07/09/2015 - 10/09/2015
Conference Registration: 

International Workshop,

Bar-Ilan University and Israel Science Foundation


The Bar-Ilan Journal of Jewish Art

The Michael J. Floersheim Memorial for Jewish Art







PROGRAM (updated 5.09.2015)


Monday September 7


  9:00-9:45  Registration

  Bar-Ilan University, Building 905 (Jim Joseph Educational Building,

  Yosef Ben-Shimon School of Education)

link to image, link to Google Maps, link to downloadable campus map


9:45-10:45  Greetings

Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, President, Bar-Ilan University

Prof. Miriam Faust, Rector, Bar-Ilan University

Prof. Elie Assis, Dean, the Faculty of Jewish Studies

William L. Gross, Ars Judaica Editorial Board

Opening Remarks:

Dr. Ilia Rodov, Chair, the Department of Jewish Art


11:00-13:00 Session 1 (Bld. 905 room 62): Jewish Place and Identity

Chair: Daniel Sperber

Ziva Amishai-Maisels, The Hebrew University, Jewish Layers of Feminist Struggle: Ayana Friedman

Larry Silver, University of Pennsylvania, Barnett Newman and the Representation of Jewish Place

Ruti RubensteinBen-Gurion University, Michael Sgan-Cohen's Secular-Jewish Art: Israeli Perception and Reception

Asaf Friedman, Bezalel Academy, A "Critical View" Theory of Jewish Art: Identity and Independence

13:00-14:30 Lunch

14:30-16:30 Session 2a (Bld. 905 room 62): Visual Multiculturalism

Chair: Elisheva Revel-Neher

Shalom Sabar, The Hebrew University, Strategies for Collecting and Researching Jewish Visual Ephemera

Daniela Schmid, Dr Ariel Muzicant Collection, Vienna, Jewish Amulets from Eastern Europe: A Multicultural Approach

Eugeny Kotlyar, Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts, “Jewish Baroque” as a Paradigm of Eastern European Jewry

Sergey R. Kravtsov, Center for Jewish Art, The Hebrew University, Polish-Jewish Art History Discourse: From Karol Maszkowski to Zofia Ameisenowa

14:30-16:30 Session 2b (Bld. 905 room 61): Expanding the Methodological Toolbox: Modern and Contemporary Contexts

Chair: Ziva Amishai-Maisels

Ben Schachter, Saint Vincent College, Pittsburgh, PA, What is Artistic in Jewish Thought? Turning the Question Around

Mor Presiado, Bar-Ilan University, Jewish Art as Autobiography: Reconstructing Life Stories of Holocaust Survivors

Eliya Bartal, Bar-Ilan University, Charm of Influences: the Constructive Element of "Influence” in Israeli Art

David Sperber, Bar-Ilan University, Phenomenological Qualitative Methods in the Study of Jewish Art

16:30-17:00 Coffee Break

17:00-18:30 Session 3 (Bld. 905 room 62): The “Artless Jew” Discourse

Chair: Annette Weber

Katherine Aron-Beller, The Hebrew University, “The Jew as a Desecrator of Images": Unexplored Context and Jewish Aniconism

Péter Lánchidi, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg, The Aesthetics of Artlessness: European Jewry's Evolving Aesthetic Consciousness

Alice Buschmeier, Zentrum Jüdische Studien, Berlin-Brandenburg, Critique of the Image in Jewish Thought: A Source for Art Theory?

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Tuesday September 8

10:00-11:30 Session 4a (Bld. 905 room 62): Migrating Texts and Images

Chair: Katrin Kogman-Appel

Elodie Attia-Kay, Heidelberg University, Between Visual and Textual : Towards a Typology of Hebrew Micrography in Western Europe

Batsheva Goldman-Ida, Tel Aviv Museum, Breaking it Apart: Visual Kabbalah and the End of Semantics

Emile Schrijver (in absentia), University of Ansterdam, The Decorated Jewish Printed Book: Shifting Paradigms and New Sources

10:00-11:30 Session 4b (Bld. 905 room 61): Between Politics and Culture

Chair: Maya Balakirsky-Katz

Efraim Sicher, Ben-Gurion University, Revisioning Modernism: Avant-Garde Jewish Responses to Pogroms and Revolution, 1912-1925

Anat Falbel, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil, A Dialogue on Jewish Art: Zygmund Turkow and Lasar Segall

Maya Balakirsky-Katz, Touro College, NY, Drawing the Iron Curtain: Rethinking Jewish Presence in Soviet Visual Culture

11:30-12:00 Coffee Break

12:00-14:00 Session 5a (Bld. 905 room 62): Expanding the Methodological Toolbox: Medieval and Early Modern Contexts

Chair: Mor Presiado

Ephraim Shoham-Steiner, Ben-Gurion University, Lions, Snakes, a Rabbi and a Parnas: the Cologne Synagogue Artwork Debate

Eva Frojmovic, University of Leeds, Christian Illuminators, Jewish Patrons and the Gender of the Jewish Book

Sara Offenberg, Bar-Ilan University, Divide and Conquer: Deconstructing "Jewishness" and Reconstructing Contextual Meaning

Zvi Orgad, Bar-Ilan University, "Judge a Bird by its Feathers": Did Eliezer-Zusman Paint the Unterlimpurg Synagogue?

12:00-14:00 Session 5b (Bld. 905 room 61): Between Particular and Universal

Chair: Larry Silver

Aviv Livnat, Tel-Aviv University, Bezalel Academy, The Bereaved Space: Between Constructed and Deconstructed

Mirjam Rajner, Bar-Ilan University, The Non-Jewish Jewish Artist: Revisiting "Jewish Identity" in Modern Art

Małgorzata Stolarska-Fronia, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland, Jewish Expressionism: Between Discourses of Degeneration and Revival

Andrea von Hülsen-Esch, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, After 1918: Jankel Adler’s Struggle for Jewish Art in the Rhineland

14:00-15:30 Lunch

15:30-17:30 Session 6 (Bld. 905 room 62): Deconstructing Jewish Space

Chair: Bracha Yaniv

Helena Lahoz Kopiske, Universität Zürich, El Tránsito Synagogue of Toledo and the Great Synagogue of Florence: Mudéjar and Neo-Moorish Architecture?

Vladimir Levin, Center for Jewish Art, The Hebrew University, Between History and Architecture: Eastern European Synagogues

Rudolf KleinSzent Istvan University, Synagogues: Forefathers of the Architecture of Deconstruction?

David M. Cassuto, Ariel University, “It is not Incumbent upon You to Finish the Task”: Judaism and Material Creativity


Wednesday September 9

9:30-11:30 Session 7 (Bld. 905 room 62): The Challenges of Studying and Teaching

Chair: Shalom Sabar

Elisheva Revel-Neher, The Hebrew University, Decrypting a Jewish Medieval Image: Bezalel Narkiss and the Seal of Solomon

Annette Weber, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg, The Impact of History and Politics on the Study of Jewish Art in Germany

Shulamit Laderman, Bar-Ilan University, What I Learned from Teaching Jewish Art to Chinese Educators

Ilia Rodov, Bar-Ilan University, Reframing Traditional Jewish Art

11:30-12:00 Coffee Break

12:00-13:30 Session 8 (Bld. 905 room 62): The Challenges of Teaching and Exhibiting

Chair: Steven Fine

Katrin Kogman-Appel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Ronit Steinberg, Bezalel Academy, The Visual Arts in Jewish Societies

Andreina Contessa, U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art, The Jewish Museum: New Questions on an Old Idea

Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, Independent Curator, Austria, Challenging Judaica Objects in the Exhibition: “A Time for Everything - Rituals Against Forgetting”

13:30-15:00 Lunch

15:00-17:00 Session 9 (Bld. 905 room 62): Migrating Motifs, Myths and Allegories 
Chair: Andrea von Hülsen-Esch

Steven Fine, Yeshiva University, Basic Instincts: Jewish and Christian Reflections on the Arch of Titus Menorah Base

Eyal Baruch, Bar-Ilan University, Decorations in the Palatial Mansion of Jerusalem: Wealth and Ideology

Susan Nashman Fraiman, The Hebrew University, The Myth of The “Judenstern”: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Jewish Art and Artefact

Monika Czekanowska-Gutman, Warsaw University, What is Jewish about Pietà?

17:00-17:10 Closing Remarks


17:30 Visit to The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center (83 Ben-Porat Road, Or-Yehuda) and a festive dinner (closed event)

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Thursday September 10

9:30-11:30 Round Table Discussion (closed event)

12.00-14.00  International Workshop Meeting (closed event)

14:30-15:30  Ars Judaica and Images Joint Meeting (closed event)


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The Workshop will focus on two interrelated categories:

  • the research strategies applied to both visual arts in Jewish societies and Jewish dimensions in modern and postmodern world art;
  • the conception and practice of academic teaching in these fields.


With fundamental shifts in culture, art history, and Jewish studies during the recent decades, it has become increasingly crucial for the custodians of higher education to carefully re-examine their approach to the history and interpretation of what is referred to as ‘Jewish’ art in both traditionalist scholarship and in the practice of art making, curatorship, and connoisseurship. Responding to developments in the humanities, communication studies, social studies and psychology, contemporary art history commonly embraces investigations of any image or object created for the sake of communicating meanings or emotions, and thus often replaces the term ‘art’ with a semantically broader term ‘visual culture.’ Contemporary scholarly research and the academic teaching of ‘Jewish’ art—like postmodern Jewish history and historiography —are increasingly distancing themselves from the search for any single exhaustive definition of the adjective ‘Jewish’ as applied to art, culture, and history. Instead, they tend to focus upon the variety and flexibility of both individual and collective Jewish self-identification throughout the ages. Scholarly discourse steadily moves away from the oft-repeated questions “Does Jewish art exist?” and “What is Jewish art?” to the inquiry “What is Jewish in ‘Jewish’ art?”—attempting to investigate Jewish visual cultures and their messages in their multiple contexts and interactions with the surroundings. This notwithstanding, even though the signifier ‘Jewish’ in the phrase ‘Jewish art’ is conventional and only loosely describes its object, it still relates to its signified in a fashion no less significant than the strict meaning of ‘middle’ does to ‘ages’ in the historical sciences, or the definition ‘charm’ does to quarks in particle physics.  Thus the term ‘Jewish art’ can be instrumental in our discussion of visual culture, artistic expression, and appreciation of the plastic arts.


The Conference seeks to explore and expand our knowledge of the field of ‘Jewish art’ under the following rubric:


1. The History of ‘Jewish Art’ as Art History


  • Futile obsolescence or a promising innovation?


Are ‘Jewish art’ studies shifting from the ‘nationalist’ or ‘regional’ approach to art (exemplified by ‘French’ or ‘African’ art) to postmodern ‘sectorial’ studies (such as minority/majority, gender, social, and other postmodern approaches to art history)?  Do and, if so, how do the contemporary studies of ‘Jewish’ visual culture deal with the concepts of human geography (place, space, wanderings, utopias, heterotopias, and more); body studies; trauma and post-trauma; the acceptance of art making as a meditative praxis, esoteric revelation, or mental health therapy?  


  • Local studies or universal art history?


 Does the focus on a marginal group’s art enrich or hamper the scholar’s comprehension of general developments in visual arts? Is the search for ‘Jewish dimensions’ or the ‘Jewish contribution’ to world art productive or tendentious? Should similar or different research strategies be applied to the study of visual culture in Jewish Diaspora and Israeli visual culture? Are there distinct ‘schools’ in ‘Jewish art’ history? If there are, are they institutional, local, or do they cross international borders?


2. The History of ‘Jewish Art’ as a Judaic Studies Field  


  • How interdisciplinary are ‘Jewish art’ studies?

To what extent should researchers of ‘Jewish’ visual culture and plastic arts be experts in the Bible; Jewish thought, literature, and folklore; Jewish law and history; archaeology, and the like? What is the proper balance between the study of the history and analysis of art and the study of Jewish texts, history, and anthropology? Should the study of ‘Jewish art’ be an integral part of the study of Jewish history, literature, sociology, and religion?

How does the history of ‘Jewish art’ relate to Jewish history and historiography? 

What does 'Jewish art' history have to contribute to our understanding of general history, and vice-versa? What metahistories do historians of ‘Jewish art’ propose? How do these theories correspond to the metahistories in Jewish historiography?



3. The History of ‘Jewish Art’ as an Academic Discipline


  • How should the discipline be taught? 


What fields of world art history must we teach the students of ‘Jewish art’ history (in addition to a core program in the theory and methodology of art history)? What is the proper balance between teaching the students about artefacts and their history and training them in analytic approaches to visual expressions? In the post-Guttenberg age of information exchange, should ‘Jewish art’ historians discard the diachronic principle (the divisions into ancient and medieval art, for example) and the concept of media (the division into painting, architecture, and applied arts, and so forth)? What are the advantages or disadvantages of a program based on critical theory and postmodern concepts?


  • Indices or insights – A contradiction in terms?


To what extent should contemporary art historians and academic institutions invest their efforts in what was often a priority in ‘Jewish art’ studies during the last century: taking pictures of artefacts and collecting them; cataloguing, indexing, and creating databases of images? What, in your opinion, is the optimal balance between focusing on empirical research and case studies and focusing on conceptual generalization?


  • What place should the discipline of ‘Jewish art’ history play in contemporary society? 


Why do both the popular and scholarly strata continue to believe in the strictly iconophobic character of Jewish culture? How does or will the field of ‘Jewish art’ history—which may be characterized as a humanist ‘niche field’—survive the decline of the humanities, contemporary technocratic priorities in university management, and pragmatist critics of art history higher education?    


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Submission of proposals was closed in December, 2014