MFAH Establishes a Gallery for Judaica

The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Gallery for Judaica to present objects including loans from the Jewish Museum, New York; Houston collections and recent acquisitions from this new MFAH collecting initiative.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston opened a new gallery for Judaica on December 3, 2023. The new space, which has been endowed by the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, allows for a permanent presence at the Museum of works of art made for Jewish communities around the world to fulfill the practice of their faith.

More than two dozen objects will be displayed in the inaugural installation of the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Gallery, primarily from a group of recent acquisitions that have launched this new collecting initiative.

The installation in the Herzstein Gallery will benefit from a partnership with the Jewish Museum, New York, that has paired significant loans to the MFAH with scholarly collaborations. That partnership launched in summer 2022 with the exhibition Beauty and Ritual: Judaica from the Jewish Museum, New York; some objects lent from the collection of the Jewish Museum will be on view in the Herzstein Gallery.

The gallery is also an important component of the World Faiths Initiative at the MFAH, which seeks to bring attention to the central role of religion and faith in the creation of many of the works of art in the Museum’s collections and exhibitions. It is funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

“With the opening of the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Gallery for Judaica, we will complete the suite of galleries in the Caroline Wiess Law Building that have been developed over the past 15 years to reflect the diversity of Houston’s communities,” commented Gary Tinterow, Director, Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, of the MFAH. “The galleries adjacent to the Herzstein Gallery are devoted to the arts of Korea, Japan, India, China, and the Islamic worlds.”

The Herzstein Gallery features an outstanding collection of historical Judaica recently acquired by the Museum.

Significant works on view will include a rare 5th-century late-Roman oil lamp; an especially precious 14th-century illustrated Mahzor, a community holiday prayer book created in Mainz, Germany; an early-19thcentury silver and gold Torah Shield produced in Munich; a silver Torah Crown made in Venice; a jeweled silver Torah Crown made in Poland; and a variety of silver Torah Finials made in Central Asia, Holland, England, and Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries, in addition to objects from Turkey and North Africa.

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Photos courtesy of MFAH