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November 18, 1988 - Image 68

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-18

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

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Artist Frank Meisler with some of his creations in his gallery in old Jaffa.

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68

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1988

Ceremonial Art Is
Thriving Once Again

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Special to The Jewish News

erusalem — Jewish
ceremonial art has
existed since biblical
days when, as the Torah
relates, Bezalel was ap-
pointed to- create the Taber-
nacle and its holy objects.
There followed centuries of
relative neglect. Jews were
forbidden to work in most
trades and crafts, and
synagogues feared showing
too high a profile by display-
ing rich ceremonial art.
But today, Jewish
ceremonial art is thriving
again and Israeli artists like
Frank Meisler are among
those involved in its
renaissance.
Meisler, a trained architect
who works today predomi-
nantly as a sculptor, is not a
traditionally observant Jew.
Nevertheless, religion, he
claims, "exerts a fascination
for me," and many of the ob-
jects he creates have
ceremonial and biblical
themes. That is because he
believes the post Second-
World-War generation of ar-
tists has had a unique oppor-
tunity to recreate Jewish
ceremonial objects. — an op-
portunity denied to genera-
tions of his predecessors.
"Antique Judaica of 100 or
200 years ago is disappoin-
ting artistically, compared to
the kind of work that was
created for the church in the
16th and 17th centuries," he
said. "Jewish artists simply
didn't have the patrons or the
opportunity to create great
art. lbday, it's wonderful to be
able to reinterpret ceremonial
objects freely, without
hiding."

j

Among the pieces that are
most significent to him are
his recently completed
Holocaust memorial and
Torah shrine for a rebuilt
synagogue in Mannheim,
Germany. Meisler, who is
German-born, was sent to
England with a group of
children at the age of 7, just
one week before the outbreak
of war. He never saw his
parents again.
Although Meisler is reluc-
tant to talk about that period
of his life, the creation of that
synagogue has clearly been a
highlight of his career.
Although Meisler frequent-
ly undertakes large commis-
sions, many objects he creates
are quite small.
They include miniature
Ibrahs, ketubot (marriage
certificates) holders, mezuzot
and chanukiot (Chanukah
menorahs), figurines of
klezmer musicians and pray :
ing Chasidim. Some, such as
humorous representations of
lawyers and even Sigmund
Freud, complete with cigar,
have no overt Jewish content.
Animals are a particular
favorite and appear frequent-
ly in Meisler's sculptures,
panels and small figures. "I
have a weakness for animals
and a sympathy for them," he
said. "I like to observe them
and see how they bear
themselves."
His camels, goats and lions
appear to bear themselves
with a detached humorous
world-weariness; perhaps
reflecting feelings of Meisler
himself, who in spite of a gen-
tle, courtly manner, describes
his own sense of humor as
"slightly black, in the central
European manner."

World Zionist Press Service

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