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

Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus