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March 08, 1985 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-03-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

16

Friday, March 8, 1985

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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THEJEWISH NEWS

Call Us Today! 354 6060

LOCAL NEWS

Precious Legacy

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Continued from preceding page

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robbed the people of human
existence," she said.
One cannot fathom the
enormity of the Judaica collec-
tion in the State Jewish
Museum in Prague, which is
protected by the Czech gov-
ernment, unless one can go to
Prague or failing that, looking
at the catalogue published by
Summit Books and edited by
David Altshuler. Pictures
show drawers of mezzuzot;
shelves lined with Sifrei To-
rah; drawers of wedding rings;
rooms of paintings, dishes and
all manner of household items;
cabinets of Torah crowns;
rooms filled with books, grand
pianos and violins: It is the
largest collection of Judaica in
the world.
In addition to the catalogue,
about a half-dozen films have
been made about The Precious
Legacy. In honor of the ex-
hibit, Talisman and his wife
commissioned a cantata, The
Beadle of Prague, created by
Herman Berlinsky and Arnost
Lustig.
The oldest piece in the
entire collection is among the
textiles. It comes from a
Prague synagogue and dates
from about 1592. Because it is
so fragile, it wasn't chosen for
the traveling display. A piece
dating from the mid-17th Cen-
tury is the oldest on display in
the touring exhibit.
From Detroit, the collection
goes to the Atheneum
museum in Hartford, Conn. It
has already been seen in
Washington, Miami, New
York and Houston. Requests
to host the exhibit have come
from Canada, Argentina,
Brazil and Scandinavia. Be-
cause there are no diplomatic
relations between Israel and
Czechoslovakia, there are no
plans to take it to Israel.
Talisman, however, hopes
that situation will change
soon.
Talisman became interested
in the collection when he first
viewed it in 1968 while on a
trip to Czechoslovakia with
Congressman Charles Vanik
of Ohio, who traces his ances-
try to Bohemia. Smitten by
what he saw in the state col-
lections, Talisman, a private
individual with ties to Capitol
Hill, began a 15-year crusade
to bring to the U.S. what has
become The Precious Legacy.
He said he achieved his goal
only through persistence and
his deep commitment. In seek-
ing negotiations with the
Czech government he enlisted
aid from the State Depart-
ment, the White House and
Senators, chief among them
Michigan Democratic Sen.

Carl Levin. "No one refused
me help," Talisman said.
He said there were many
problems in the negotiating
process. There were no "posit-
ive" relations between the
U.S. and Czechoslovakia and
the U.S. government had
"walked away" with about
half the Czech treasury (in
gold) after World War II. It
was held at Ft. Knox until
1981 when it was "negotiated
out" by the Czechs to be paid as
reparations.
There was also what Talis-
man called a matter of trust.
He was not a U.S. official, and
what he was asking for were
state treasures. A saving
grace, he said, is that the
Czech government was good to

Cleveland rejected
the exhibit, calling it
"folklore."

the Jews in that it opened up
the State Jewish Museum in
1950 and took the responsibil-
ity to maintain it. "They treat
their museums very seriously,
as a national treasure and as a
fundamental part of history."

In 1979, Talisman began
negotiations with the Czechs
for permission to select a
major exhibition for display in
the U.S. Final permission was
granted in 1982, and Talisman
and his wife Jill rounded up a
team of historians, Judaica
experts, curators and Smith-
sonian officials to put the ex-
hibit together. It opened at the
Smithsonian in November
1983 to be shown in the U.S.
for two years.
Talisman said the cities
were chosen in a two-way
process: He wanted complete
geographic coverage and the
Smithsonian wanted to make
it available to everyone. "We
had to balance these two
needs," he said. Detroit was
among the first to accept, and
did so readily. His hometown,
Cleveland, Ohio, rejected it
out of hand, calling the ex-
hibit, "folkloric." "That hurt
me deeply," Talisman said.
But, his devotion has paid
off in some rewarding experi-
ences. He told of a woman from
Prague who survived the
Terezin (Theresienstadt) con-
centration camp, who visited
the exhibit apprehensively.
After seeing it she told Talis-
man, "Thank you for allowing
me to go home again."
"People come out much

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