Institute in Jewish Art Promotes Dialogue Through Art Appreciation

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

May 22, 2007, New York, NY

Professionals from nineteen of the country’s most prestigious museums will participate in this Dr. Vivian Mannyear’s Institute in Jewish Art at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. The only program of its kind in the country, the Institute’s goal is to train museum professionals of all religions and ethnicities on how to catalog Jewish ceremonial art, create meaningful, contextual exhibits, and form working relationships with a national network of colleagues and experts.

The Institute is also dedicated to building understanding and engendering respect for diversity, part of JTS’s commitment to sharing the riches of Jewish culture with people of all backgrounds and to explore a range of methods of interpreting works of art with sacred content for increasingly diverse audiences. In addition to the classes in basic Judaism and Jewish ceremonial art, the program includes visits to museums and private collections, and lectures by experts in the field.

JTS offers the only graduate program in the United States that trains curators and art historians as specialists in the field of Jewish art and material culture through its program in Jewish Art and Visual Culture. Both the Institute in Jewish Art and the master’s program are directed by Dr. Vivian Mann, a renowned expert in Jewish art and the Morris and Eva Feld Chair of Judaica at The Jewish Museum.

Participating institutions in this year’s program include the American Folk Art Museum, New York City; the Art Institute of Chicago; Blanden Memorial Art Museum, Fort Dodge, Iowa; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Spertus Museum, Chicago; the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles; and Yeshiva University Museum, New York City. Past participants have included, among others, the SolomonR.GuggenheimMuseum; J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Institute in Jewish Art is fully funded by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. This program will take place in two parts: June 4-8, 2007 and October 8-11, 2007 at JTS.

Further information about the Institute for Jewish Art is available by contacting Aliza Strauss at (212) 280-6098 or

Editors/Reporters: Interviews with past participants can be scheduled upon request (see brief bios below). Contact Sherry Kirschenbaum, JTS Director of Media Relations, at (212) 678-8953 or

Scott Peck, Executive Director, Biblical Arts Center/Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, Texas, was so inspired by the Institute he is spearheading an effort to provide gallery space for a permanent installation of Jewish ceremonial art.

Corine Wegener, Assistant Curator of the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts and a Major in the Army Reserves, whose military background and experience with cultural and religious conflict in Bosnia and Iraq heightened her awareness of the role museums can play in promoting religious tolerance and diversity. Wegener’s participation in the Institute of Jewish Arts was instrumental in helping her to secure a $500,000 gift to expand the Judaica collection at the Minneapolis Institute.

Leslie Balkany, Museum Educator of the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,  who was inspired her to share the impact of her Institute of Jewish Arts experience with colleagues and peers at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Museums.

Tricia Pongracz, Chief Curator at the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City, who described the Institute as “literally opening a door” to an area of art history in which she had no experience.

Tamara Mann (no relation to Dr. Mann), a doctoral student in history and the former Manager of Public Programs at the Interfaith Center in New York, who was moved to become an educator at The Jewish Museum after her JTS experience.

  Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, encompassing a world-class library and five schools. JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic, and lay leaders for the Jewish community
and beyond.

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