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The Jewish Museum
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New York, NY 10128

The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY 10128
212.423.3200

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Jewish Museum Members and visitors can park at Impark and Champion Parking. Read More

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Upcoming Events

Sun, Jul 15

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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10:30 AM

Access Family Workshop
Visitors with Learning or Developmental Disabilities

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Sun, Jul 15

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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1 PM

Adult Studio Workshop
Pattern Power

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Sun, Jul 15

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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2 PM

Access Family Workshop
Visitors with Learning or Developmental Disabilities

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Mon, Jul 16

Monday, July 16, 2018

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1 PM

Summer Studio Sessions
Drop-In Art Workshop: Whimsical Diorama

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Thu, Jul 19

Thursday, July 19, 2018

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7:30 PM

Concert
Performance by Judith Berkson Presented with Bang on a Can

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Fri, Jul 20

Friday, July 20, 2018

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2 PM

Gallery Talk
Chaim Soutine: A Closer Look

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Sat, Jul 21

Saturday, July 21, 2018

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11 AM

Free Saturdays

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Mon, Jul 23

Monday, July 23, 2018

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1 PM

Summer Studio Sessions
Drop-In Art Workshop: Patterned Prints

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Wed, Jul 25

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

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11 AM

JM Journeys
For Visitors with Early-Stage Dementia

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Who We Are

Welcome to the Jewish Museum, a museum in New York City at the intersection of art and Jewish culture for people of all backgrounds. Whether you visit our home in the elegant Warburg mansion on Museum Mile, or engage with us online, there is something for everyone. Through our exhibitions, programs, and collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media, visitors can journey through 4,000 years of art and Jewish culture from around the world.


As an art museum representing the diversity of Jewish culture and identity, the Jewish Museum believes in free expression and an open society. We embrace multiple viewpoints regardless of race, gender, national origin, or religion, and we oppose discrimination in all its forms.


Our exhibitions and public programs provide platforms for cross-cultural dialogue, fostering empathy, mutual understanding, and respect. We champion the powerful roles art and artists can play in our communities, both inside and outside the Museum’s walls.

Our Mission

The Jewish Museum is dedicated to the enjoyment, understanding, and preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of the Jewish people through its unparalleled collections and distinguished exhibitions. Learn More

History

The Jewish Museum was founded in 1904 in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where it was housed for more than four decades. Located along New York's Museum Mile, this elegant former residence has been the home of the Museum since 1947. Learn More

Stories

The Science of Art Conservation Read More

Art conservator Batyah Shtrum discusses her restoration work for the Jewish Museum’s collection.

Interior view of Torah in Torah Case with Finials, Possibly Iraq, c. 1850–85
Stamped and parcel-gilt silver; ink on parchment; graphite and ink on paper; paint on paper; glass; wood. The Jewish Museum, New York. Gift of the International Synagogue, 2016–18

In early 2018, the Jewish Museum opened Scenes from the Collection, an exhibition that re-imagined the presentation of the collection through nearly 600 works from antiquities to contemporary art — many of which were selected for public display for the first time.

In preparation, the Museum undertook the conservation of hundreds of objects in the collection. This meticulous care-taking allows the artworks to remain in good condition, and be enjoyed for generations to come.

To unpack the complexities of conservation, a true combination of art and science, the Museum spoke to Batyah Shtrum, a partner in SBE Conservation. Along with her colleagues Sarah Barack and Beth Edelstein, the trio have worked on the conservation of objects in the Jewish Museum collection since 2008. Ten years later, Shtrum gave us a peek behind the curtain to see how they weave their magic, bringing art and objects back to life.

Art conservator Batyah Strum and Jewish Museum Senior Curator Susan Braunstein confer about an object before restoration work begins. Photograph © The Jewish Museum

How do you describe art conservation to those unfamiliar with it?

Art conservation is the care and protection of cultural property. As conservators, our main goal is to focus on what’s best for a particular object. This means understanding the piece to the best of our abilities and choosing the appropriate conservation materials, such as adhesives and solvents, to carry out the physical work.

Batyah Shtrum practicing laser cleaning in the conservation studio. Photograph © SBE Conservation.

This includes — but isn’t limited to — hands-on work for the actual repair of damaged objects. Other aspects of our job include collection and materials examination, environmental monitoring of temperature and relative humidity, rehousing of collections, materials and fabrication, and education to disseminate knowledge to stakeholders, such as collection managers and curators.

Per the code of ethics of the American Institute of Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, we use reversible materials in the conservation of an object. A variety of reasons might necessitate the removal of a historic restoration materials over time, including danger to the object itself, failure of the material, or aesthetic appearance, for example if became discolored with age. This is why conservators prioritize the use of reversible materials with good aging properties.

A collection of objects from the Jewish Museum in the midst of conservation work. Photograph © Jewish Museum.

