Tablet Magazine - a new read on Jewish life
Whence the unusual design features of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, the oldest extant synagogue in the United States? The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam and the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London offer clues. The scholar Laura Leib argues that the greatest design source is actually Rabbi Jacob Judah Leon de Templo’s messianic study, the Retrato del Templo de Se lomo (1642). Leib explains, “Early modern synagogue architects mimicked both the proportions prescribed by Leon de Templo and key symbolic design features of the Temple. By echoing the divinely-inspired structures, eighteenth-century Sephardic Jews in colonial America hoped to draw their worship closer to God and to help bring about the messianic era.”
before the fall
Tower of London: prison or sanctuary for the Jews of medieval England? Some 700 surviving manuscripts from this era suggest that it was a little of both. According to recent research, the Constable of the Tower had sole authority to arrest a Jew in London and Jews arrested outside of London were also promptly sent to do their time in the Tower of London. But the Constable also protected the city’s Jews during pogroms. “The Jewish community even helped defend the castle from a siege by rebel barons in 1267.” The Jews were expelled from England in 1290.
Tablet’s weekly printable digest
Get it Every Friday here
The celebrated photographer André Kertész (1894-1985) bought his first camera (an ICA box camera) in 1912 and his first 35-millimeter camera, a Leica, in 1928. He was born in Budapest to a Jewish bookseller, Lipot Kertész, but was raised by his mother Ernesztin and her brother after his father died of tuberculosis when André was still young. “Kertész had two brothers: Imre, who was older, and Jenö, the youngest. Here, they pose for André’s camera, showing off their athleticism as they enjoy a moment of frolic and fun at a waterside resort.”
by Monique Scheer
by Dawne Moon
by Stefan Wiese
by Tom Vanassche
by Derek Penslar
Those who do not remember the past are ... probably not Jewish
Trees of emanation
According to the scholar of kabbalah J. H. Chajes, medieval kabbalists thought a lot about how to visualize the sefirot, and ultimately favored arboreal diagrams over the astronomical. Consider Pardes rimonim (Pomegranate Orchard). a survey of Kabbalah—or, as Chajes puts it, “an inventory with an attitude”—completed in 1548 by the brilliant young kabbalist R. Moses Cordevero. In Cordevero’s own words: And I have already explained that the constellation ofAṣilut (Emanation—the highest of the four “worlds”) is the ilan (tree) of Aṣilut, and no (demonic) shell will rule it whatsoever.