YOM KIPPUR IN THE ART AND FOLKLORE OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES Through the Ages,  Prof. Shalom Sabar.

This lecture took place on September 14, 2021.

Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year, does not commemorate a historical event, rather emphasizing personal repentance, atonement, and charity. As every Jew knows well, the day is characterized by a heavy mood, intensive prayers, spending most of the day in the synagogue, and a day-long fast. However, the holiday was not always celebrated in this familiar manner and scholars even doubt when and how it was formed, and what were its characteristics in biblical and Second Temple times. In the Middle Ages, Jewish poets imbued new meanings in the Day of Atonement, and artists of the splendid Machzorim in Ashkenaz created innovatively striking iconography for these piyyutim. Special customs that developed in the course of time, such as the Kapparot and flagellation, attracted the attention of Christian Hebraists, who wished to highlight the"superstitions" of European Jews. Aside from such images, some curious objects and items of clothing were created for the holiday in different communities. The solemnity of the day drove 19th cent. leading the Jewish artists, Moritz Oppenheim and Maurycy Gottlieb in particular, to create monumental paintings that became familiar icons of the holiday. More critical points of view are presented in modern and Israeli art.  

​​Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!  Shalom is a wealth of information and we thought it would be wonderful to have him lecture at this time on the art and folklore of Yom Kippur in Jewish communities.

THE SILK ROAD FROM ASIA MINOR TO CENTRAL ASIA: INCLUDING THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE, Jacob Shoshan.

This lecture took place on September 23, 2021.

Tracing the route which had connected East and West over the millennia, we'll visit many Jewish Communities. Some of them have thrived in Asia Minor, at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains and around the Caspian Sea for many centuries. They are not of Sephardi or Ashkenazi origin, and they present a unique kind of the Judaism. Let's hear their special story and learn about what has happened to them in the last few decades.

 

Our guide will be Jacob Shoshan. Born in Jerusalem, he is a licensed tour guide in Israel as well as a teacher and lecturer for The Tour Guide Colleges in Israel. He is also a Senior Tour Director and Lecturer for the Geographical Society, Israel. Jacob has visited 98 countries and led tours in 65 countries on all six continents and is fluent in 15 languages. He presents in-depth discussions on Jewish history, philosophy and culture and is deeply involved in Holocaust education.

PARIS – THE JEWISH VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE, Karen Reb Rudel.  This lecture took place on September 30, 2021.

Karen Rue Rudel will cover the history of the Jewish Community in Paris with stories from Holocaust survivors and their families, Rabbis, and Jewish friends in Paris. She will cover the history from the time when the Jewish community arrived in France until today with amazing photos of the past. We will explore the Old Jewish Quarter of Paris, the Marais as well as the Hotel de Sully, the oldest synagogue in Paris, the famous synagogue of Hector Guimard, the exterior of the Musée Carnavalet, the SHOAH Holocaust Memorial & Museum and much more.

Born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Karen Reb Rudel grew up with the aspiration to be a comedian, a musician, or both. She went on to study drama at Temple University in Philadelphia and played in a series of bands. From the age of 30 until she got married, Karen was back and forth between Paris and Philadelphia, working on musical projects and touring (including being the flautist and singer in a Reggae band in Paris). One day her parents came to visit her and Karen, having learned a lot about Paris, was showing them around when her mother exclaimed, “Karen, you would make a great tour guide!” That was the light bulb moment, and as the French say, voila! Paris has been Karen’s stomping ground for over 20 years, and her company is in a unique position to give you the historical background and underground cultural scoops that most walking tours leave out.

 

JEWISH ART UNDER ISLAM: THE ILLUSTRATED KETUBBAH AS MIRROR TO JEWISH LIFE IN IRAN AND AFGHANISTAN: BETWEEN EFFLORESCENCE AND PERSECUTION, Prof. Shalom Sabar. This lecture took place on October 13, 2021.

In the Jewish tradition, the joyous practice of decorating the ketubbah expresses the happiness and festivity of the marriage ceremony. Over the ages this creative Judaic art form became more and more sophisticated, reaching its height in Baroque Italy. The art of ketubbah took a different path among the Jews of Islam, who were actually the first to espouse and develop this custom as early as the 9th-10th centuries. Over the ages, Iran became the unequaled center of ketubbah illustration outside Italy and Europe. Despite the poverty and harsh conditions of Jewish life in Iran, the major communities, such as Teheran, Isfahan, Yazd, Shiraz, Hamadan, the Kurdish community of Sanandaj, and the sister community of Herat in Afghanistan, developed each their own typical style and meaningful motifs that enriched their ketubbot with colorful decorative designs influenced by Iranian arts and crafts, such as illuminated Koran manuscripts or the luxurious Persian carpets. The decorations embody at the same time the Jewish identity of the community and its position as a proud religious minority in a hostile environment. This is especially the case with the intriguing ketubbot of the holy city of Mashhad, where the Jews were forced to convert to Islam but continued to keep their unique Jewish traditions staunchly,

producing for each wedding two parallel marriage contracts, one Muslim for the public ceremony, and one Jewish for the secretive ritual held in the circle of the close family.

Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!  We thought this topic will be excellent since it’s an area we don’t travel to and via the various kettubot, we’ll be able to learn about these Jewish communities.

 

THE MEMORABLE HISTORY OF THE JEWS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND, Dr. Kathy Aron-Beller. This lecture took place on October 19, 2021

 

The Jews of England are the best documented national Jewish community in medieval Christendom. In 1066 when William the Conqueror, the new Norman king came to England he invited his Jews from his Norman possessions to settle there with him. Not only was he the most important conqueror and usurper in English history but he seems to have been the first medieval King who transported Jews with him to a new land. How ironic it is that just over two hundred years later, England was the first European land to exile its Jews  in 1290. Join me for a trip to medieval England, to encounter these Jews and their lives in the medieval period. We will travel to Canterbury, Cambridge,

Lincoln, London, Norwich, Oxford and York to visit their houses, their synagogue spaces and other public areas where important events happened.