How do you assess an object you are conserving?

The first step in conservation is understanding what the object you are entrusted with actually is. This means knowledge of what material or materials it is composed of, and how it was fabricated or manufactured. Close examination of a piece, often with the aid of a head loop, microscope — or even ultraviolet light — can help with a more in-depth understanding of a piece. For example, UV light can show old restorations on a painting or ceramic. There are also more advanced analytical procedures available. Information related to who made the piece, where and when it was made and — when possible — its history, are all important aspects for a comprehensive understanding of an object that should be established before any conservation treatment begins.

Take us through the steps of how you restored the silver Torah case with finials currently on view in Scenes from the Collection.

The Torah case during the conservation process. Photograph © SBE Conservation.

Through examination and analysis of the Torah case, we were able to understand the object more fully and choose the appropriate cleaning methods to attain the safest and best outcome. We spent almost 100 hours working restoring this object.

When the Torah case was first examined, it was assumed that it was silver, as the surfaces exhibited an even silver sulfide tarnish layer overall. My colleague Sarah Barak test cleaned a small area using a non-vinyl, soft eraser. Before we begin, conservators always carry out small tests on objects to ensure the chosen method will work as planned.

Sarah was surprised to see that some of the raised areas of decoration appeared to be gilded. We brought in Senior Curator Susan Braunstein to discuss our findings.

Polishing metals removes material. In most cases with gilded metals, the gilding layer is extremely thin, so polishing can remove it all together, changing the visual appearance of the piece permanently.

Electrolytic cleaning of gilded surfaces during conservation. Photograph © SBE Conservation.

In order to confirm the presence of gilding, we brought in a company who performed X-ray Fluorescence, or XRF, a non-destructive analytical technique used to detect the elemental composition of an object. The analysis confirmed the presence of gold both on the surface of the piece as well as on the eraser crumbs, meaning we had removed a small amount of original gilding with the mechanical action of the eraser. At this point we realized we had to change our treatment approach on areas that incorporated gilding. Fortunately, the test area allowed us to understand where gilding was present, which meant we could safely continue using the eraser on areas that were not gilded.

Torah Case with Finials, Possibly Iraq, c. 1850–85
Stamped and parcel-gilt silver; ink on parchment; graphite and ink on paper; paint on paper; glass; wood. The Jewish Museum, New York. Gift of the International Synagogue, 2016–18

We began testing electrolytic reduction, which incorporates a non-abrasive cleaning method. The object became tarnished as corrosion passed through micropores in the thin gilding layer. In the course of the cleaning process, silver that had become a part of corrosion products is reduced back to metal, which emerges as granules or a layer weakly attached to the main material. The silver object itself is the cathode and in our case, a stainless steel pin was used as the anode. We used sodium bicarbonate — baking soda — as the electrolyte, followed by a dilute solution of formic acid to further remove loosened tarnish. This method worked extremely well, so we moved forward. We had to be sure not to wet the surface too much since we did not want liquid to seep between the metal plates and into the case that still contained the parchment Torah scroll. The before and after images of this object are quite striking. We were quite pleased with the outcome.

Torah Stave with wax drippings. Photograph provided by SBE Conservation.

Any other surprises on objects you worked on for the Museum?

Beside the fact that the Torah case was partially gilded, a big surprise involved a pair of Torah staves.

Upon examination of the staves, I came across candle wax residue on the surfaces that indicates they must have been used as candlesticks. Often with ceremonial objects, leaving remnants of their use is desirable as an historic record. When I informed the curator of my finding, she was very surprised as it seems these Torah staves may have been purposefully desecrated. After discussion it was decided that the wax should be left intact as evidence of the object’s history.

What’s the greatest feeling of accomplishment you derive from your work?

As a conservator I feel honored, and admittedly sometimes intimidated, to be entrusted with the care of an artwork. The true satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment comes when a damaged work, that looks so different than it had when it was made, comes back to life, and can once again be appreciated as intended.

See many of these works on view now in Scenes from the Collection.


The Science of Art Conservation was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

ADA Month: Supporting Transitions Read More

In celebration of ADA Month and anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we’re highlighting initiatives at the Jewish Museum that make our institution accessible to all—beginning with autism awareness.

Drawing by Jacob, Supporting Transitions intern at the Jewish Museum

Over a period of ten weeks, Jacob interned in the Jewish Museum’s Education Department through a program called Supporting Transitions, focusing on professional development opportunities for individuals with autism in cultural institutions. On the last day of his internship, Jacob had a conversation with Samantha Schott, Assistant Manager of Gallery Programs, about his experience at the Museum, how art aligns with his advocacy, his favorite works of art, and the legacies he would like to leave.

We worked together on a lot of different things here — what were your favorite projects?

