Kurt J. Matzdorf's Torah Ornaments: Modern Inter­pretations of Traditional Symbols

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Torah ornaments such as this Torah breastplate (Hebrew: tas), and the Torah finials (Hebrew: rimonim) express the great respect and honor given to the Torah scroll. A Torah scroll is only uncovered for the reading in the synagogue, and is otherwise clothed in an often elaborately embroidered mantle. Indeed, the Torah is the divine revelation to the nation of Israel and is considered the word of God.

Silver, Gold, and Acrylic

The creator of these works of art, Kurt J. Matzdorf, is an artist known for his modern interpretations. He broke new ground not only in form, but also in his choice of materials. Alongside the classic materials of silver and gold, he used colored acrylic for his Judaica. Notwithstanding this contemporary approach, Matzdorf frequently incorporates traditional symbols as he does here. The nation of Israel has twelve tribes, each with its own emblem, such as a basket for the tribe of Levi. Matzdorf also used the symbol of a stylized pomegranate. The pomegranate symbolizes life and fertility in Judaism and the Hebrew word for the Torah finials stems from the Hebrew for pomegranate, rimon.


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Twelve Tribes of Israel

According to the Hebrew Bible, the twelve tribes of Israel collectively comprise the People of Israel chosen by God.

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Title Torah Finials and Torah Shield
Artist Kurt J. Matzdorf
Collection Judaica
Location and year of origin New Paltz, New York 1981
Medium silver, acrylic
Dimensions 30 x 10 cm and 30 x 19.5 x 0.5 cm
Torah finials and Torah breastplate, with symbols of the twelve tribes in different colors.

Kurt J. Matzdorf: Torah Finials and Torah Shield; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Selected Objects: Judaica Collection (9)

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