The Library of JTS is filled with treasures representing Jewish life and creativity from ancient times to the present. We invite you to visit our ongoing series of public exhibitions or view highlights here on our website. Individuals wishing to view library exhibitions may come to JTS during Library hours. Scheduled tours will be included in our exhibit listings.
“A Sacred Space: Synagogue Architecture and Identity”
October 26, 2023–March 7, 2024
The upcoming JTS Library exhibit, “A Sacred Space: Synagogue Architecture and Identity,” offers an exciting opportunity to view a large selection of rare prints depicting historic synagogues. The exhibit, co-curated by Samuel D. Gruber and Sharon Liberman Mintz, will trace the history of European synagogue styles from the 17th to the 19th century, exploring how the image of the synagogue was used by Christians and Jews to present often conflicting ideas of Jewish identity. The 42 prints on view—selected from books, art prints, magazines, and newspapers—showcase a wide range of synagogue types. Notably, the pace of production of these images accelerated in the 19th century, when we first encounter Jewish architects of synagogues, along with the Jewish artists who depicted them.
The exhibit will feature images of synagogues from the Netherlands, England, France, Austria, and Germany, ending on American shores. Images of the latter will allow us to consider how this pictorial tradition would evolve in a country of immigrants that boasted of religious freedom and cultural pluralism.
Living Yiddish in New York
This exhibit introduced visitors to rare archival materials that provided a snapshot of New York City as an important center of modern Yiddish culture. Between 1880 and 1924, approximately two million Eastern European Jews immigrated to the United States. Many of them settled in New York City, which by 1914 was home to 1.4 million Jews, among them the world’s largest urban population of Yiddish speakers.
Materials on display include examples of the ways Yiddish-speaking Jews responded to the challenges of their new home, while also ensuring the continuity of Yiddish culture. Through this collection of historic images and documents, visitors will witness the living Yiddish culture of one of the world’s greatest cities.
The Work of Her Hands: The Art of Lynne Avadenka and the Craft of Jewish Women Printers
This exhibit featured a selection of rare books printed by Jewish women from the earliest days of Hebrew publishing alongside new artwork created by American artist/printmaker Lynne Avadenka.
Lynne Avadenka is known for her works that explore text and image, the physical and philosophical idea of the book, and the mystery and beauty of visual language. In August 2021, she was artist-in-residence at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Avadenka received the 2021 Isaac Anolic Artist Book Award, along with artist collaborators Andi Arnovitz and Mirta Kupferminc, and in 2019, she was given a Research Award from the Hadassah Brandeis Institute. Other awards include a 2009 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellowship and individual artist grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. She received her MFA from Wayne State University.
The Jews of Corfu: Between the Adriatic and the Ionian
This unprecedented exhibition offered a window into the rich history and culture of the little-known Jewish communities of Corfu. Columbia University and JTS, two of the world’s largest repositories of rare materials from Corfu, displayed a selection of illustrated prayer books, historical documents, celebratory poems, and elaborately decorated ketubbot telling the story of the island’s vibrant, distinct, and sometimes contentious Jewish communities. Situated on a major trade route, these communities thrived under Venetian and then Greek rule from the Middle Ages until 1944, when the Jews of Corfu were almost entirely annihilated by the Nazis. Space is limited.
To Build a New Home: Celebrating the Jewish Wedding
“To Build a New Home: Celebrating the Jewish Wedding” featured a collection of rare materials illustrating the creative, often surprising, evolution of Jewish marriage practices over centuries.
The many treasures on view included lavishly decorated ketubbot, marriage contracts, from 17th and 18th century Italy; a 13th-century French religious compendium outlining marriage rituals and including a bawdy wedding poem; a fragment from a 12th-century prenuptial agreement; and from the modern era, a ketubbah making it possible for Jewish women to initiate a religious divorce.
“To Build a New Home” showed the remarkable development of Jewish marriage from Talmudic times to the present—and the rich streams of tradition and innovation in Jewish life throughout history.
Watch Videos From “To Build a New Home”
Dr. David Kraemer examines a beatiful 1769 ketubbah from a Karaite community in Ukraine and discusses the Karaites’ particular Jewish beliefs and history.