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Ruth Eis Jerusalem May 20, 1985
Introduction The Magnes Archives as Recipient of the Object Background and History of the Family, Original Owners
Description of the Object a. Material b. Measurements c. Text d. Style and Technique
Examination and Interpretation The Iconography of the Twenty-four Medallions
Conclusions Important Documentary Evidence Concerning a Personality of Renown Confirmation of the Custom Practiced Illustration of the Popular Taste of Middle-class in 19th Century Expression of Pastoral Life Style in Contrast to Earlier Ghetto Restrictions. Pictorial Record of 19th Century Milieu.
THE LILIENTHAL BINDER
Exploring and researching the old established Jewish communities of the Western United States has long been one of the important functions of the Western Jewish History Center of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California. Although established as an archival institution, additional objects sometimes are donated to supplement collections of historic papers. While such pieces serve rightfully as embellishments to history, it is a rare occasion when the artifact embodies conjointly historic, genealogic, religious, and artistic values. Such is the case with the object of our investigation -- an addition to the Torah binders already documented at the Magnes Museum. 1 A ritual object of outstanding craftsmanship, it was given 2 as an "embroidered scarf" without knowledge of the information it supplies about one of the members of the Lilienthal family, whose history is recorded in the archives of the Western Jewish History Center. 3 The framed binder hung for many years as a decorative piece in the San Francisco residence 4 of this prominent Jewish family, who originally came from Bavaria. Their ancestral records date back to 1529, when they are mentioned as members of the Jewish community of Schnaittach. At that time, when only a restricted number of Jewish families was permitted by the governing authorities to take up residence within any community in Bavaria, it often happened that younger sons moved to a new location in order to be able to marry and found families of their own. Among those who received
Ruth Eis, Torah Binders ofthe Judah L. Magnes Museum. Berkeley 1979.
By the family of Theodore Lilienthal.
F. Gordon O'Neill. Ernest Reuben Lilienthal and hisfamilv, Stanford University Press, 1949. • 3920 Washington SI.
the privilege of residence in Munich was Seligman Loeb Lilienthal (1777-1850), who married Dina Lichtenstein, the daughter of a Munich family.s Loeb, or Loew, was not only a wholesale merchant of quite comfortable circumstances, but also a highly respected member of the community. His wife Dina lived only to the age of 29, but managed to present him with seven children. A family portrait depicts her charmingly in a flowery and beribboned headcovering, surrounded by husband and children. Their first-born son was named Menachem, changed in German adaptation to Max. Max Lilienthal grew up during those turbulent years of the first half of the nineteenth century when traditionalism was opposed by a modern spirit of reform, when unrest and conflict became part of German Jewry. The seeds of progress and reform were planted during the young man's attendance at the university in Munich. From there he graduated in 1837 with a doctoral degree in philosophy. After attending the Yeshiva of Wolf Hamburger in Furth, he received his rabbinical degree from Hirsch Aub, Rabbi of Munich. The life story of Rabbi Max Lilienthal is well documented through his own writings as well as those of others. 6
In view of the many changes in his life:
from student in Germany to educator in Russia to emigrant to the United States in 1845, to Rabbi in New York and later Cincinnati, it remains remarkable that the members of his family preserved the heirlooms and mementos of their heritage. Handed down to each successive generation, they now incorporate a large collection of archival materials, artifacts and paintings. The presence of a long embroidered textile did not hold any specific significance for the family, as it did for the Magnes Museum, where Torah binders have been part of the collection since its beginnings.
5 The name Lilienthal has been the officially registered Ik1me since 181-l. It does not mean, as has been erroneously stated, Lily of the Valley, (G. 'Maigloeckchen') but Valley of the Lilies. 6 Rabbi Alex 1. Goldman. Giants ofFaith, Great American Rabbis. The Citadel Press. New York, 1964.
There has been a revival of interest in such pieces in diverse countries, accompanied by a steadily growing bibliography. I only need to mention the scholarly and comprehensive description of more than two hundred pieces by Dr. Florence Guggenheim-Grunberg, Basel; the section on binders in the catalog of textiles from the Jewish Museum, New York 8 ; the research done at the Israel Museum 9 ; further, a catalog of the binders at the Braunschweigische Landes-Museum, prepared by David Davidovitch for the museum's exhibition in 1978; and the catalog of the Magnes Museum's collection. Surely it was no accident that the Kolnisches Stadtmuseum chose the depiction of a binder for the cover of the handsome catalog of Judaica published in 1980. In view of this, I feel no need to dwell on the history or function of the Wimpel, but will turn to the object of our investigation directly. There are three points I wish to stress: 1. The binder is not sacred of itself, except for the fact that the name of the Lord (or the il) is used.
2. Neither pictorial rendition nor legend on binders have a connection with inscriptions on amulets and charms. Binders are used in a utilitarian manner: a) to bind the scrolls together and b) as a record of name, date of birth, and sometimes, location. 3. The binder we are examining is a late creation; it mirrors the trends of the nineteenth century, and warrants an interpretation confined to this period.
David Phillipson, Max Lilienthal, American Rabbi, Life and Writings. The Bloch Publishing Co., New York,1915. 8 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett Fabric ofJewish Life: Textiles From the Jewish lvfuseum Collection, The Jewish Museum, New York, 1977. An interesting similar binder is depicted on page 19, #157, dated 1813, which bears a great resemblance to the Lilienthal binder in both technique and iconography.
We will observe each symbol for the most obvious and appropriate signs of cultural heritage, i.e. both Jewish and German, in order to find testimony to the environment and family of the newborn child. The initial information transmitted is that the family was financially well enough off to be able to afford a commissioned work. The material is of fine linen and the top quality silk embroidery thread. The piece is 18cm high and 315cm long and completely backed with silk lining. The technique which the artist employed is called needlepainting, a shaded satin stitch embroidery. With fine silk thread, working in a flat filling stitch, the design is started with the lightest shades and graduates to successively darker shades. Each stitch begins in a part already covered and ends in a part still to be covered, causing an overlapping effect. The fact that the thread is pulled in the same direction gives a sheen to the surface. Shaded satin stitch is an elaborate form of embroidery for reproducing complicated pictures, flora/s, figures and animals in a most accurate and naturalistic way. The method is applied in this binder to great advantage, both in the medallions and in the text. The legend in Hebrew conforms to the usual inscriptions and translates: "Menachem called Mendel son of the priestly (cohen) Yehudah Loeb (from) Schnaidach born under a good star on Thursday the third of Marheshvan of the year 575 of the small counting may the Lord let him grow up to Torah and huppah and good deeds Amen Selah"
followed by the signature of the maker, Koppel Heller. The year corresponds to the fall of 1814; Lilienthal's birthday is listed on various dates! Twenty-four separately discernable illustrations have been incorporated into the text. From right to left they are: 1. 2.
A peacock with expanded plumage A tulip
N. van der Zwan, Torabinders afthe israel Afuseul1l, Jerusalem, University of Nijmegen. The Netherlands, May 1978.
3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.
A hare A bird A branch with almonds A lion A stag A bundled infant A crown A canary on a branch and tulips The zodiac sign, a scorpion The second crown Carnations sprouting from the letter LAMED The third crown A snake atop the letter LAMED A toddler under a tree A large serpent emerging from the letter LAMED A young man holding up extended Scrolls of Law Sheaves of wheat growing out of the letter LAMED A couple under the wedding canopy A running animal Two turtle doves Marguerites growing from the letter LAMED A rooster bearing a shield with the signature of the artist-maker
The grouping of the pictorial elements moves parallel to the documentary message, simply regenerating information while stimulating the imagination by means of associated ideas. The principle of association presents at times a problem, for various meanings may be ascribed to one symbol. A symbol is a specific physical object, event or action that serves as a suggestion or reminder of, a substitution for, an emotion, an idea, an attitude, a quality or an abstract concept, an element in the unconscious. The profusion of animal symbols in the religions and in the arts underlines the importance of the symbol in relation to the cosmic forces and energies. Thus the Egyptian gods and goddesses are equipped with animal heads. The Evangelists in Christianity are represented by animals, the Holy Spirit takes the form of a dove; practically all the early cultures have strong bonds to animal worship or cult. An example is the peacock, depicted at the beginning of the binder, which in the Jewish tradition is a ritually clean animal. It is sometimes confused
with the more familiar pheasant. 10 According to Midrash, it has in its plumage three hundred and sixty-five colors, as many as the days in the year. Rahel WischnitzerBernstein designates the peacock as a symbol of Paradise, part of the great joy of messianic times. 11 In an expanded theory, the peacock represents resurrection as depicted in Jewish catacombs and on tombstones. On this binder it bears an analogous relationship to the name Menachem, in Hebrew "the consoler" or "the Messiah" ... but speculating on German popular lore which equalizes the peacock with pride it may simply tell us that the parents are "proud as a peacock" to introduce their firstborn son. Similarly, the endearing form of the name "Mendel" is surmounted by a branch of almonds which in German is "Mandel". Max's father's name, Loeb, in German means "lion". The lion as the kingly beast stands for strength, power and also justice. The throne of Solomon rested upon lions, and many other rulers, such as the kings of France, borrowed this symbol. The lion is also associated with the sun and with gold. Already in 3000 B.C.E., lions were represented on cylinder seals from Egypt. Sometimes they are pictured back to back, one facing east, the other facing west. In this case they are thought of as yesterday and tomorrow, or past and future, sometimes in the meaning of night and day, and even work and rest. In the Talmud the lion is called "the King of the Beasts". The Hebrew language has many names for this animal, each one sensitive to a different aspect: Aryeh, or Ari Lavi (fem. Leviah) Kefir (young lion) Layish (poetic)
Cf. HalUlUkiah A 513. illustration 45, Historica Hebraica, Berlin, 1965. Rahel Wisclmitzer-Bemstein, Gestalten und Symbole der judischen Kunst, Verlag Siegfried Scholem, Berlin-Schoneberg, 1955, p.12!.
Shahal (medium size) Shahatz Gur (lion's reply) There are more than one hundred and fifty references in the Bible, many metaphorical, descriptive and allegorical: The tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:9) and the tribe of Dan (Deut.33: 22) are compared to the lion. It is written of David: "His heart is the heart of a lion" and of Saul and Jonathan: "Swifter than eagles, stronger than lions". Certainly power and justice were incorporated in the person of the elder Lilienthal, the characteristics and the name thereby complementing each other. There are numerous other references to names of the members of the family in the generous array of flora and fauna. Obviously it is impossible to cover all twenty-four illustrations with the allotted time; we therefore will skip over some of the more frequently appearing motifs, such as the scorpion denoting the sign of the Zodiac and the constellation under which the child was bom or the customary embellishment of the letter lamed 12, although here again the special attention to the letter "L" alludes to the initial of the family name. Somewhat more unique is the technique of depicting the three crowns. 13 Although it was not uncommon to pay homage to a particular ruler by utilizing a specific crown, the artist was familiar with heraldry. He made a point of degrees of importance: the dukes coronet with its strawberry leaves, followed by a circle of gold rays each supporting a large pearl as is customary for an Earl. The third crown, here used to mark the abbreviation of the letter H, reminds one rather of a chaplet or wreath for a festive occasion. It is not too far fetched to point out the resemblance to a corona triumphalis of laurel leaves to mark achievement, or the Greek-originated bridal wreath which was accepted in Jewish circles.
P.J. Abbink van der Zwan, Ornamentation on Eighteenth-Century Torah Binders, The Israel MuseulIl. Vol. 14, 1978. 13 Ibid.