 

Originally from London, Katherine Aron-Beller is lecturer of Jewish History in the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University and at Tel Aviv University. Her areas of expertise are medieval Jewish history, early modern Jewish-Christian relations, the early modern Inquisition and Anti-Semitism. In 2007-8 she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the George Washington University in Washington DC. At present she is a Visiting Scholar of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. She is the author of Jews on Trial: The Papal Inquisition in Modena 1598-1638 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), the co-editor of The Roman Inquisition: Centre versus Peripheries (Leiden: Brill, 2018) and many other articles on the Catholic Inquisition, anti-semitism and the Jews of Italy. She is now finishing a book called "Christian Images and Jewish Desecrators: The History of an Allegation," 400-1700." Dr. Aron-Beller has been a scholar in residence on many trips with Jewish Historical Seminars including trips to Spain, Portugal, England, Sicily and Italy and the ones we were planning to Alsace and Provence.Jews.

 

THE TREASURES OF THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY (OXFORD), Prof. Gary Rendsburg.  This lecture took place on Oct 27, 2021.

 

Simply stated, the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford has the greatest collection of Hebrew manuscripts in the world.  Star attractions include: Maimonides’s own handwritten copy of his Commentary on the Mishna; his personal copy (written by a trusted scribe) of his Mishneh Torah (Code of Jewish Law); and the Kennicott Bible, written in Spain in 1476, the crown jewel of all medieval Jewish manuscripts.The lecture will trace the history of the Judaica collection, starting with Thomas Bodley (1545–1613) himself, founder of the library, advisor to Queen Elizabeth, and accomplished Hebraist.  We also will discuss the remarkable work and distinguished careers of John Selden, Edward Pococke, and Robert Huntington, three important 17th English scholars, with the latter two having traveled widely in the Middle East, from their base in Aleppo. Gary Rendsburg has lived in Oxford and has conducted academic research at the Bodleian Library.  Join us as he brings the verve and culture of the library to life, with both serious history teaching and a pleasant dose of Anglophilia.

 

Gary A. Rendsburg serves as the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University. His teaching and research focus on ‘all things ancient Israel’ – primarily language and literature, though also history and archaeology. His secondary interests include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew manuscript tradition, and Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Prof. Rendsburg is the author of seven books and about 180 articles. His most recent book is How the Bible Is Written (Hendrickson, 2019), with particular attention to the use of language to create literature. In addition, he has produced two programs for the Great Courses program, one on ‘The Book of Genesis’ and one on ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls’. During his career, Prof. Rendsburg has served as visiting professor or visiting researcher at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Sydney, Hebrew University, UCLA, Colgate University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

 

TRAVEL THE SILK ROAD IN CHINA FROM THE TIEN SHAN MOUNTAINS TO THE ANCIENT CAPITAL OF KAIFENG: MEET THE JEWISH COMMUNITY WHICH HAS LIVED HERE FOR CENTURIES TO LEARN ABOUT THE OTHER JEWISH GROUPS IN CHINA TODAY, Jacob Shoshan.  This lecture took place on Nov 10, 2021.

We will enter China from the Western edge of this enormous country and will travel from the Taklamakan Desert to the Tien Shan Mountains. Jacob Shoshan will speak about the different ethnicities and religions as we enter the land of the Uyghurs and explore Xinjiang. In Tengrism, Khan Tengri is the lord of all spirits and the religion's supreme deity. In the lecture, Jacob will show us fascinating temples – Moslem, Christian, Buddhist – and Jewish! We will visit the Jewish community in Kaifeng and hear their amazing story. Jacob will speak about the fate of tens of thousands of Jews seeking shelter in Eastern China during the horrible years of the Holocaust. We wil also learn about the Jewish Republic tucked away at the far edges of Siberia, where everything is written in Yiddish!

 

Our guide will be Jacob Shoshan. Born in Jerusalem, he is a licensed tour guide in Israel as well as a teacher and lecturer for The Tour Guide Colleges in Israel. He is also a Senior Tour Director and Lecturer for the Geographical Society, Israel. Jacob has visited 98 countries and led tours in 65 countries on all six continents and is fluent in 15 languages. He presents in-depth discussions on Jewish history, philosophy and culture and is deeply involved in Holocaust education.

THE RISE, FALL AND RESURGENCE OF JEWISH LIFE IN ST. PETERSBURG/LENINGRAD, Jane Kempinsky.  This lecture took place on Nov 17, 2021.

Discussing St. Petersburg/ Leningrad’s Jewish community, Jane Kempinsky will speak about its life under the Soviet regime. She will speak about the anti-Semitism and anti-Zionisim as part of the state policy which resulted in a phenomena called "refusniks". Jane will share her personal story which perfectly illustrates the life of a Soviet Jewish family. Also covered in the lecture will be the modern day situation and see the changes of Jewish life and identity which took place recently. She will also walk us along the historical part of St. Petersburg which includes sites which are connected to the Jewish history. St. Petersburg as a former capital of Russian Empire perfectly illustrates connections between Russian and Jewish history.

Jane Kempinski is a tour guide from St.Petersburg, Russia who has been giving tours for about 15 years already and is absolutely in love with her city and her job. She is Jewish, born and raised in Leningrad and then St.Petersburg. Her family has been living in St. Petersburg since the early 1920’s originating from the Pale of Settlement – Ukraine, Belorussia and Poland. Jane started specific Jewish Heritage tours of St.Petersburg and about 12 years ago started incorporating and interconnecting Russian and Jewish history and culture. Her idea is to show St.Petersburg from the Jewish perspective, giving one a taste of what it is to be a Jew living in Russia.

THE JEWISH JOURNEY IN THE DESERT: THEN AND NOW, Abraham Silver.  This lecture took place on Nov 24, 2021.

When we think of Jewish Space, we conjure up images of synagogues, or perhaps the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. But there is another Jewish Space, the desert. It is in the desert that the Jewish national consciousness is formed, and it is in the desert that the Torah was given to the Jewish People. It is the place of the formation of our identity and religion. And, as the backyard of the Land of Israel, it is the desert where we find sanctuary; where some of the greatest events that shaped the Jewish people happened, from Masada to Qumran. In Modern Times, the desert in Israel once again is helping define Jewish Space, from the concept of “making the desert bloom” being realized in modern desert agricultural settlements to using the desert to find new ways to fight climate change. This will be a journey through the backyard deserts of Israel, the Judean Desert and the Negev. We will visit sites and ideas that have defined the desert and a fundamental aspect of the Jewish Journey, then and now.

Abraham Silver was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After receiving a B.A. in History and Philosophy from S.U.N.Y. Binghamton, Abraham moved to Kibbutz Ketura, a socialist pioneering settlement in Israel’s Negev desert, where he spent nineteen years as a date farmer. Abraham completed an M.A. in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. His architectural emphasis is on the design of Jewish Space in Israeli and modern American Jewish architecture. In addition to practicing architecture, he is a licensed tour guide and senior Jewish/Israel educator. Abraham’s background has led him to a unique understanding of Tel Aviv as the most Jewish city in the world: its development, its architecture, its impact on the Jewish world and Jewish Identity and the implications for the global family of nations. He provides specialty tours of Tel Aviv. Abraham is also a lecturer on the Architecture of Jerusalem at Hebrew University. He is co-author of the book “Living the Dream: Israel at 50” as well as “Israel at 60: People, Places and History”, a three-volume set of DVDs. He is also co-founder of the Israel informational website, “Access Israel.” Abraham and his wife Elissa live in Tel Aviv with their two thirteen-year-old daughters, Shiri and Libi.

 

THE JEWS OF GREECE: ROMANIOTE AND SEPHARDIM, THE FUSION OF TRADITIONS, Dr. Eliezer Papo.  This lecture took place on Dec 1, 2021.

With the 1492 Expulsion, the heart and the mind of the Jewish people worldwide (namely: the most numerous and important medieval Jewry) collapsed. Sepharad - the center from which the instruction and the fashion were coming to the entire Jewish world, was now totally devastated. Most of the expelled Sepharadim opted for the Ottoman empire, many of them coming to the port of Salonica in the present day Greece. Here, in the Balkans, the Sephardic newcomers met with their Romaniote brethren. Within few generations, the two communities merged. It is popularly assumed that Sepharadim, coming from a more prominent center of intellectual life, have actually swallowed the local community. However, this assumption is only partially right. It’s true that linguistically, most of the descendants of the merged communities, switched to Ladino, leaving only a handful of Romaniote enclaves not touched by the Ladino (but deeply sephardized in many other aspects). At the same time, as this lecture hopes to show, the descendants of the Sephardic newcomers were romaniotised, switching their traditional focus on philosophy and argumentation to liturgy and mystical experience. This switch had to do a lot with the setting of the Ottoman (ex-Eastern Roman) Empire and was based on the experience and strategies of the local Jews.

Dr. Eliezer Papo is senior lecturer at the Hebrew Literature Department at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, a Chairman of the Moshe David Gaon Center for Ladino Culture at the same University. Dr. Papo’s research centers on Hebrew/Jewish oral literatures, with specialization in the field of Sephardic literatures (oral and written, rabbinic and secular). His book And Thou Shall Jest with Your Son: Judeo-Spanish Parodies on the Passover Haggadah, received the prestigious Ben-Tzvi award. Besides a B.A. in law (University of Sarajevo), M.A. in Jewish languages and literatures (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), and a Ph.D. in Hebrew literature (BGU), Dr Papo also holds a degree in rabbinics (Midrash Sepharadi in Jerusalem). Since 1997, he serves as the non-residential rabbi of the Jewish community of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MICHELANGELO: AN INSIGHT TO HIS LIFE AND INCREDIBLE WORK (KNOWN AND UNKNOWN), Simona Conti.  This lecture took place on Dec 8, 2021.

Michelangelo Buonarroti is probably the most studied artist of all times and in part his fame is due to the aura of genius and "self made" artist that accompanies him. In this presentation we would like to show the human being, learning from the study of the classics as well as from his Florentine colleagues and competitors. A man working like a slave to please his demanding clients and to secure a decent life to his large, bloodsucking family. A man, whose life crossed almost an entire century, the Renaissance, one of the most stimulating times in art and culture.

Simona Conti was born in Florence, Italy, in 1960 and received a degree in Foreign Languages (English and German) from the Superior School for Interpreters and Translators in 1982. She has been active in tourism since 1983. Simona’s first employment was as a tour director for an American travel agency, escorting groups throughout Italy. She became an official guide in 1996, after having received a Masters. Up to the present time, Simona has guided thousands of visitors around her city, Florence which has included famous people like Japanese baseball player Hideki Matsui, film directors like Steven Spielberg, writers like Ken Follett, movie stars like Michael J. Fox and Sarah Jessica Parker, musicians like Dire Straits’ founder Mark Knopfler. and actors like Jane Fonda. Currently Simona lives in the country with her husband, three dogs and five cats, on a farm property which they have painstakingly restored, surrounded by 35 olive trees. Her part-time job is taking care of the vegetable garden and helping her husband with pruning and harvesting . In the Fall they pick their olives and have our own extra virgin olive oil made. They have a daughter, Priscilla who became a medical doctor in Barcelona, Spain and lives currently in Florence, Italy, where she’s training as Psychiatrist. Simona enjoys her chosen profession because it allows her to meet many different people and share with them the love for her beautiful city, Florence! 

SEPHARDIC JEWS IN AMSTERDAM’S GOLDEN AGE: A VISUAL TOUR, Dr. Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld.  This tour took place on Dec 145, 2021.

Since the end of the sixteenth century, refugees from the Iberian Peninsula, former New-Christians, started to settle down in the eastern part of Amsterdam. There, in the relatively tolerant environment of the young Dutch Republic, they returned as so called New Jews to the faith of their forefathers setting up a Jewish community that quickly gained world renown for its wealth and benevolence. Via a historic and visual tour through this neighborhood, their story will be told including new research highlighting gender, material culture and social life. Moreover, the tour will expand into findings from the newest archaeological digs in the Jewish neighborhood, which was on show in the Jewish Museum of Amsterdam.

Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld earned her PhD in Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She specializes in European Jewish History of the early modern period, concentrating particularly on social and cultural aspects of the Sephardi community of early modern Amsterdam about which she published widely. Once a curator of the Jewish Museum, she is at present an independent scholar, living in Amsterdam. As such she has been teaching at the department of Jewish Studies of the University of Amsterdam, while she also works as a senior fellow at the Zentrum für Jüdische Studien in Berlin. Besides, she is involved in different research projects, acting as an academic advisor to the Jewish Museum. Moreover, she guides different M.A. and Ph.D. students and post-Docs, in the Netherlands and abroad. Her book Poverty and Welfare among the Portuguese Jews of Early Modern Amsterdam (Oxford: Littman 2012) won in the United States, the National Jewish Book Award of 2012 in the category of Sephardi Culture. Over the years, together with the late Professor Yom Tov Assis and with Prof. Shalom Sabar, Tirtsah assisted by leading Jewish Historical Seminar Tours throughout the Netherlands.

 

THE FASCINATING STORY OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL JEWISH FAMILIES OF PARIS AROUND THE PARC MONCEAU 1870-1935, Danielle Malka.  This lecture took place on Dec 22, 2021.

 

The 19th century was a golden age for the Jews in France. After 400 years when the Jews were not allowed to live and work in the greatest part of the country, a vote in 1792 during the Revolution, grants them the same rights as any French citizen. From all over Europe and even the Ottoman Empire, throughout the century, the poorest fleeing poverty and the pogroms, sometimes stopping on their way to America, and the richest wanting to settle their banks and businesses to participate in the innovations and booming of the country, will arrive in Paris.

Among them are the Rothschilds, the Pereires, the Camondos, the Ephrussis. We will discover how they interacted, why some of them chose to live by the Parc Monceau, a new area, and what their new interests in the arts brought to their lives and to France.

 

Our guide, Danielle Lifshitz Malka was born and bred in Paris. She has been a licensed tour guide for about 15 years now, after working in Paris and London as a journalist and then an English teacher. Her wish is to share with you her love and enthusiasm for Paris and that your tours should be informative, enjoyable, accompanied with anecdotes and cultural hints to make the places surprising and memorable.

THE VISUAL IMAGE OF THE JEW IN CATHOLIC EUROPE, Dr. Kathy Aron-Beller. This lecture took place on Dec 28, 2021.

 

The power of the visual image is now recognized by both historians and art historians, as a major influence on human conduct, not only in the Middle Ages, but also in later periods. In the medieval period, the function and production of images underwent a profound and permanent change. The great edifices of the cathedrals, for example rising over the cities – the new centers of power in Western Europe were filled with a vastly expanded number of representations. I think we sometimes forget how any artistic creations were very much controlled by the Church, at least until the Renaissance. Art served as the book of the illiterate and allowed the church to disseminate Christian knowledge and belief among the masses.  Dr. Aron-Beller will argue that this type of Christian art sought to discredit the “outmoded beliefs” of Judaism, among other things. We will survey the areas where Jews were associated derogatorily with Christian teachings and learn how to recognize a Jew in Christian depictions of Jews. Images include those of Judas Iscariot, the Golden Calf, the circumcision and the Passion. Then we will survey the various types of iconographic stereotypes in Christian art such as Ecclesia and Synagoga, and the Judensau explicitly created to present a derogatory statement against Jews and anti-Judaism. We will confirm that much image making in the Middle Ages is not only about clearly articulated symbolic programs but rather about distortion, the concealment of intended meaning, and misinterpretation, modes of experience we are all too familiar with today.

 

Originally from London, Katherine Aron-Beller is lecturer of Jewish History in the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University and at Tel Aviv University. Her areas of expertise are medieval Jewish history, early modern Jewish-Christian relations, the early modern Inquisition and Anti-Semitism. In 2007-8 she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the George Washington University in Washington DC. At present she is a Visiting Scholar of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. She is the author of Jews on Trial: The Papal Inquisition in Modena 1598-1638 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), the co-editor of The Roman Inquisition: Centre versus Peripheries (Leiden: Brill, 2018) and many other articles on the Catholic Inquisition, anti-semitism and the Jews of Italy. She is now finishing a book called "Christian Images and Jewish Desecrators: The History of an Allegation," 400-1700." Dr. Aron-Beller has been a scholar in residence on many trips with Jewish Historical Seminars including trips to Spain, Portugal, England, Sicily and Italy and the ones we were planning to Alsace and Provence.

 LIGHTING THE SABBATH CANDLES – GENDER, CUSTOM AND MATERIAL CULTURE FROM GERMANY AND POLAND TO YEMEN AND AFGHANISTAN,  Prof. Shalom Sabar.  This lecture took place on Jan 5, 2022.

 

The Sabbath day, called The Day of Delight, provided the largest number of ceremonies and ritual objects for the Jewish home. Central among which is the one that symbolizes the beginning, or "entrance", of the Sabbath - namely the lighting of the Sabbath candles. In the lecture, we will examine the little-known history of this central ritual - why candles (or oil) are lit to usher in the Sabbath? How did this commandment become so central despite the fact it is not even mentioned in the Bible? When, how, and why was it formed? What symbolism was attached to this central ritual over the ages? How was it actually practiced in different lands? Why the woman of the household is the one generally responsible for performing this mitzvah? How many lights should be lit, why, and what are the differences between the various communities? Accompanying all these questions is the fascinating history of the material culture of the implement used for this purpose and the splendid artistic variations that evolved from one community to another. Sabbath lamps and candlesticks were produced by the very best craftsmen in their field, including the foremost Christian silversmiths in Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, while in lands of Islam the making of elaborate silver, brass, and stone lamps - each distinctively and elaborately designed - was in the hands of talented Jewish artisans.

 

Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!  

 

MONTEFIORE TO MENTMORE, SILVER TO SCANDEL: THE VICTORIA ALBERT MUSEUM WITH A JEWISH TWIST, Rachel Kolsky.  This lecture took place on Jan 12, 2022.

 

Join Rachel Kolsky in London to enjoy the V&A from a different angle discovering its fascinating history and architecture before focussing on highlights with a Jewish association. With pieces from the Gilbert Collection and Montefiore Endowment, the delightful ceramics of de Waal and Rie, silver Judaica including Benney Bark, the luxury hand-painted Waldybags, a ’scandalous' art deco masterpiece, the stories behind centuries of beautiful works of creativity will be revealed.

 

Rachel Kolsky was our wonderful guide on our tour to England in 2019. She is a popular prize-winning London Blue Badge Tourist Guide. Focusing on the 'human stories behind the buildings' Rachel's talks are known to be fun and informative filled with anecdotes past and present. From off-the-beaten track London and famous personalities to cinemas and shopping, memories of all aspects of London's rich and varied social history come flooding back. Before embarking on her career as Guide and Lecturer, Rachel, a qualified librarian, worked as an information professional in the financial services industry for over 25 years. Rachel has published five books including Jewish London (2012), Whitechapel in 50 Buildings (2016) and Women’s London (2018) and she is thrilled to have been a guest lecturer on cruises since 2009.

 

THE YEAR 1000: JEWS ALONG THE SILK ROAD, Prof. Gary Rendsburg.  This lecture took place on Jan 19, 2022.

 

The last decade has brought to light Hebrew documents – including the world’s oldest siddur and an early version of the Passover Haggadah – from the most unlikely of places:  Afghanistan.  

These discoveries reignited interest in the remarkable history of medieval Jews along the Silk Road.  Scholars quickly recalled other stray discoveries from decades and centuries past, including Jewish rock inscriptions in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Jewish documents found in western China.  All of this material serves to illuminate this little-known but fascinating chapter of Jewish history, from long ago and far away. Finally, note that this upcoming talk serves as an excellent follow-up to the two wonderful talks by Jacob Shoshan in September/November 2021, about modern and contemporary Jewish communities along the Silk Road.  We will traverse the same ground, though a millennium earlier.

 

Gary A. Rendsburg serves as the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University. His teaching and research focus on ‘all things ancient Israel’ – primarily language and literature, though also history and archaeology. His secondary interests include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew manuscript tradition, and Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Prof. Rendsburg is the author of seven books and about 180 articles. His most recent book is How the Bible Is Written (Hendrickson, 2019), with particular attention to the use of language to create literature. In addition, he has produced two programs for the Great Courses program, one on ‘The Book of Genesis’ and one on ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls’. During his career, Prof. Rendsburg has served as visiting professor or visiting researcher at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Sydney, Hebrew University, UCLA, Colgate University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

 

JEWISH MATERIAL HERITAGE IN POLAND AND THE CHALLENGES OF ITS PRESERVATION, DOCUMENTATION AND ACCESS, Prof. Marcin Wodziński.  This lecture took place on Jan 26, 2022.

 

The issue of who owns the past lies at heart of many contemporary controversies, including in Polish-Jewish relations over last several decades. This lecture will attempt to show what the object of controversy is, how the opinions differ, and what contemporary attempts to bridge these differences are. After a general overview of what constitutes today the material and cultural heritage of the Jewish community in Poland, I will analyze why the problem of

 

Prof. Marcin Wodziński Marcin Wodziński (b. 1966) was born and raised in Silesia, Poland. He works currently at the University of Wrocław, Poland, where he runs the Taube Department of Jewish Studies and holds position of professor of Jewish history and literature. His research focuses on the history and culture of East European Jews in modern times, especially the Haskalah and Hasidism. Of his recent publications, he is most proud of Historical Atlas of Hasidism (Princeton, 2018) and Hasidism: Key Questions (Oxford, 2018). the Jewish heritage in Poland is so important to Jewish and Polish societies, how this importance differs for the two respective societies, and what has (and hasn't) been done to bridge these differences.

LEONARDO DA VINCI, TIRELESS GENIUS WITH A CHILD’S EYE, Simona Conti.  This lecture took place on Feb 2, 2022.

 

Born in the middle of nowhere as an illegitimate child and deprived of any formal education, Leonardo da Vinci represents the challenge of ultimate curiosity in the body of a handsome and gentle man. He had charming oratory, free from any form of prejudice and preconceived ideas with a rare gem of brilliant intuition supported by empiric research. Leonardo da Vinci was a true Renaissance spirit, whose contribution to the improvement of science has crossed the time to strike us until today.

 

Simona Conti was born in Florence, Italy, in 1960 and received a degree in Foreign Languages (English and German) from the Superior School for Interpreters and Translators in 1982. She has been active in tourism since 1983. Simona’s first employment was as a tour director for an American travel agency, escorting groups throughout Italy. She became an official guide in 1996, after having received a Masters. Up to the present time, Simona has guided thousands of visitors around her city, Florence which has included famous people like Japanese baseball player Hideki Matsui, film directors like Steven Spielberg, writers like Ken Follett, movie stars like Michael J. Fox and Sarah Jessica Parker, musicians like Dire Straits’ founder Mark Knopfler. and actors like Jane Fonda. Currently Simona lives in the country with her husband, three dogs and five cats, on a farm property which they have painstakingly restored, surrounded by 35 olive trees. Her part-time job is taking care of the vegetable garden and helping her husband with pruning and harvesting . In the Fall they pick their olives and have our own extra virgin olive oil made. They have a daughter, Priscilla who became a medical doctor in Barcelona, Spain and lives currently in Florence, Italy, where she’s training as Psychiatrist. Simona enjoys her chosen profession because it allows her to meet many different people and share with them the love for her beautiful city, Florence!

 SHAKESPEARE’S LONDON: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE – BORN IN STRATFORD AND MADE IN LONDON, Ian Fagelson.  This lecture took place on Feb 8, 2022.

 

430 years ago, the young William Shakespeare left his wife and children in Stratford to start a new life in London. Rising from obscurity to superstar, he cut a swath through London society, attracting admirers, lawsuits and the odd begging letter. As a young actor, he lived in rented accommodation and got into trouble for not paying his taxes. By the end of his life, he owned property in fashionable Blackfriars. Starting near St Paul’s Cathedral, we will visit the places he lived and worked, taking in some of the most beautiful sites in London. Along the way we will encounter the unfortunate Jewish doctor who inspired Shakespeare to create Shylock, find the site of London's first theatre, visit Stationers' Hall where the earliest printed copies of Shakespeare's works were registered and view the site where kidnapped boys were forced to perform by unscrupulous playhouse managers.

 

Ian Fagelson studied law at the universities of Southampton and Oxford, going on to work as a lawyer in the City of London. After serving more than 35 years as a lawyer (including a stint as the senior UK partner of a major US law firm) he got time off for good behaviour and decided to do something interesting instead.  He took a master’s degree in history at University College London and qualified as a tour guide in the Cities of London and Westminster.  His tours are designed to provide a mix of fun and facts (with some of the facts being funny and some of fun being factual).  Ian donates all his guiding income to charities and was recently recognized for this by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.  Ian is rated as one of the top ten London tour guides on Tripadvisor.

THE MYSTICAL EMPTY CHAIR – PROPHET ELIJAH, CHILDBIRTH and CIRCUMCISION IN THE ART AND FOLKLORE OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES, WEST AND EAST, Prof. Shalom Sabar.  This lecture took place on Feb 16, 2022.

Elijah, the zealot Biblical prophet and miracle worker, who ascended miraculously to heaven in his fiery chariot, occupied the creative imagination of Jews (as well as Christians and Muslims) over the ages. In the extensive archives of the Jewish Folktale at Haifa University, there are more stories whose hero is Elijah than any other figure of the Bible or Jewish history. The belief he never died made him a welcome guest on various occasions – be it personal (e.g., providing food for poor families on the eve of Sabbath and festivals), or national (e.g., herald of the messianic age). In the Jewish life cycle, his figure is most prominent in the circumcision ceremony, and he also serves as the patron of babies, protecting them against Lilith. In the lecture, we will concentrate on the fascinating customs associated with these traditions, as well as the captivating items of material culture created to enhance them – childbirth amulets, illuminated Medieval manuscripts, illustrated panels with dramatic episodes from the life of Elijah, and most prominently - the special chair prepared for him during the circumcision ceremony. The Elijah Chairs varied greatly from one community to another – attracting the best craftsmen to produce and decorate them, from the Middle Ages to modern times. The mystic presence of the prophet in the ceremony gave birth in some communities to the creation and recitation of special laudatory poems welcoming Elijah, as well as intriguing bygone customs, including beliefs in the magical and prophylactic powers of the Chair on behalf of the mighty prophet.  

 

Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!  

UPS AND DOWNS, SUCCESS AND FAILURE - LIFE OF MOSCOW JEWS FROM 19TH TO 21ST CENTURY, Jane Kempinsky. The lecture took place on Feb 23, 2022.

Today Moscow is home to the largest Jewish community in Russia with around 80,000 people. The Jewish life in Moscow flourishes now. One traveling to Moscow will find a number of beautiful historical and new Synagogues, Community centers, Jewish museums and more. The community is known for its rich religious and cultural life. However, this has not been the same in the past. This tour covers the period of about 140-150 years from the time when Jews were first allowed to settle in Moscow in the small Zaryadie neighborhood to the modern days. We will look at the Jewish business empires of the late 19th century and find their today's traces and speak about difficult times when Jews were expelled from Moscow. We will visit the Old Choral Synagogue and Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue as well. Jane will discuss the life of Jews in Moscow in Soviet Era talking about both - suppression and resistance. She will take us to the Jewish museum and Tolerance center – a brilliant modern museum dedicated to the history of Russian Jews as well as a visit to the Holocaust memorial Synagogue located in the Victory Park.

 

Jane Kempinski is a tour guide from St.Petersburg, Russia who has been giving tours for about 15 years already and is absolutely in love with her city and her job. She is Jewish, born and raised in Leningrad and then St.Petersburg. Her family has been living in St. Petersburg since the early 1920’s originating from the Pale of Settlement – Ukraine, Belorussia and Poland. Jane started specific Jewish Heritage tours of St.Petersburg and about 12 years ago started incorporating and interconnecting Russian and Jewish history and culture. Her idea is to show St.Petersburg from the Jewish prospective, giving one a taste of what it is to be a Jew living in Russia.

FOUR QUARTERS FOR 3 RELIGIONS – A TOUR OF JERUSALEM’S OLD CITY, Bena Mantel.  This lecture took place on March 2, 2022.

An in depth tour of some of the most important sites of the Old City of Jerusalem: the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and more as much as time will allow.

Bena Mantel is a licensed tour guide, lecturer and archaeologist in Israel with more than 20 years of experience. Living in Caesaria, Bena is a “tsabar”, born in Israel with semi USA roots. He has a strong academic background in Israel studies, bible and archaeology and has drawn clients from all the walks of life. He also has done work with the TV channels such as Discovery and History channels. 

 

JAPAN: BEAUTY, ODDITIES AND SURPRISING JEWISH STORIES, Jacob Shoshan.  This lecture took place on March 9, 2022.

Enjoy a cup of coffee with porcupines, bathe in a tub filled with Ramen Soup. Rent a relative or pour your tears at a Crying Workshop. Discover heroic individuals who have risked everything to save European Jews during the years of the Holocaust, and join an emotional meeting to the sounds of Hebrew songs with an amazing Japanese Choir.

 

Our guide will be Jacob Shoshan. Born in Jerusalem, he is a licensed tour guide in Israel as well as a teacher and lecturer for The Tour Guide Colleges in Israel. He is also a Senior Tour Director and Lecturer for the Geographical Society, Israel. Jacob has visited 98 countries and led tours in 65 countries on all six continents and is fluent in 15 languages. He presents in-depth discussions on Jewish history, philosophy and culture and is deeply involved in Holocaust education.

A VIRTUAL TOUR OF THE INCREDIBLE PINK CITY OF JAIPUR WITH ITS UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES, Vijay Singh Shekhawat.  This lecture took place on March 16, 2022.

