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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@teprov.org.

 

Museum Musings

May 2024

 



Omer Counter. Louvaton Gallery. Israel. 2003

 

Count Our Blessings...

By the time you read this, we will be almost three weeks into the counting of the omer. From the second night of Pesach until Shavuot, we count the days that signify the time between the Exodus from Egypt and Revelation at Sinai. Sefirat ha-Omer, as it is called, reminds us of bringing a sheaf (omer) of newly harvested barley to the Temple as a pre-Pesach offering. During the omer period, each of the seven species - olives, pomegranates, figs, barley, wheat, grapes, dates - amidst the vagaries of weather and wind, have the potential to enter a significant growth period. Shavuot, at the end of sefirat ha-omer, celebrates God’s blessings upon the land and its harvests, and the success of that growth period. During the sefirah (the counting) of the omer (sheaf), the days are marked by reciting special psalms and marking off each day, on special omer charts, often artistically embellished. The omer period is considered a time of semi-mourning with several prohibitions in place: no cutting of hair or playing music, and no celebrating of weddings. However, on several days, Lag B’Omer, Rosh Hodesh and Yom Ha-Atzmaut, the restrictions are lifted. The semi-mourning period hearkens back to the days when the Israelites, because of the uncertainty of the harvest, so critical to their existence, were vulnerable... vulnerable, both physically and spiritually, as they prepared to receive the Torah at Sinai.

As we number the days, during sefirat ha-omer, let us take the opportunity to recall both the vulnerability and blessings in our lives. Amid the vagaries of wind and weather, we too have the potential to have a beautiful life.

The magnificent Omer Counter, pictured above, is in the collection of the Abraham and Natalie Percelay Museum of our own Temple Emanu-El. Created in Israel in 2003 by the Studio of Louvaton, it is made of sterling silver, painted parchment and maple wood. The top of the wooden box opens and reveals a scroll-like device which is manually turned daily. Each number is beautifully illuminated with different representations of the seven species, folk art images, and various psalms. In addition, the skillfully crafted matching wooden stand for the Omer Counter was created by Emanu-El member, Bob Pelcovits. The piece does not sit in the Museum or in a display case. Like so many of the items in the Museum’s collection, the Omer Counter is used, as the holiday or ritual demands. It is not an “artifact” but an actual “in use” ritual object, as are so many of the Museum’s collection. In addition, items in the museum are primary sources, used to teach students of all ages the history of the Jewish people. These objects, collected from locations throughout the world, and from time periods spanning centuries, live within the museum proper (in the foyer of the Alperin Meeting House) as well as in display cases, and on walls, scattered around the synagogue. They are valuable primary sources which enable the museum to be a viable educational arm of our synagogue.  

This Omer Counter “resides” in the Fishbein Chapel. Our magnificent Omer Counter was generously donated to the Museum by the Gorman Family, in loving memory of Eva and Sam Gorman.

--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, July 25 2024 19 Tammuz 5784