B'nai B'rith International and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Skirball Museum Partner to Establish New Home for Distinctive Art Collection

Monday, May 18, 2015

Made of silver and blue patinated copper, this unique combination torah crown and breastplate created by contemporary Israeli artist Ori Resheff is engraved with passages from the Psalms.

B’nai B’rith International and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) are pleased to announce a partnership to acquire, preserve and display the art and artifacts of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum at HUC-JIR’s Skirball Museum, a vital cultural and educational outreach venue of its historic campus in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Significantly augmenting the Skirball’s holdings, the Klutznick’s sacred and secular fine and decorative arts and social documents will be exhibited in designated galleries as the “B’nai B’rith Klutznick Collection.” In addition, a select group of Klutznick artifacts will be loaned to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington to be displayed in its new building, slated for opening in 2020. 

With its call for the furthering of innovation for Jewish life and learning, HUC-JIR’s Skirball Museum is an optimal partner to showcase this distinctive collection. As America’s first officially established Jewish Museum, originally named the Union Museum, the Skirball will join forces with B’nai B’rith through online exhibitions and links disseminating information about the collection with other organizations, and the sponsoring of special programs and lectures, ensuring global access to the collection.

Master silversmith Franz Anton Gutwein designed this gilded silver torah breastplate in Augsberg, Germany, an important center for Jewish liturgical art, in 1801.

B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs noted that the Klutznick was “cherished by Washingtonians and visitors alike, achieving its reputation as a leading Jewish museum through its innovative programs, quality core collection and cutting edge exhibits devoted to Jewish history and culture. Our new venture with the Skirball is a cause for celebration intended to invigorate the Klutznick tradition, and launch new pathways to understanding Judaism through the visual arts.”

The successful 2012 transfer and processing of B’nai B’rith’s own archives to The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, situated on the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR, motivated the continuing development of the partnership between the two venerable organizations. 

B’nai B’rith itself has a Cincinnati heritage—it was the site of the organization’s national headquarters during the tenure of B’nai B’rith President Alfred Cohen from 1925-1936.

Some years after the 2002 move of B’nai B’rith International from its Rhode Island Avenue headquarters, which necessitated the closure of the museum space, B’nai B’rith surveyed potential venues suitable for the transfer of its collection, assessing factors including location, mission, dedication to Jewish values and demonstrated commitment to the highest custodial standards. 

Probably made in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the design of this late 19th century gilded brass menorah was inspired by the “Moorish” aesthetic, including Turkish architecture.

“The treasured holdings of the Klutznick collection have found an ideal home at HUC-JIR’s Skirball Museum, which is well equipped to process, conserve, study, interpret and display these artifacts that represent the history of Jewish life and culture. We also welcome the partnership with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, ensuring that cultural items unique to the greater Washington region will be on display locally,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.

The B’nai B’rith Klutznick Collection will augment and enhance HUC-JIR’s Skirball Museum and its permanent collection significantly, rendering it among the most prominent Jewish museums between the Alleghenies and the Rockies.

“The acquisition of this historic collection creates unprecedented opportunities for community engagement on local, regional, national and international platforms. Integrating this collection and making it accessible through digital technology will be a priority, as the Skirball positions itself as a center of Jewish art and culture,” Skirball Museum Director Abby Schwartz said.

Deerskin torah and silver and velvet tik (torah container) from India, dating from the late 19th- or early 20th-century. 

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, HUC-JIR President, added, “Through this wonderful partnership with B’nai B’rith International, the enhanced capacity of our Skirball Museum, together with the global reach of our HUC-JIR Museum in New York’s international traveling exhibition program, our Skirball Museum of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem, and exhibitions on our Los Angeles campus, reinforces our commitment to the many ways in which the visual arts, illuminating Jewish history, identity, values and experience, can serve as a vital educational and cultural resource for our students, faculty, and the larger public.”

Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Dean of HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus, states, “The partnership between B’nai B’rith International and HUC-JIR represents a shared vision and mission to work together on behalf of Jewish cultural, educational and spiritual continuity.” 


B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence in more than 50 countries, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. 


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu