Archive for the 'Tradition' Category

24
Jun
13

Jewish Ceremonial Art – The Soul of a People: Part 2


In many an auction there have often been unexpected surprises, such as an item that was estimated as a high seller failing to reach even the lowest threshold of its estimated value or an item selling for an amount far above the expected. Last Thursday’s auction, at Kestenbaum and Company, was no exception. While some lots may not have sold at the expected price, others indeed went for higher sums.

Kestenb12Just as art reveals the artist’s soul, and ceremonial art reveals the soul of a people, how and why later generations value that art speaks volumes of that particular people’s past. Last Thursday, quite a few items exceeded their estimates but two of them – in particular – demonstrate to me what we, as Jews, still treasure today.

UKRANIAN/POLISH SILVER SPICE TOWER. Single tier tower, engraved on four sides with animals representing the adage from Ethics of the Fathers: Bold as a Leopard, Swift as an Eagle, Fleet as a Deer, Strong as a Lion (Chapter 5:23). Set on knop stem and matching square base. Marked. Height: 7 inches.

Circa 1820: $6,000-$8,000

The above item sold for $15,000. Frankly, from a strictly artistic point of view, there were more beautiful, more intricately designed spice towers for havdala, even in this very auction; the particular lot, however, stood out for its inscriptions telling a Jew that he must IsiKaufwdalways be ready to act with alacrity, and defy every obstacle on his way to perform any one of Hakodosh Boruch Hu‘s commandments. While the esthetics of an item are important, its message and its function are – obviously – of greater value to us as a people…  even in the 21st century!

The second item I find worthy of mentioning is a mixed media work…

(Kaufman, Isidor. After). Studying the Talmud. Wood and mixed media (intarsia-style). Framed. 23.5 x 19.5 inches

Mid 20 century: $100-$150

Based on the Isidor Kaufman painting ‘Studying the Talmud’

The above item sold for $1500, ten times the highest estimated amount! Why? Because not only do we Jews value tradition, not only do we value books, we treasure learning and scholarship. Again the personal values of the buyer far outshine the artistic value of the work.

Attending this auction of Jewish Ceremonial Art showed me an important part of our character as a people. It reinforced the knowledge that no matter how far down the rungs of spiritual height our generation has descended, no matter how jaded we’ve become in the surroundings of the present day world, the values and beliefs our ancestors held are still engraved in our hearts. The flames of yahadut are indeed eternal and will forever warm our collective soul.

CS

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Jewish Ceremonial Art – The Soul of a People

12
Jul
11

A conversation with Paul Bensabat


Tomorrow evening at 8:00 pm (Eastern Time) we host Paul Bensabat, co-CEO of The Manischewitz Company on BlogTalkRadio.  Manischewitz, the biggest gefilte fish (that quintessential Ashkenazic Shabbos appetizer!) purveyor, is now run by two Moroccan Jews: Co-CEOs Paul Bensabat and Alain Bankier. The Manischewitz Company owns many of the kosher brands most Jewish baby boomers grew up with, such as: Manischewitz, Mrs. Adler’sGoodman’s, Season, Cohen’s, Barney’s, RokeachMother’sHorowitz MargaretenTradition, Goodman’s and more. What makes Paul Bensabat tick? Why would a Sephardic Jew acquire so many Ashkenazic brands? In a 2009 interviewhe said:

“Being Jewish is something very special, regardless of how religious you are. I am not Orthodox, butI am extremely proud of being Jewish and I have extremely strong feelings about being part of the community. My dad inspired me about the importance of being Jewish from the very beginning of my existence. I grew up in Casablanca in Morocco, so being a Jew in America I certainly appreciate the freedom and pride of being Jewish without fear of consequence. Being Jewish is not just respecting the religion but also having the privilege of being part of The Chosen People, of an amazing community with a special bond and pact with God. We are unique and one-of-a kind and should always be proud to be Jewish.”

In this era when Jewish cuisine has embraced most ethnic culinary traditions and shaped them to fit in with the traditional kosher diet, it was perfectly logical for a Moroccan Jew to acquire a company and brands that defined the American Ashkenazi experience for over a hundred years. Mr. Bensabat will talk to us about the company’s history, it’s over 600 products and more.

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow evening – Wednesday, the 13th of July – at 8:00pm (Eastern Time) on BlogTalkRadio.

Meanwhile, why not give a listen to our previous show? Our guest was Esti Berkowitz of PrimeTimeParenting.com. What is her blog about? Mrs. Berkowitz’ one line description says it best: How I Found Kosher Food, A Husband, and Had Children After 35.

We talked about her blog and its purpose, we also discussed kashrus in Chicago, restaurants, take outs and more. As you will hear, Mrs. Berkowitz was an exciting guest and we’ve already had repeated requests to bring her back.

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow evening – Wednesday, the 13th of July – at 8:00pm (Eastern Time) on BlogTalkRadio.

CS

17
Jun
11

Perfect Jewish American!


This past Tuesday morning the Manischewitz Company celebrated the opening of its new corporate headquarters in Newark, NJ.

From left to right: Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker, Co-President and CEO Paul Bensabat, Co-President and CEO Alain Bankier and Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yona Metzger

After both CoCEOs spoke about the company and their vision for the future, Mayor Booker took to the podium. With wit,  with a palpable sincerity – rare in a politician of any political stripe – he interspersed Yiddish words (impeccable pronounced!) in his speech, welcoming the company into the city. Israel’s Chief Rabbi Rav Metzger followed, he remarked on the Mayor’s facility with the Yiddish words and beside speaking of the company products he also blessed Cory Booker to go on to the national scene as a future President.

The affixing of three mezuzos followed…

Affixing the second mezuzah

After the mezuzos were in place we toured the manufacturing facility, which culminated with the baking (from start to finish) the World’s Largest Matzoh (25 feet long, 82 square feet!) ever, baked right in front of our eyes.

Detail of the finished matzoh as it came out on the conveyor belt

After the matzoh baked we all went in to the buffet luncheon in the company’s boardroom.

The Manischewitz Company was founded in Cincinnati in the spring of 1888 as a matzoh factory by Rabbi Dov Manischewitz. In 1932 it moved to its expanded facility in Jersey City and this move paved the way for the introduction of more products. While it is the US largest manufacturer of processed kosher foods, it is also the world’s largest manufacturer of matzoh.

The company today manufactures over 600 products with brands such as:

  • Manischewitz
  • Season
  • Barney’s
  • Guiltless Gourmet
  • Asian Harvest
  • Rokeach
  • Mishpacha
  • Horowitz Margareten
  • Jason
  • Mother’s
  • Carmel
  • Tradition
  • Croyden House
  • Mrs Adler’s
  • Goodman’s

CEO Paul Bensabat interviewed by my good friend Rabbi Yaakov Spivak

On Wednesday past, we posted a cookbook review titled Perfect Jewish… With that title in mind, I wonder what could be more Perfect Jewish American than the Manischewitz Company‘s products? Could a Jew in America have grown up without ever having tasted any of of the company’s products? Absolutely impossible!!

CS




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