Silver Torah Finials, and the 18th-Century Artist Who Made Them

New York’s Jewish Museum and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts recently jointly acquired a pair of silver objects designed for decorating a Torah scroll. Diane Bolz writes:

The finials, which are from 1729, are the work of Abraham Lopes de Oliveyra, the earliest known Jewish silversmith to work in England. Praised as masterpieces of historical Judaica and noted for their exquisite design, the finials, rimmonim [literally, pomegranates] in Hebrew, are designed to sit on top of the two wooden staves of a Torah scroll. Made of partially gilded silver, the finials feature ornate foliate patterns and tiers of bells surrounding three flattened spheres that showcase Oliveyra’s characteristic bold openwork—a design made by creating patterns of holes or piercings in the silver.

Abraham Lopes de Oliveyra’s story is compelling. He was born in 1657 in Amsterdam to a Jewish Portuguese family who had settled in the Dutch city, known for its atmosphere of tolerance, after fleeing religious persecution. Oliveyra likely studied the art of silver crafting and engraving there and worked as a Hebrew book engraver. A book of Psalms he engraved includes a rendering of a silversmith shop. In his early thirties, Oliveyra moved to London.

At the time in Western Europe, Jews were prohibited from joining the artists’ guilds, including the silversmiths’ association. Thus most European pieces of Jewish ceremonial art, though commissioned by Jews, were made by Christian silversmiths. In London, however, Jewish artisans had become eligible for membership in professional guilds, so Oliveyra was able to join the silversmiths’ guild. . . . He was the only Jewish silversmith in England during this period, and he was frequently commissioned to create ceremonial Judaica by both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish communities in London.

Read more at Moment

More about: Anglo-Jewry, Dutch Jewry, Jewish art, Jewish history


Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion