Portrait of a People
Other holiday items include a modernistic silver plate ringed in fish, with a glass bowl for an apple and a well for a pool of honey, for Rosh Hashanah's custom of dipping apples in honey for a sweet new year. A somber image of tanks, painted by a nameless inmate in a displaced-persons camp after World War II, memorializes the 1946 Rosh Hashanah. A set of five Hanukkah dreidels includes a delicate blue-and-white Limoges porcelain version, with a hinged secret compartment. An ivory Purim gregor (noisemaker) glows in weathered cream-yellow, lined with black geometric carvings.
My favorite work was a large print showing a Hasidic man and woman dancing. Rendered in choppy lines bristling with static energy, the work shows a man extending a handkerchief to the long-skirted woman, whom it would be improper to touch directly. The work captures the pregnant moment before she seizes the handkerchief and whirls together with him in the dance.
Portrait of a People: The Jewish Heritage Collection is on display at the U-M Graduate Library's special collections area April 11 through August 19.
[Originally published in April, 2005.]
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