Seventeen Centuries of Synagogue Architecture, in Miniature

Nov. 18 2015

At the time of its founding (in 1973), the Yeshiva University Museum commissioned ten hand-made scale models of historic synagogues, ranging from a 3rd-century Syrian synagogue to the 19th-century Tempio Israelitico in Florence, Italy. The museum has put the miniatures on display once more—for the first time in almost 30 years. Diane Bolz writes:

The synagogues selected for the exhibition were chosen for their historical and architectural significance. Also important was the quality and availability of documentation essential to producing archaeologically and historically accurate reconstructions. In addition, the buildings had to exhibit . . . “a unifying idea”—a significant symbolic feature or specific architectural characteristic that distinguished that synagogue. . . .

The models are accompanied by an impressive array of original objects associated with each synagogue, including a bronze incense shovel from the era of the Second Temple that has links to the decorations in the [6th-century] Beit Alpha synagogue; a Torah scroll used in Amsterdam’s Spanish-Portuguese synagogue, which may date from before the time of the expulsion of Jews from Spain; and a large-scale brass Hanukkah lamp and silver Torah shield that echo the furnishings of the 17th-century Zabludow synagogue in Poland. Other artifacts, drawings, paintings, manuscripts, photographs, and maps . . . bring to life the cultures that produced these synagogues and the thematic elements that connect them.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Moment

More about: Architecture, Arts & Culture, Museums, Synagogues

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East