The Ben Ezra synagogue ark door.(The Walters Art Museum)
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Cairo Synagogue Ark Door on Display in NYC

Ancient relic from Ben Ezra Synagogue found in auction-house storeroom

Stephanie Butnick
October 28, 2013
The Ben Ezra synagogue ark door.(The Walters Art Museum)

In 2011, Robin Cembalest wrote about an ancient ark door, which was discovered by Miami Beach dentist Barry Ragone at an auction-house storeroom, and purchased for $37.50.

It was a bargain, to say the least. It turned out to be the ark door of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt, where Maimonides is said to have prayed and the site of another archival treasure trove, the Cairo Geniza. The wooden panel, which measures nearly 35 inches high and 15 inches wide, has an inscription from Psalm 118:19 carved on it: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.”

It was acquired by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD, in partnership with the Yeshiva University Museum. Now the ark door has arrived in New York City for a new exhibit at the Yeshiva University Museum, exhibit, Threshold to the Sacred: The Ark Door of Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue, and will be on display through February 2014.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.