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The Percelay Museum of Temple Emanu-El, established in the early 1950s at the behest of Rabbi Eli A. Bohnen, z’’l, with the support of Emanu-El member Natalie Percelay, z’’l, houses a treasure trove of Jewish ritual objects.

A museum is not simply a venue to display interesting or visually pleasing objects. Ritual objects and artwork tell us about our history, our people, our collective past, dor l’dor. The synagogue is a Beit Knesset, a house of assembly; a Beit Midrash, a house of study; and a Beit T’fillah, a house of prayer. Our museum is a vital part in helping our synagogue to bring these visions into reality. In addition, the concept of hiddur mitzvah, “to glorify the mitzvah,” is achieved by enabling us to use the objects in the museum to “beautify the commandment,” and thus enhances our performance of the mitzvah. As a communal resource, our synagogue uses many of these ritual objects in our Jewish daily, monthly or annual observances, and in rituals of the Jewish life cycle. Contemporary, as well as more traditional examples of Judaica are scattered throughout the synagogue, as well as within the four walls of our museum. The Percelay Museum is a living entity, and its precious holdings are not mere artifacts, but vital, vibrant reminders of what was then, what is now, and what can be—as we grow from strength to strength. To schedule a visit to this jewel in Temple Emanu-El’s crown, contact the Museum Director at:


Museum Musings
September 2023

“The Proud Rooster,” a lithograph by artist Chaim Gross,
was donated to the museum in memory of Natalie Percelay ( our museum’s founder)
and Zelda Gourse ( Natalie’s sister) by their cousins, The Melvin Zurier Family.


Storing, Restoring, Rejoicing, Renewing

It’s that time of year: We look back, as we look forward.  The balmy days of summer are over.  Another season, with its joys and challenges beckons. How to accomplish so much in so little time?  What to dispose of?  What to retain? How to take your grandmother’s broken old chair, sand the splinters, glue the legs, polish it and renew it for at least another year?  How to find time to participate in just one minyan a week to assure that chapel services….or those on zoom…. can proceed with no lapses?  It’s spring cleaning for the soul, except that it takes place in the fall….in the months of Elul and Tishrei

Just as we take stock of our own lives during these days preceding the Yomin Nora’im, The Days of Awe, the more mundane task of “taking stock “ of “things “continues.  Here at the Natalie and Abraham Percelay Museum of Temple Emanu-El, a treasure trove with finite space, we constantly assess our collection, as we decide if we have the capacity to add to our holdings. (Amazingly, usually we find room!)  And to our delight, we acquired,  several years ago, two works of art by the artist Chaim Gross.  Donated to the museum in memory of Natalie Percelay, z’l (our museum’s founder) and Zelda Gourse, z’l (her sister) ---by The Melvin Zurier Family (their cousins)…these watercolor and pen and ink drawings  exemplify both the whimsy and the depth that characterizes Gross’s oeuvre.  Pictured above is The Proud Rooster.  “The rooster seems to reign like a sheltering angel over the solemn proceedings. This is Gross’s remembrance of the white-winged bird who symbolically carries away the sins of each family on his feathered pinions, so that they can begin the New Year with a clean slate.”(Soltes, Abrams & Blecher). Through color, line and movement, the world of Chaim Gross’s childhood lives again.

Gross was born in Austrian Galicia in 1904.  He spent many youthful hours whittling wood as he accompanied his father, Moses, a timber appraiser, on his rounds.   His family’s devotion  to Judaism informed his life and his artistic endeavors.  Gross’s idyllic childhood was shattered by the outbreak of World War 1.  In 1921, he emigrated to America, to New York’s Lower East Side, and he studied at the Educational Alliance, the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, and The Arts Students’ League.  His sculptures in bronze, wood, alabaster and many other materials are in private collections, museums and public  spaces throughout the world. Many of his drawings and paintings began as studies for his sculptures, but then took on a life of their own.   His sculpture, The Ten Commandments, was commissioned  for the International Synagogue at Kennedy Airport;  and he has won numerous prestigious awards.  Chiam Gross died in 1991 in Provincetown, MA.

Raised as a devout Hasidic Jew,  Gross expressed his faith by facing challenges with a festive, optimistic spirit. He believed that all people are sinful, that sin is part of the human condition,  and it  is what you do after you have sinned that counts. 

A message that resounds with us during these Yamim Nora’im……. 

שנה טובה ומתוקה לכולם

--Ruth Page, Museum Director


Contributions to the museum are a special way to remember those you wish to honor on memorialize send your donations to the synagogue.   Attention: Museum


Past Musings:

Thu, September 21 2023 6 Tishrei 5784