such as The Dancing Lesson by Raphael Soyer, his life, and its message about immigration and assimilation. Especially true in the Hanukkah lamps made by Mae Rockland Tupa. Her use of the Statue of Liberty in a lamp has a very Pop Art feel to it. The opposite of Soyer, comes Elie Nadelman and his contributions to Avant Garde world. They also dive into the hopes, influences, and ideals of Israeli artist Reuven Rubin (who knew Modigliani!).

They do talk about the Holocaust such as The Holocaust by George Segal. The Biblical motifs used in the sculpture creates such an emotionally powerful work. Even if you have never seen it in person or in a photograph, the narrators describing this work will leave you heartbroken.

I find practically all of them lovely, a testament to talent, and moving, but probably my favorite is Friday Evening, a painting by Isidor Kaufman. I just love the illusion of depth and color scheme created by the artist.

The themes of triumphs and tragedies waft in and out of the analysis of each artwork. It is fascinating learning about art created by people living in the areas that restricted them.

© 2018 Catherine

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