Chicken Soup Column: Israel’s Ritual Art Strengthens the Soul

By Penny Nisson, Jewish Education Coordinator

Members and friends of the Mizel Museum returned from our first group tour to Israel in late October. As one of the lucky travelers on this triumphant journey, I was fortunate to meet many stars of the Israeli art scene. While each encounter was chicken soup for the soul, I give you now a tasty tidbit of what we were served by the magnificent creative genius, David Moss. He opened his studio to us on a lovely golden evening in Jerusalem and sent us into a state of non-belief as we gasped at the breadth of his work. Lined up on his studio shelves are pizza boxes filled with ideas to be explored and created. The scope of his work is vast and spans into architecture and park design.

David Moss turning page

David Moss shows the Moss Haggadah

David Moss synthesizes tradition, beauty, learning, art, and creativity into engaging new forms of expression. He says the making of Jewish art can be a holy process. His works are authentic in Jewish tradition, exhaustively researched, and of the finest design, material, and workmanship. His organization, Kol HaOt in Israel, geared toward North American visitors, provides groups with meaningful hands-on participatory interactions that utilize the power of the arts to teach and inspire.

Years ago, it was Moss who took a plain ceremonial marriage contract (ketubah) and elevated it to an art form. His meticulous artistry infused individual characteristics of couples into each design. Thereafter, he took on a new challenge, a commission wherein he created the breathtaking Moss Haggadah. A haggadah is a text that tells the story of the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt. It sets forth the order of the Passover seder (ritual feast), which begins the holiday of Passover. So outstanding was the finished haggadah that limited-edition copies were painstakingly reproduced for sale. The Moss Haggadah is such an awe-inspiring aesthetic interpretation of history, science, and symbolism that words fail to describe it. It must be seen and discussed, and it is, here in Denver. Years ago, Temple Emanuel Rabbi Emeritus Steven Foster had the brilliant foresight to acquire one. In recent years, the Mizel Museum and Temple Emanuel have joined together to show and discuss the haggadah led by Rabbi Foster. Because of its popularity, we are excited to present the program again, closely timed with the holiday of Passover. In addition, Rabbi Foster will briefly display another haggadah he purchased years ago, the Szyk Haggadah, created by another prolific genius and master of illumination, Arthur Szyk (1894-1951). Szyk was a tireless activist who campaigned for universal human dignity. Looking ahead to 2014, Arthur Szyk will be the focus when Mizel Museum brings to Denver the scholar, Irvin Unger, the foremost expert on Szyk’s life and work. Unger will highlight the importance of this highly acclaimed haggadah as another type of chicken soup for the soul.

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