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Object of the Month - February 2018

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February 2018


Mezuzah Ludwig Wolpert (Germany 1900—New York 1981) Silver Israel, ca. 1950 Museum Purchase

Mezuzah, literally “doorpost” refers to a small parchment scroll, or klaf, inscribed with the Shema Yisrael and two passages from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) which is then inserted into a case and attached to the doorpost of a Jewish home. The mezuzah text reminds Jews that they have a covenant with God and God’s teachings.  The Shema, part of the text, is recited twice daily among observant Jews and affirms the Jewish teaching of one God. The display of a mezuzah on a home serves as both a sign of faith and a symbolic acknowledgment that God is a partner in the home. Traditionally, Jews not only fasten a mezuzah to the main doorpost of the house, but also to each major room.  It is also customary to kiss one’s fingers and then bring the fingers to the mezuzah upon entering and leaving the house or room. The mezuzah featured here was made by prolific metal worker Ludwig Wolpert.  

Born in Hildesheim, Germany in 1900, Ludwig Yehuda Wolpert studied at the School for Arts and Crafts in Frankfurt-on-Main until 1920 where he specialized in metalwork. After emigrating to Palestine in 1933, Wolpert went on to teach metalworking at the New Bezalel School for Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem.  In 1956 he was invited to New York to establish the Tobe Pascher Workshop for Jewish ceremonial objects at the Jewish Museum. He is particularly known for prominently incorporating Hebrew characters into his ceremonial art. In this mezuzah, the Hebrew in the design is from Deuteronomy 28:6: “Blessed art thou in coming and blessed art thou in going.” 

This Mezuzah is featured in our exhibition Drawing from the B’nai B’rith Klutznick Collection, a selection of 18 acrylic and colored pencil drawings inspired by Judaica from the Klutznick collection by world-renowned Jewish artist Mark Podwal. The accompanying drawing features cut-out lips that have been superimposed over a drawing of the mezuzah in reference to the practice of acknowledging the mezuzah by kissing one’s hand and then touching the mezuzah.