My favorite projects were exploring the exhibitions and doing artwork with kids. I also enjoyed learning to ask open-ended and close-ended questions, but one of the best parts was undoubtedly, seeing someone show this short documentary Joe’s Violin to these kids. It was my favorite part.

What do you see as the benefit of art programs?

I was thinking it could cultivate people’s creativity, and their ability to expand their knowledge.

I definitely agree there. Why do you like to make art?

I love making art because it makes me feel relaxed, helps me come out of my comfort zone, and also lets me share experiences with other people. I want to to give them reminders, raise awareness, and also create tales to help people.

How does art help inspire people?

Well, it helps them move forward. It brings light into darkness and it also helps express moods, and especially translates the human experience.

Have you learned about your Jewish heritage, or forged a greater connection to your heritage by interning here?

Well, about this Jewish stuff, I learned that the Jews have been prospering over time and I have too. Many people have been trying to hold onto their Jewish culture even to this day, and I can understand. I feel like I’m born into a bunch of people trying to preserve their heritage and cope with a changing environment. Indeed, being a young Jewish man with autism is very hard, as people with autism, well not all of them, are trying to cope with an environment where they’re expected to be normal. With many Jews it happened long ago, and in some cases it’s still happening to this day.

Drawing of Hanukkah Lamp by Jacob, Supporting Transitions intern at the Jewish Museum. This Hanukkah lamp was carved from wood with the Hebrew inscription “Who is like you, O Lord, among the celestials?” (Exodus 15:11), and a rare example of Jewish ceremonial art created during the Holocaust. The sculptor and architect Arnold Zadikow was deported to Theresienstadt in May 1942 and assigned to work in the Lautscher Workshop, which made decorative arts for the Nazis. With the help of a young woodcarver, Leopold Hecht, he created the lamp for the boys’ residence at the camp to enable the children to celebrate Hanukkah and to teach them about Judaism, since Jewish instruction was forbidden. The lamp was hidden all year and taken out only during the holiday. Zadikow died at Theresienstadt, but his daughter Marianne and wife, Hilda, also an artist, survived. The lamp was found in the camp after the war.

Let’s talk about a work in Scenes from the Collection that we kept coming back to. Can you tell me a little bit about the piece?

This wooden menorah is one of my favorite artifacts, and it also places emphasis on how leaving a legacy is important. When the Nazis were in power over Europe, the Jews were trying to hold onto their heritage.

So what really drew you to this piece? What made it one of your favorites?

The Star of David, when the Nazis ruled Europe, was used as a labeling symbol. It was used to label the Jews, but to this very day it is used as a sign of our Jewish culture and religion. And this menorah emphasizes the fact that even in tough times there is still a ray of light that shines on us. This means that the Jews, even to this day, are doing whatever it takes to hold onto their heritage.

How does it make you feel to be able to see these objects that were created by people in World War II?

Inspiring, because while the Jews may have suffered during World War II, by keeping artifacts like this safe emphasizes the fact that the Nazis never crushed the spirit of these people.

What do you think is the importance of focusing on one person’s story? How does that affect us?

It’s like stepping into the shoes of that person and understanding what they are going through. It’s like allowing people to feel empathy for people like Anne Frank, so you can understand that these people go through certain events. In reality, and even in fiction, you’ve got to connect with other people, whether it’s people like your family, your friends, or even to an audience.

Drawing by Jacob, Supporting Transitions intern at the Jewish Museum

I’m curious to know what you learned about being in a workplace, or working in a museum, through this internship?

Resisting distraction can be hard, but I was able to learn how to get used to it. And being in a workplace is both about being aware of yourself and the people you are working with. In addition to keeping an open mind about what questions to ask other people, you’ve got to think about what you want to do for other people. You’ve got to use your knowledge and experiences, and use your environment to teach people.

What do you think museums can do to be friendlier to people with autism of all ages?

Be aware of their space and senses, since some people with autism are sensitive to lighting, smells, noises, and sound volume.

One of the things that I thought was really cool on your internship application is that you are an advocate. You talked about being an advocate for people with autism. So I was wondering, what does it mean for you to be an advocate for yourself, or for other people?

To remind people of what is important, to make their lives better, and to help them understand things.

Drawing by Jacob, Supporting Transitions intern at the Jewish Museum

Do you think this internship helped you grow as an advocate?

Yes. Especially when it came to reminding people that when we see art, it allows us to expand our knowledge and be aware of the fact that the decisions we make, the actions we take, have very profound consequences. If we work together, if we speak their minds, people will listen and share their experiences. It can even help them learn things. They can learn from certain events, positive or negative, which have affected them.

So what do you hope to do next?

I was hoping I can find another job that could expand my knowledge and allow for me to come out of my comfort zone.

We talked a lot about legacy during your time at the Jewish Museum. I’m curious about what you want your legacy to be.

My legacy — to inspire people, to use my art and my experiences, and so many other things, to help people make their lives better, like passing on courage. I even make art, films, books, and stories to help people. I also have hopes of connecting to others, keeping an open mind, and creating a place where people can pass on legacy, live positive lives, and handle their mistakes in a very true way, in addition to taking their biggest steps forward.

— Samantha Schott, Assistant Manager of Gallery Programs

To learn more about Access Programs at the Jewish Museum, visit TheJewishMuseum.org/AccessPrograms.

Jacob was supported during this internship by Job Path, supporting adults with developmental disabilities in the workforce since 1978. For more information about Job Path’s programs, please visit jobpathnyc.org.

To learn more about internship opportunities at the Jewish Museum, visit TheJewishMuseum.org/Internships.


ADA Month: Supporting Transitions was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Chaim Soutine: Herring Season Read More

On the eve of herring season, take a deep dive into a still life painting of herrings, on view now at the Jewish Museum.

Visitors to the Jewish Museum’s current exhibition Chaim Soutine: Flesh often leave with one preoccupation: food. Whether you find Soutine’s still lifes of slaughtered animals appetizing or revolting is a matter of personal opinion. Some see his vibrantly-colored fruits and flesh as raw materials, anticipating a sumptuous meal. Others practically smell the over-ripening meat, and hear the butcher’s cleaver. Relating Soutine to proto-animal rights activism says more about our contemporary experience than that of an immigrant artist working in 1920’s Paris. Soutine’s projection of his childhood experiences in western Russia onto his paintings of animals seems more likely.

Chaim Soutine (1893 – 1943) with a chicken, hanging in front of a broken brick wall, Le Blanc, western France (Indre), 1927. Image provided by the Kluver/Martin Archive

Although the life of Chaim Soutine is evoked in numerous anecdotal sources, he left no diary or significant writings behind and was known to have destroyed some of his paintings. This renders his “motives” tricky to explore. What we can imagine though, is what it must have been like to wander the bustling markets of Paris in his time. Buying meat in the first half of the twentieth century was quite different from what it is like today. To visit a butcher shop would have been a visceral experience, both literally and figuratively. Unlike the sanitary, shrink-wrapped packages of today, customers got closer to the original flesh: including bones, offal, and blood. The average Parisian was much better acquainted with where meat came from. Even now, the French are known for being less squeamish about the earthier qualities of a fine dish.

Chaim Soutine, Still Life with Herrings, c. 1916. Oil on canvas. Collection Larock-Granoff, Paris

We do not have definitive records from Soutine himself on the pleasures of meat versus the violence of the slaughterhouse. However, we have some colorful stories from his friends and other second-hand observers. Soutine would douse his beef carcasses with fresh blood, to accurately capture the look of a fresh kill. During his early years in Montparnasse, he would forgo meals to afford art supplies. In the end, Soutine died of a stomach ulcer, the culmination of a lifetime of troubles, with hunger and anxiety.

Soutine came to Paris from a small Jewish village in modern-day Belarus. Of all the still lifes in the exhibition, the Still Life with Herrings (1916) is readily associated with Jewish life in Europe. The fish is a cherished delicacy for Eastern-European Jews. In fact, Jews have been involved with the herring trade since the 15th century. Many immigrants brought herring with them to newly-established communities on the Lower East Side and elsewhere (most notably Joel Russ, who later established Russ & Daughters). The pickled fish is inexpensive, and a good source of protein and healthy fats. Unlike many of the works in the exhibition, these painted herrings are ostensibly kosher. The subject in Still-Life with Rayfish — lacking fins and scales — would be strictly verboten.

Chaim Soutine, Still Life with Rayfish, c. 1924, oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls Collection, 1997 (1997.149.1). Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Image provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

Observed from above, in a bird’s eye view, the plate in Still Life with Herrings seems to project outwards from the picture plane. The contorted forks imply a pair of diners, waiting to share the tiny, odd-numbered portions. Mouths agape and wide-eyed, the herrings could yield a few slender filets at most. An empty bowl nearby underscores the herrings as the main and only component of the meal. Shortly after his arrival in Paris in 1912, Soutine experienced a decade-long period of financial struggle. When this work was painted, a humble dish of three herrings may have been a welcome feast.

Soutine remains a mysterious artist in many ways. Though he was an émigré from a shtetl who spoke French as a second language, he did not depict rabbis, synagogues, or Jewish rituals. However, he consistently returned to still-lifes. He painted kosher and explicitly non-kosher foodstuffs. How the animal was killed, hunted, or fished is never part of the equation. In any case, concerns about the sensorial aspect of food are brought to the forefront, along with the artist’s memorialization of the transience of life.

— Elisabeth Rivard, Interim Digital Marketing Associate

Chaim Soutine: Flesh is on view at the Jewish Museum through September 16, 2018.


Chaim Soutine: Herring Season was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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