Vijay Singh Shekhawat will take us on a tour of the amazing Pink City, Jaipur (Rajasthan) which itself and some of its sites are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Jaipur is India’s first planned city built in 1727 by the ruler Jai Singh based on the oldest architectural science in the world. We will see beautiful historical buildings like Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) with its intricate details, Jal Mahal, the water palace located on a lake, the City Palace and more. He will also take us to the famous 300 year old Jantar Mantar Observatory with its astronomical instruments and world’s largest sundial with an accuracy of 2 seconds and various other ways to measure time. Vijay will also give us a taste of the Indian culture and traditions!

Vijay Singh was born and brought up in a very traditional extended Hindu family in Jaipur. Vijay had a typical arranged marriage twelve years ago and today has 10 year old twins. He studied law but was passionate about history and art. This passion and inclination towards the historical magnificence of this country drew him towards the tourism industry, specializing in customized tours for the last 16 years. Vijay was our wonderful guide in Jaipur on our past tours of India!

THE SOPHISTICATED JEWS OF MEDIEVAL PORTUGAL, Dr. Kathy Aron-Beller. This lecture took place on March 22, 2022.

The unique historical experience and self-image of Portuguese Jewry during the medieval period will be celebrated in this lecture. Jews of Portugal lived in a long and intimate contact with both Islam and Christendom, a confluence as decisive for the Jews as for Portugal itself. From this fundamental fact so much else derived: the proverbial hubris and elitism of a sophisticated courtier class which was proud of its cultural and educational accomplishments and a particular vitality and richness of Jewish religious polemic. We will meet the Jews who yearned for Zion while at the same time maintaining an unusual sense of permanence and attachment to Portuguese soil. We will learn of the Jewish astronomers and physicians at the royal courts, and how these men survived in two radically different spheres – those of Jewish and Christian society.

Originally from London, Katherine Aron-Beller is lecturer of Jewish History in the Rothberg International School of the of the Hebrew University and at Tel Aviv University. Her areas of expertise are medieval Jewish history, early modern Jewish-Christian relations, the early modern Inquisition and Anti-Semitism. In 2007-8 she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the George Washington University in Washington DC. At present she is a Visiting Scholar of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. She is the author of Jews on Trial: The Papal Inquisition in Modena 1598-1638 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), the co-editor of The Roman Inquisition: Centre versus Peripheries (Leiden: Brill, 2018) and many other articles on the Catholic Inquisition, anti-semitism and the Jews of Italy. Her new book "Christian Images and Jewish Desecrators: The History of an Allegation," 400-1700" is coming out shortly. Dr.Aron-Beller has been a scholar in residence on many trips with Jewish Historical Seminars including trips to Spain, Portugal, England, Sicily and Italy.

THE JUDAIC TREASURES OF THE BRITISH LIBRARY, Prof. Gary Rendsburg.  This lecture took place on March 29, 2022.

In previous lectures, Prof. Gary Rendsburg has spoken about the Cairo Geniza documents in Cambridge and about the manuscript treasures of the Bodleian Library in Oxford.  This lecture, accordingly, may be considered the third in the trio, as we now turn our attention to the manuscript treasures of the British Library in London.  Perhaps most remarkable is the collection of the Duke of Sussex, Prince Augustus Frederick, son of King George III, who learned Hebrew, worked towards full civil rights for English Jewry, and amassed some important Hebrew manuscripts, including the Duke of Sussex Bible, now housed in the British Library.

Though there is so much more, including the Golden Haggadah from medieval Spain, the oldest complete copy of the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Bible), and the most ancient and reliable Targum (Aramaic translations of the Bible) manuscripts. 

 

Gary A. Rendsburg serves as the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University. His teaching and research focus on ‘all things ancient Israel’ – primarily language and literature, though also history and archaeology. His secondary interests include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew manuscript tradition, and Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Prof. Rendsburg is the author of seven books and about 180 articles. His most recent book is How the Bible Is Written (Hendrickson, 2019), with particular attention to the use of language to create literature. In addition, he has produced two programs for the Great Courses program, one on ‘The Book of Genesis’ and one on ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls’. During his career, Prof. Rendsburg has served as visiting professor or visiting researcher at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Sydney, Hebrew University, UCLA, Colgate University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

 

THE PURIM STORY IN ART: THE BIRTH AND FLOURISHING OF THE ILLUMINATED ESTHER SCROLL IN RENAISSANCE AND BAROQUE ITALY, Prof. Shalom Sabar. This lecture took place March 31, 2022.

 

A holiday of secondary importance in the Jewish year cycle, only one work of art was dedicated to the story of Purim in the first millennium of the common era - a mural in the Dura Europos synagogue. In the Middle Ages, the suffering of the Jews of Ashkenaz led them to "employ" the events in the Book of Esther to show how the enemies of the Jewish people can be vanquished. It was only in Renaissance Italy that a new image of Esther emerged. In the culture of the time, she became a model of both an ideal woman - beautiful, pious, and obedient - and at the same time, a woman who demonstrated great faith, courage, and resolve, which led her to save her people. Italian Jews adopted the new model, and just as Judith became the heroine of Hanukkah, Esther represented the festival of Purim. This led to the emergence of a new artistic genre - the decoration of the main object of Purim - the Esther scroll. The personally commissioned scrolls and their elaborate cases became attractive objets d'art, enhanced with the events narrated in the book, as well as symbols of status, representing the ideals and culture of the elite of Italian Jewry. 

 

Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!

 

LONDON’S TUBE AS AN ART GALLERY, Rachel Kolsky.  This lecture took place on April 5, 2022.

The architecture of London’s wonderful tube system is often (and quite rightly) admired but there is much to enjoy as you transfer lines or wait for your train. Tiling ranges from the subtle 1930s reliefs by Harold Stabler to the colourful Victoria Line benches, jazzy mosaics by pop-artist Paolozzi adorn Tottenham Court Road and further east mosaics also tell the story of Hitchcock’s film career and at Rachel’s local tube there is one of the most famous tube sculptures. Together with the classic font and iconic map there you will also enjoy specially commissioned artworks on the Overground, a modern take on the Bayeux Tapestry, ventilation grilles and London Transport’s 1920s HQ in St. James’s - not just wonderful artwork but pieces by eminent artists of the day. 

