Sunday, October 11, 2015


ADES SYNAGOGUE (Thanks to my sister in law Mona)
To escape persecution, many Syrian Jews from Aleppo emigrated to Israel around the turn of the 20th century. They settled in the Nahalot neighborhood where the wealthy Ades family funded the construction of the Synagogue in 1901. A recent article in the online magazine Tablet gave the history much better than I so here is a portion reprinted without permission!

"The woodwork inside the Ades (pronounced “Addis”) Synagogue was intricate Damascene carpentry inlaid with mother-of-pearl, a reminder of the community’s Syrian origins. The benches were not arranged facing the front, as in European
synagogues, but rather in a rectangle, so that worshipers faced the small central platform where the
cantor stood and where the Torah was read, and faced each other, in the more social style of the Middle East.

This was all in keeping with custom. But then the synagogue’s leaders made an unlikely decision: To decorate the walls they would invite an artist not from Syria but from Galicia, and affiliated not with any of the city’s religious communities but with the Zionist bohemians and avant-gardists who had just established an art school nearby.

The young painter, Yaakov Stark, covered the interior with a combination of traditional motifs, like the symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel, and with the new icons of the Zionist movement, stars of David and menorahs, woven together like a
mosaic in shades of blue and green. He included a biblical passage expressing the Jews’ longing to return to Zion, using a Hebrew font that mixed Arabic calligraphy with Art Nouveau. Stark’s masterpiece of early Zionist art turned the building from a mere bastion of traditional craftsmanship into ...a strange, even unsettling amalgam of styles, the physical expression of the conviction of the Syrian worshipers and the Eastern European artist that though they had never met before, and had recently arrived from vastly different places in a city where they had never been, they were all home. There is no other synagogue like it.

Stark died a century ago, shortly after completing the synagogue, impoverished and all but unknown. Now, after a saga involving clashing art restorers, an Israeli court, and the office of the prime minister, one of Israel’s most exquisite buildings has re-emerged after decades of neglect, and with it the reputation of the artist who did so much to make it beautiful."

View from women's section in balcony

Two or three years ago, we had the pleasure of meeting Andi through our mutual friend Gloria Kramer and seeing her beautiful home and studio.  We purchased a nest of Russian dolls she decorated with pictures of the weddings of the women in her family.

Andi who hails from the US is a very cerebral artist. Much thought goes into her work and this current show at the LA Mayer Museum of Islamic Art is a perfect example. Because we serendipitously came to the museum with our friend Joyce Klein at just the moment Andi was docenting a group of her friends, we had an insight into her thought processes. She is concerned about the current upheavals and crisis in the Middle East and when one looks closely at her work, it is filled with "the potential for destruction and annihilation."

However, her work is also filled with the intricate beauty of the Iranian artistic tradition. Through watercolor, collages and intricate handwork her art comes to life. One must look at some of the works very closely to find her message. Fortunately we heard the messages straight from the artist.

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