Ars Brevis Vita Longa: On Preservation of Synagogue Art

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Rephrasing the renowned Latin version of Hippocrates's aphorism, I'd like to stress the contradiction between the artistic values of synagogue adornment and its secondary role in the functioning of the synagogue as a house of prayer. The sculptural and painted decoration of the synagogue conveys ideas about Jewish faith, views on providence and redemption, traditions and innovations, social selfidentification of the community, and other ideas. The synagogue design undergoes changes in the course of time. Damages are caused by either the natural deterioration of material objects in the course of time or the purposeful demolition of the synagogue or its parts. A common aim of contemporary projects for the preservation of synagogue art is restoring it back to its original, or a near-original, state. Yet, the synagogue's foremost function is to serve as a venue for the collective worship of its congregation rather than a gallery or museum of art. Sometimes, synagogue patrons intentionally alter the original decoration in order to renovate the synagogue, refresh its appearance, or update the message of its art. The paper examines the co-existence and mutual relations of the two approaches to the preservation of synagogue art.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)91-111
JournalStudia Hebraica
StatePublished - 2009


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