Various events and exhibitions are marking the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel. One of the most interesting is "Ancient Land, New Style: Jewish Arts and Crafts from Jerusalem, 1906-1980," organized and presented by the Jewish Museum of New York and the Newark [N.J.] Museum.
The Bezalel School was established in Jerusalem at the beginning of the century to revive the ancient culture of the Jewish people by creating a recognizable Jewish style in arts and crafts, such as metalwork and woodcarving. Some of the objects created by resident artists were for use in sacred rituals, others for household use or display.
The school became internationally known, producing a major show at New York's Madison Square Garden in 1914. Forced to close in 1929 for financial reasons, the school reopened as the New Bezalel School in 1935, embracing a modernist aesthetic.
In a 1964 incarnation it became the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, which is still Israel's leading center of modern design.
Although the exhibition is relatively small, it contains stunning examples of religious art and art that bespeaks spiritual themes as well as expressing the cultural aesthetic of a people. It demonstrates how an artistic sensibility can be an intrinsic part of religious expression, whether in worship or in a simple activity like a family meal.
The show will be at the Newark Museum through Oct. 25 at 49 Washington St. (800-7MUSEUM) and then at the Jewish Museum in New York City, 1109 5th Ave. (212-423-3200) through the end of the year. If you are in the area of either site, the exhibition is well worth a visit.
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