by Zachary Levine, Assisant Curator and Jacob Wisse, Director, Yeshiva University Museum, one of five partners of the Center for Jewish History
A series of new textiles, commissioned from New York-based artist Mark Podwal for Prague’s celebrated Altneuschul (Old-New Synagogue), is the focus of an exhibition at Yeshiva University Museum, Old and the New (November 27, 2011–January 15, 2012). The oldest continuously-active synagogue in the world, the Altneuschul, completed in 1270, is recognized for its architectural beauty and as a symbol of Czech-Jewish identity. Embroidered in gold thread on rich velvet, the textiles represent the first major commission for the sanctuary of the Prague shul in over 70 years, merging a contemporary artistic aesthetic with traditional Czech-Jewish art. The YU Museum is privileged to unveil the textiles before they are shipped to Prague to be installed and dedicated in spring 2012.
The textiles, including a Torah ark cover, three Torah mantles, and covers for the Torah reading and cantor’s desks, will be used on a daily basis in the sanctuary of the synagogue. Podwal melds imagery from Jewish Prague’s physical landscape with that based on the mythology of the city and the synagogue. At the core of Old and the New is the Altneuschul itself, the historical center of Prague’s Jewish community. Complementing the textiles are the YU Museum’s historic scale model of the synagogue and a selection of Podwal’s earlier graphic work of Prague.