I’m pleased to share the release of the newest presentation of Village Art Insights on the newest exhibit at The Skirball Museum. In addition to speaking with Jessica, my collaborator on the Village Art Insights series on the exhibit, a fully rebuilt Torah ark from 18th century Poland, we spoke with both museum director Abby Schwartz, as well as the exhibit’s creator, Rabbi Shmuel Polin for this presentation.
According to an article in the American Israelite, Rabbi Polin’s study of the lost ark and related material resulted in his rabbinic capstone project for graduating Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s rabbinical school. Rabbi Polin’s research coincided with a conservation project on the Polish ark in the Scheuer Chapel on the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR. Used daily by students for prayer, what began as a modest project to make the ark safe for everyday handling turned into analysis of paint and wood, and the discovery of a long-forgotten shipping label affixed to the back of the ark that revealed its specific original location of Schönlanke, Poland.
New research conducted by Polin indicated that this precious Polish ark, which came to HUC in 1925 as part of the Berlin Judaica Collection of Salli Kirschstein, was made in about 1759. It had previously been dated about 1740. It is one of the few extant Polish arks of the eighteenth century. Soaring 20 feet high, the richly colored and symbolically reconstructed Sidra ark is a feat of imagination, engineering, and artistry.