If the artist has secularized the symbolism of the crowns, he returns to tradition in the delightful depiction of the life cycle. From the bundled infant to the toddler underneath the tree, to the young man holding up the Torah and the adult taking on the responsibility of a family man, there are the highlights in the progression from birth to death. In the accepted formula Torah, Huppah v'maasim tovim we only mark three separations: Youth, which gathers information; Middle Life, with all its implications of duties, rights, and privileges; and finally Old Age, when personal demands should abate and hearts are opened to the needs of others. It was the choice of the artist to depict the human figure four times, thereby referring to the characteristics as indicated in the story of the four children in the Hagadah: the helpless "Wickelkind,,14 does not know yet how to ask, the toddler must be taught. The third child is not necessarily bad, but adolescence does bring with it rebellion which must be counter-acted by the Torah, the Law. Finally the fourth son corresponds to the settled adult who has gained wisdom. 15 I must now tum to the last medallion, which depicts a rooster. In ancient times the rooster was supposed to assure the protection of the sun-god, his crowing regarded as a hymn to this deity, to which the world owes the daily recurrence of the sunrise. Therefore the rooster chased away the spirits of darkness, and so became the defender of the weak -- especially women and children -- against the wiles of the nocturnal spirits. By transference, the rooster-defender also became a symbol of courage. All of these symbolic qualities may have been combined in the last medallion of the binder. In addition there is a play on the name of the maker which is HELLER, which means "lighter" in German, referring to the rooster's crowing at the time when the sky becomes lighter; finally the rooster carries a shield which announces in embroidered Hebrew
14 Vivian Mann and Joseph Gutman, Danzig 1939, Treasure of a Destroyed Community, The Jewish Museum, New York, 1980, p.59-60, #7. Pidyan Ha-Ben Plate. Note: baby in swadling cloths (from the Gieldzinski Collection).
lettering: "Made by the hands of Koppel, son of Moses Heller (segal) of the community of Bretzfeld, a resident of the city of Munich." As with the entering peacock, so with the departing fowl there exists a dual message. A common German saying "dem kraht kein Hahn nach" (no cock will crow for him) means: he will be forgotten. Koppel Heller allays this suspicion by the clever device of the inscription on the shield. He need not have feared, for he will be remembered for his artistry. Our gratitude goes out to the Lilienthal family, descendants of the famous Rabbi, who let us share the joys of beholding this work of art. The fortuitous rediscovery of their heirloom marks an event of threefold importance: the documentation of the birth of an important personality, Rabbi Max Lilienthal; the confirmation of a practice of a particular custom at a specific time and location; and the record of a colorful visual tradition of expression. Consequently the textile is not only an important addition to the collection at the Magnes Museum, but of particular interest to all scholars in Judaic cultural studies. 16
15 See Mira Friedman, The Four Sons ofthe Hagaddah and the Ages ofMan, Journal of Jewish Art, Vol. XI, pp. 16-40 16 Florence Guggenheim-Grunberg, Die Torawickelbander von Lengnau, Zeugnisse jiidischer Volkskunst verlag Judische Buch-Gemeinde, Zurich, 1967
BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Eis, Ruth. Torah Binders of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, Berkeley, 1979. 2. Elsworth. The Evil Eye, London, 1895. pp. 353, 354. Cf: the rooster as amulet. 3. "From Jewish Life of Old in Germany and Austria," exhibition catalog. September, 1974, Ethnological Museum and Folklore Archives, Haifa Municipality. Forward by Dr. Edith Varga-Biro. 4. Goldman, Rabbi Alex J. Giants of Faith, Great American Rabbis, The Citadel Press, New York, 1964. Cf: Chapter 3, Max Lilienthal 1815-1882, American of the Americans. 5. Grunwald, Dr. Max. Jahrbuch fUr JOdische Volkskunde, Verlag Benjamin Harz, Berlin-Wien, 1923. 6. Mann, Vivian and Gutman, Joseph. Danzig 1939, Treasures of a Destroyed Community, The Jewish Museum, New York, 1980, p. 59-60. #7 Pidyan Ha-Ben Plate. 7. O'Neill, F. Gordon, Ernest Reuben Lilienthal and his family, Stanford University Press, 1949. 8. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. Fabric of Jewish Life: Textiles from the Jewish Museum Collection, The Jewish Museum, New York, 1977. 9. Phillipson, David. Max Lilienthal, American Rabbi, Life and Writings, the Bloch Publishing Co., New York, 1915. 10. Trachtenberg, Joshua. "Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion," Atheneum, New York, 1975. 11. van der Zwan, N. Torabinders of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, May, 1978. 12. van der Zwan, P. J. Abbink. Ornamentation on Eighteenth-Century Torah Binders, The Israel Museum, Vol. 14, 1978. 13. Wischnitzer-Bernstein, Rahel. Symbole und Gestalten der JOdischen Kunst, Verlag Siegfried Scholem, Berlin-Schoneberg, 1935.