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2023-2024 Jewish Visual Cultures

Studies of visual imagination in Jewish life have exploded in recent years. From the growth of Jewish museums throughout the USA and Europe to the founding of new journals devoted to Jewish art, Jewish visual culture has engaged broad audiences. Scholarly and popular studies, exhibitions and films, have enlightened us on a range of themes in various periods, from the medieval past to the present day. In diverse formats they depict the way Jews and Jewish culture and religion were seen, extending our understanding of the intricate relations between Jews and others. How these portrayals framed images and understanding of Jewish life have added important dimensions to the contexts of Jewish life as a minority throughout history and recently as a majority.

This theme year at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies recognizes historical precedents even as it builds upon and departs from them. In the 19th century Jews commissioned and collected art; patronized art and institutions that collected art; served as benefactors of archaeological missions and excavations; and dealt commercially in art of different cultures. Individual, universalist, and integrationist orientations drove Jews’ engagement with art. But Jewish art, in all its manifestations, seldom drew their interest and they had little knowledge of what constituted the Jewish visual world prior to the 19th century. Oblivious to what had been produced for centuries in the realm of monuments, manuscripts, synagogue architecture, ephemera, ceremonial art (Judaica), printed books, drawings, and fabrics, they and others remained aloof from how visual culture occupied a significant place in Jewish historical development.

By the 21st century, these attitudes and assumptions had changed radically.

The Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies seeks to explore many facets of Jewish visual imagination. How did Jewish experiences with and attitudes toward the visual intersect with those of the majority populations, and with minority populations in Israel? How did Jewish visuality challenge or coexist with the hallmark of Jewish culture – the literary text? How does visual culture broaden the Jewish narrative? The Frankel Institute theme year on Jewish visual cultures will address these and other questions. The Institute invites applications from senior and junior scholars from a wide range of disciplines, as well as artists and curators, to investigate and explicate Jewish visual cultures from the medieval period to the present.


Jeffrey Abt
Wayne State University
"The Indigeneity of Heterogeneity: An Exploration of Visual Languages in the History of Judaica”

Inka Bertz
Jewish Museum Berlin
“The Entrance of Jews into the Artistic Professions (1770-1870)”

Zoya Brumberg-Kraus
University of Texas, Austin
“From Gold Mountain to Tinseltown: Ethnic Identity in California’s Architectural Vernacular”

Irit Carmon Popper
Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Haifa University
“Past Imperfect: Contemporary Art Versus Heritage in Historic Sites in Israel - A New Comparative Framework”

Julia Phillips Cohen
Vanderbilt University
“Tastemakers: How a Forgotten Group of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa Shaped Modern European Culture”

Richard I. Cohen
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
“Revisiting Jewish Icons in Modern Culture and History”

Deborah Dash Moore
University of Michigan
"Camera as Passport"

Débora Kantor
University of Buenos Aires
“Israel in Jewish Diaspora Non-Fiction Film”

Louis Kaplan
University of Toronto
“Jewish Photographic Humor in Dark Times: Reflections on Visual First Responders to the Third Reich”

Tamar Kay
SCE School of Architecture, Israel
“3938 Chene St.: Research for the Basis of Writing a TV Series Bible”

Vladimir Levin
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
“Muskeljudentum and Lachrymose Prayer: How Jewish Historians Constructed Fortress Synagogues”

Adam Lowenstein
University of Pittsburgh
"The Jewish Horror Film: Taboo and Redemption"

Catherine Soussloff
University of British Columbia and University of California, Santa Cruz
 “Shadows of Diaspora: Material Culture at the Crossroads of Islamic Art and Jewish History”

Roni Tzoreff
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
“Israeli Art in the Age of 'Multiculturalism': The Exhibitions for Israel’s 50th Independence Day”