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Torah Shield

Unusual Objects from Our Core Exhibition Tell Stories of Jewish Life

Isaac Jakob Gans donated this Torah shield to the synagogue in Celle.

Silver Torah shield with gilded columns and lions holding law tablets

Torah shield donated by Isaak Jakob Gans (1723–1798), Hamburg, 1760–1765, silver; Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, photo: Jens Ziehe

The shield is typical of Ashkenazi Torah ornaments, adorning the Torah scroll when it is not in use.

Gans was a court factor in Hannover and Celle and is considered an important philanthropist of Celle’s Jewish Community. According to Jewish tradition, he lived by the command ment to support his community. Gans took advantage of his position in order to do all he could to improve the living conditions of his congregation members.

Ornamentation, symbols, and the dedication of this Torah shield; audio track from our JMB app

Read along: Torah Breastplate Isaak Jacob Gans

This richly decorated Torah Breastplate is roughly the size of an A3 piece of paper. It is made of pure silver and has an irregular border decorated with rocaille, the typical shell ornamentation of the Rococo. This breastplate once adorned a Torah scroll in the synagogue in Celle, near Hanover.

Some elements of the plate have been picked out in gilding. The two columns with vines growing up them for example, referring to the Temple in Jerusalem. Between these are two lions standing on their back legs, holding the tablets bearing the ten commandments. The small raised gilded area underneath represents Mount Sinai, on which Moses received the Tablets of Stone.

On the plinths decorated with jewels beneath the columns, is the following dedication in Hebrew:

„Se nadaw ha-kazin parnass u-manhig / kewod ha-raw rabbi izik ben ha-rabbi / jaakow gans sichrono li-wracha / be-wet ha-knesset kehillat ha-kodesch zel / 525 lifrat katan.“

“This was commissioned by the utmost honorable leader, the most reverend Rabbi Itzik, son of Rabbi Jaacob Gans in blessed memory in the synagogue of the holy community of Celle in 1765”

Isaak Jacob Gans, who commissioned this Torah Breastplate, was a tobacco merchant and court factor for the courts of Hanover and Celle.

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Core Exhibition: 13 Objects – 13 Stories (13)