Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Annual Report
| Page 9
Clockwise] Works by
Marc Chagall, Ben
Shahn, Abel Pann, Max
Beckmann, and Leonard
Baskin from the Sigmund
R. Balka Collection at
HUC-JIR/New York.
Being a collector enhances my opportunity to cap-
ture my own little worlds that hopefully represent
more than just things of interest to me but that have
a significance that stems from the spring of the
human spirit to be the force that helps to regenerate
mankind,” he says. ‘In this past century of Holocaust
and destruction it is my link with man’s creative spir-
it, which in the end must prevail or we will
extinguish ourselves.”
The donated collection grows out of a strong sense
of Jewish identity and heritage. At one point, Balka
seriously considered entering the rabbinate and going
to the College-Institute. “It was therefore natural for
me to think about the College-Institute as the
appropriate venue for this collection of Jewish art,”
he explains. “As a teaching institution, these works
will be integrated into the educational experiences
of faculty and students and engage the public audi-
ence. Furthermore, the College-Institute will
be able to circulate these works to its other campuses
and around the country to other academic institutions
and centers of Jewish learning.” Traveling exhibitions
of treasures from the Balka Collection will be presented
at university art galleries and Jewish museums through-
out North America, representing HUC-JIR in
communities far and wide.
Balka has always collected art with the thought of
sharing it. “Art is not of value if it is not presented so
that people have the opportunity to interact with it.
I don’t think I am anything but a custodian during
my lifetime. Art speaks for itself. And the more public
the opportunity to have it speak for itself, the better
society is, in general.”
A graduate of the Central High School of Philadelphia,
renowned for the celebrated artists and collectors
who attended there, Sigmund Balka received his
B.A. from Williams College in 1956 and began col-
lecting art while a student at Harvard Law School,
where he received his J.D. in 1959. His work for the
Kennedy and Johnson administrations included
serving as an Administrative Law Judge at the Interior
Department, helping to set up the Chief Counsel’s
Office of the Commerce Department’s Economic
Development Administration, and serving in the
division of the Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation
in the Labor Department. He has been associated
with the New York State Power Authority, served as
Vice-President-General Counsel of Brown Boveri
Corporation (US), and has been with Krasdale Foods,
Inc. in White Plains, NY, since 1980, where he cur-
rently serves as Vice President, Public and Cultural
Affairs and General Counsel. He is the Director and
Chief Operating Officer of the Krasdale Galleries in
White Plains and New York City, where he has
curated over 100 exhibitions of modern and contem-
porary art in all media by artists from around the
world and has transformed the company headquar-
ters in Westchester and alternative exhibition space in
Hunts Point in the Bronx into
vibrant cultural venues.
Balka’s vision of continuity and
survival for the Jewish people
and humankind reinforces the
mission of the College-Institute.
Within his collection, the images
of Jewish life and expressions
of social activism and spirituali-
ty that he has chosen convey
the essence of a heritage that
seeks universal justice, peace,
and human freedom. The
Sigmund R. Balka Collection
at the Hebrew Union College-
Jewish Institute of Religion
Museum is a testament to the
soul of the collector, the cre-
ativity of artists past and
present, and the purpose
of the College- Institute –
and will serve as an
enduring source of inspi-
ration to all those who
will enjoy and learn from
its treasures.