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December 02, 1994 - Image 113

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-12-02

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Israeli artist Janet Berg's Chanukah
menorah wins the world's largest
prize for Judaic ceremonial art.

P ri ze Menorah



sraeli artist Janet Berg's
Chanukah menorah
(hanukkiah) is exceptional
because it won the world's
largest award for Judaic
art and tells the story of the
holiday in a unique way. This
Hanukkiah was chosen from 200
worldwide submissions to win the
first Philip and Sylvia Spertus
Judaica Prize for ceremonial art
for $10,000.
"The winner of this inaugural
prize meets our highest expecta-
tions," says Olga Weiss, museum
curator of the Spertus Museum
in Chicago. "In addition to its
artistry, the menorah, in its form,
closely adheres to Jewish ritual
Artist Janet Berg, originally
from Oakland, California, has
taught at Israel's Bezalel Acade-
my of Art and Design and works
out of her Jerusalem studio. In
her artist's statement she wrote,"
This hannukkiah allows us to
participate in the past thereby in-
creasing identification with our
forefathers and strengthening
our bond with the Jewish people."
At the center of the cylindrical
glass and metal design are the
images of the Chanukah story—
the cruse of oil and the seven
branched menorah. The Hebrew
line from Ma'oz Tsur, "And the
one remaining flask, a miracle
was wrought" is engraved on the
cruse. On the upper band sur-
rounding the lights appear the
words recited after kindling the
first light, "These lamps which
we kindle." On the bottom band
the words appear from the sec-
ond blessing.
Ms. Berg explains that visual
joining of these bands represent
the combination of history, study
of Torah and ritual participation
which is central to Judaism and
the central theme of this han-

Ms. Berg expresses many in-
teresting laws of Chanukah
through this work of art, as it was
designed to be strictly kosher.
The lights are in an orderly row
with none protruding or reced-
ing. There is sufficient space so
that none of the flames can re-
semble a torch and each light has
equal status. A circular position
is kosher as long as it meets the
above criteria.
This hannukiah's shamash
cannot be used to light the
Chanukah lights as to dispel the
myth that one lights the candles
with the shamash. She explains
that the Chanukah lights are sa-
cred and the sole purpose is to
commemorate the miracle. "The
shamash is an additional, non-
sacred, useable light placed near

the Chanukah
lights. Its purpose
is to serve as a pre-
caution against in-
advertent use of Chanukah
lights. Any such incidental use
of light in the area of the
hanukkiah can be credited to the
shamash," she wrote in her state-
ment with footnotes to halachic
From the 26 finalists chosen,
out of 200 worldwide submis-
sions, the judges reached a unan-
imous choice to award the prize

Janet Berg's
13W' x 6r.

to Janet Berg. Dr. Morris A. Fred,
director of Spertus Museum, be-
lieves this hannukiah fulfills the
goal of the award envisioned by
Sylvia and Philip Spertus.
Sylvia and Philip Spertus cre-
ated the award after visiting with
a prominent artist in Jerusalem.
They wanted the competition to
create high-quality work and to
stimulate public support for artis-
tic excellence in Judaica. The
judges included: Evelyn M. Co-
hen, professor of art history,
Stern College; Tom L Fruedheim
assistant secretary for the arts
and humanities, Smithsonian In-
stitution; Joseph Gutmann, pro-
fessor emeritus art history,
Wayne State University; and
Richard Hunt, Chicago sculptor.
Sylvia and Philip Spertus are
the son and daughter-in-law
of Herman Spertus, one of
the founders of Spertus In-
stitute of Jewish Studies.
The College began in
1924 on Michigan Ave. in
Chicago, next door to the
present site. In 1967, Mau-
rice Spertus donated his ex-
tensive Judaica collection to
the College to establish a
museum. He also set up a
permanent endowment. In
1970, the Spertus brothers
Maurice and Herman, do-
nated one million dollars to
the College and the named was
changed to include the Spertus
Today the 15,000 square-foot
museum holds more than 6,000
archaeological artifacts and art
materials and hosts 65,000 visi-
tors annually. (The entire insti-
tution is 80,000 square-feet.) This
year inaugurates the interna-
tional Spertus Judaica Prize,
with the 26 finalists works on dis-
play through Feb. 1995. The next
prize will be given in 1996 and
features Passover seder plates. O








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