Jewish Heritage Report
Issue No. 1 / March 1997
Museums & Exhibitions

Yeshiva University Museum Explores New Territory in Jewish-Italian History

The recent exhibition "Ebrei Piemontese: The History of the Jews of Piedmont" at Yeshiva University Museum was a landmark exhibit on Jewish life in the Piedmont. Jewish migration to the Piedmont began in the 14th century at the invitation of the Duke of Savoy, who wanted extend the network of Jewish banking. Emigr s came from France, Spain, elsewhere in Italy. Jews settled in small towns throughout the region creating a hybrid Piedmontese Jewish culture, whose expression can be found in art, folklore, manners, and cuisine.

The exhibition highlighted manuscripts, architecture, and material culture. A rare manuscript from the Jewish Theological Seminary contains translations of Judeo-Italian and the Piedmontese dialect used for women's liturgy and young scholars. In addition, two examples of the liturgical rite nusakhAPaM, a French medieval tradition only surviving in the Piedmont, were on view.

A photo display illustrated the three stages of synagogue architecture. Still extant is the Casale Monferrato synagogue, which has been preserved and restored as a national monument. Examples of earlier structures include Chieri and Mondovi with their magnificent baroque, gilt and painted Teva and Aron.

Judaica included textiles, silver, and kettubot. Piedmontese Jews used decoratively embellished tallitot, an Italian custom, but especially prominent among Piedmontese Jewry due to their long standing involvement in the silk and decorative trimmings trade. The large, covered chalice-like kiddush goblet used in the Piedmont was unique to the region. The covers are topped with fanciful floral sprays.

Complementing the ritual objects were examples of silver amulets that parents placed adjacent to cradles to protect their infants. Many of the amulets are decorated with Torah implements, and some contain handwritten Biblical or magical texts on folded or rolled parchment.

ISJM member Esther W. Goldman, the coordinator of the exhibition, is now working on the catalogue that will be published before the end of the year and will contain photographs of objects from the exhibit and essays. The catalogue will be available through the Yeshiva University Museum in New York.

Kluztnick National Jewish Museum Sponsors Cape Verde Preservation Project

The Republic of Cape Verde is an archipelago of ten islands about 300 miles off the coast of West Africa. As a result of over 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule, Cape Verde is a predominantly Catholic country. Evidence shows, however, that from the period of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisition through the late 19th century, Cape Verde hosted Jews either fleeing religious persecution or searching for greater economic stability. A group of descendants in Cape Verde has created an association called Amigo de Cabo Verde e Israel (AMICAEL) to press for restoration of the cemeteries and create a permanent archive documenting the presence of their forebears. The overall project, called The Jews of Cape Verde: Preservation of Memory aims to investigate the presence and honor the memory of the numerous Sephardic Jewish families who traveled to Cape Verde from the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Rabat, and Essaouira. Theses families engaged in international commerce, shipping, administration and other trades and prospered in Cape Verde. Over time, many intermarried with the predominantly Catholic population diluting their affiliation with Jewish customs and rituals. As a result, there are virtually no practicing Jews in Cape Verde today. Nonetheless, the descendants of these families throughout the world maintain a keen interest in Cape Verde and their Jewish heritage. The current Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, is of Moroccan Jewish descent.

Donations are currently needed for the physical restoration of four cemeteries and preparation of the photographic exhibit. Other initiatives include compiling oral and archival materials and the organization of a colloquium on the Jewish presence in Cape Verde.

For further information contact Carol Castiel, Project Director, 1245 4th Street, S.W., Suite E202, Washington, D.C. 20024.

From Splendor to Shadow: Synagogues in Hungary Fifty Years After, a photographic exhibition of Hungarian synagogues documented by Rivka and Ben-Zion Dorfman in 1993 is available. For specifics on the exhibition, which was on view at Yad Vashem in 1994, contact: Rivka and Ben-Zion Dorfman Synagogue Art Research, POB 18024, Jerusalem, Israel 91180. Telephone/Fax 972 2 581-2669;

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Updated: 24-Jul-98