Rachel Kolsky was our wonderful guide on our tour to England in 2019. She is a popular prize-winning London Blue Badge Tourist Guide. Focusing on the 'human stories behind the buildings' Rachel's talks are known to be fun and informative filled with anecdotes past and present. From off-the-beaten track London and famous personalities to cinemas and shopping, memories of all aspects of London's rich and varied social history come flooding back. Before embarking on her career as Guide and Lecturer, Rachel, a qualified librarian, worked as an information professional in the financial services industry for over 25 years. Rachel has published five books including Jewish London (2012), Whitechapel in 50 Buildings (2016) and Women’s London (2018) and she is thrilled to have been a guest lecturer on cruises since 2009.

 

AN AMAZING ENCOUNTER AND STORY OF A SMALL JEWISH COMMUNITY IN A VILLAGE IN YEMEN, Naftali Hilger. This lecture took place on April 13, 2022.

The lecture will tell the story of the photographer, Naftali Hilger traveling to Yemen in 1987 and by chance taking a left turn in a small village where he encountered a young Jewish man.  He met with this man’s family and a small and threatened Jewish community in this village. This connection continued for decades with six more visits and Naftali will lecture on how he helped this family find their relatives who left Yemen for Israel and could help them once again connect together.  Incredible photos will accompany this lecture.

 

Naftali Hilger lives in Israel and is a staff photographer of the Israel Geographical magazine “Masa Acher” since 1990.  He works as a freelancer for Israel and international magazines and the LAIF Agency in Germany.  Naftali has held exhibitions of his work in Israel, the USA and Europe.  He has traveled all over the world and lectures on communities he has encountered.

THE ILLUSTRATED VENICE HAGGADAH OF 1609: PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE, Prof. Shalom Sabar.  This lecture took place on April 20, 2022.

The creative art of the Haggadah did not cease with the invention of printing. The illustrated Haggadah which was printed in Venice, 1609 undoubtedly ranks among the most attractive and sophisticated Haggadot ever printed. Printed with translations into the three languages spoken by Jews in the Ghetto of Venice, it serves as a faithful mirror to Jewish life and ideals in Italy of the time. Although the illustrations were simply printed with small woodcuts and the name of the artist who created them has not been documented, they are deeply rooted in the visual arts and culture of Baroque Italy, while revealing the profound knowledge of the artist and his sage advisers in Talmudic Jewish resources and the exegesis of the Passover saga in rabbinic literature. Moreover, the woodcuts not only tell the stories of the slavery in Egypt and the many miracles, but visually comment on contemporary reality, daily life in the Ghetto, cultural and other relationships with the Christian neighbors, as well as the aspirations of Venetian Jewry for an ideal and harmonious future in the spirit of the humanist ideas of the Italian Renaissance. 

Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!  

EDUCATING FOR EVIL: CHILDREN IN GERMANY 1933-1945, Richard Rinberg (This lecture is in honor of Remembrance Day for the Holocaust).  This lecture took place on April 26, 2022.

After the 1914-1918 World War, Germany was completely shattered. Out of the chaos, the Nazi Party (the National Socialist German Workers' Party) came into being as a political party of the mass movement known as National Socialism. On 30 January 1933, after democratic elections, Hitler was named German Chancellor and Hermann Göring Minister of the Interior for Prussia. Four weeks later, on 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building (the German parliament) was burned down in an arson attack. On 23 March 1933, Hitler was granted “temporary” powers by the elected Reichstag members, giving him the legal freedom to act without parliamentary consent or constitutional limitation. He was now a “legal” Dictator. To control the population, Nazi ideology was infiltrated into every area of German society. This visual presentation, using many items of material culture from the period, will focus on how families and children were indoctrinated, both at home, at school and in social settings.  

Richard Rinberg is an authorized guide at the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum and was born and raised in London, U.K. He studied Mathematics at University College, London, graduating with honors and is a Life Member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. His business career in the City of London included being elected an Underwriting Member at Lloyd's of London Insurance Market and a Member of the London Diamond Bourse. After retiring and making Aliyah with his wife and four children in 1996, he became President and then Chief Executive Officer of an Oil & Gas Exploration Company publicly traded on NASDAQ with offices in both Dallas, Texas and Israel. After retiring from business (a second time), he spends his time guiding at Yad Vashem and studying, researching and collecting Judaica and Jewish Art. His current project is, together with Professor Chaim Tawil, writing a book on the Akkadian background of the Hebrew Biblical text. 

FRIDA KAHLO: TRANSFORMING PAIN INTO ART, Gregorio Luke

Frida Kahlo has become not only the best known Mexican artist but perhaps the most famous female artist in the world. During her lifetime, Frida was known primarily as the wife of muralist Diego Rivera and was well respected for her works of art, particularly her self-portraits.  Soon after her death in 1954, Diego Rivera donated her house and work to establish a museum in her honor. In the 70’s Frida’s work was analyzed by feminist publications, and the women’s and Chicano movements also began to use her as a cultural reference. Gregorio Luke offers a kaleidoscopic view of Frida Kahlo. Using close-ups of her paintings, film clips, and photos' Luke explores every aspect of Frida’s life, from the way she dressed and decorated her surroundings to the way these objects re-appear in her paintings and become part of her artistic language. Film clips will be interspersed throughout the presentation to provide a unique vision of a living Frida Kahlo.  “I’m interested in the connections between Frida’s private life and her art,” says Luke. “Some scholars ignore Frida’s personal life and focus only on her paintings, but I find it impossible to separate the two. Everything Frida did was inspired by the same impulse.”

 

Gregorio Luke is an expert on Mexican and Latin American culture. Mr. Luke has given presentations on the art and culture of Mexico for more than twenty years. He has performed at the Florence Biennale, The Smithsonian Institution, The Library of Congress and museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Detroit Institute of Art, among many others. Mr. Luke has held distinguished positions such as Director of the Museum of Latin American Art in California, First Secretary of the Mexican Embassy in Washington and Cultural attaché for Mexico in Los Angeles.