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A pioneering 18th-century Sephardic silversmith’s Torah decorations to be displayed in US museums for first time

BOSTON (JTA) — In 1725, Abraham de Oliveyra was officially registered as a silversmith in London — the first Jew known to be given a license to practice the trade in the city.

Jews had been let back into England just 70 years beforehand following an expulsion centuries earlier, and Oliveyra’s registration established him as a prolific maker of silver Judaica for the city’s synagogues.

Now, nearly 300 years later, Oliveyra’s work will go on view in American museums for the first time. A pair of Torah ornaments made by the 18th-century craftsman have been bought jointly by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and New York City’s Jewish Museum.

“The fact that Oliveyra is the earliest known Jewish silversmith active in England is quite monumental,” Abigail Rapoport, the Jewish Museum’s curator of Judaica, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The ornaments, she said, are a “masterpiece of historical Judaica.”

The pair of ornaments are known as finials, or “rimonim” in Hebrew, and sit on top of the two wooden staves of a Torah scroll when it is not being read. Made in 1729 of partially gilded silver, the finials feature tiers of bells surrounding three flattened spheres that showcase Oliveyra’s distinctive openwork, or design made by creating patterns of holes or piercings in the precious metal.

Oliveyra is also known for his use of the shell motif, a hallmark of the era’s nature-inspired Rococo style. While they were of their time, Oliveyra’s design of the gilded rimonim is a clear reminder of the finials’ Jewish context, in that it alludes to the royal status Jews traditionally confer on the Torah, Rapoport said.

The rimonim are one of only 11 known pairs by Oliveyra. The only other rimonim by the artist in the United States belong to Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in Manhattan.

“You want to touch them and trace the exquisite design with your fingers and imagine their centuries of precious use,” Rapoport said of the pair in the museum. “It’s almost intangible and magical.”

Oliveyra was born in Amsterdam to a Jewish family of Portuguese descent that had settled in the Dutch city, which was known for its climate of tolerance, after fleeing religious persecution. By his early 30s, he moved to London, where he and other Jewish artisans had become eligible for membership in professional guilds.

That was unusual. Jews in Western Europe, Rapoport said, were typically excluded from artists’ guilds, including the silversmiths’ association, until the 19th century, so most European pieces of Jewish ceremonial art, though commissioned by Jews, were made by Christian silversmiths.

Once Oliveyra began producing silverwork, he was frequently commissioned to create Judaica by Jewish communities in London, which was home to both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews. Rapoport said both communities bought Oliveyra’s work.

“I like to think of him as the go-to-guy for finials,” she said.

Rapoport told JTA the museums bought the finials from Gidon Finkelstein, son of the late Belgian diamond dealer and Judaica collector Bernard Finkelstein. They would not disclose the price. A different, less decorated pair of Oliveyra finials sold for $200,000 at auction in 2016, while less substantial finials that could not be authenticated as his handiwork sold at Sotheby’s in June for $25,000.

Other rimonim made by Oliveyra are owned by London’s Sephardic Bevis-Marks Synagogue, which bills itself as “the oldest and most splendid Synagogue in Great Britain,” as well as the Hambro Synagogue, which largely served the city’s Ashkenazi Jews beginning in the 18th century. Several pairs are in the permanent collection of London’s Jewish Museum, with one pair on loan to the city’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

The rimonim purchased by the two American museums are currently on exhibit at the Jewish Museum through late October and will be on view at the MFA beginning in December.

The collaboration between the museums “enhances the opportunity that the rimonim will be viewed by broad and diverse audiences in two different cities,” said Simona Di Nepi,  the Judaica curator at the MFA.

Both curators said the rimonim diversify their collections because Oliveyra was Sephardic. Most of the Judaica in their respective collections was made for Ashkenazi communities.

“I really love the exuberance of these Torah finials,” Di Nepi said. “The intricate pierced silver on the body of the finials, and the exquisitely engraved staves.”

The post A pioneering 18th-century Sephardic silversmith’s Torah decorations to be displayed in US museums for first time appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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US House Speaker Says Bills on Israel Aid, Iran Sanctions to Come Tuesday

US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson stands in the House of Representatives ahead of US President Joe Biden’s third State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 7, 2024. Photo: Shawn Thew/Pool via REUTERS

US House Speaker Mike Johnson said spending legislation will be released later on Tuesday with lawmakers still hammering out final figures, as the House prepares to vote on four separate measures providing aid to Israel and Ukraine.

The measures, which would also include aid to Taiwan and US allies in the Indo-Pacific, could come for a vote as early as Friday — more than two months after the Senate passed a bill providing additional assistance for the two allies embroiled in conflict.

Johnson, in an interview on Fox News, said the fourth bill addressing national security priorities will include additional sanctions on Russia and Iran as well as a provision regarding the “seizure of corrupt Russian oligarchs’ assets to assist with all this.”

He also said lawmakers are “trying to merge some” provisions to secure the US border into the legislation but gave no additional details. Regarding the spending amounts, “some of that’s still being decided,” Johnson said, adding that lawmakers could amend the measures to require “pay fors” to offset costs.

Democratic US President Joe Biden has been pushing Johnson to allow a vote on supplemental funding, as have Senate Republicans and Democrats. But Johnson had given a variety of reasons to delay, including the need to focus taxpayer dollars on domestic issues.

Many Republicans, especially those closely allied with former President Donald Trump, who is challenging Biden in the November presidential election, have been skeptical of assisting Kyiv in its fight against Russia and fiercely oppose sending billions more dollars to Ukraine.

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About 50 Survivors of Nova Music Festival Committed Suicide, Survivor Tells Israeli Lawmakers

The personal belongings of festival-goers are seen at the site of an attack on the Nova Festival by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Oct. 12, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

i24 News — Following the Hamas-led massacre at the Nova Music Festival on Oct. 7, about fifty survivors have committed suicide, revealed Guy Ben Shimon.

Ben Shimon, a survivor of the massacre, spoke on Tuesday at a parliamentary hearing for a State Audit Commission on the treatment of the survivors of Oct. 7.

“Few people know, but there have been almost 50 suicides among the Nova survivors. This number, which was true two months ago, may have increased since,” Ben Shimon said, emphasizing that many of his friends who escaped the massacre could not recover from what they had experienced.

“There are many survivors who had to be forcibly hospitalized due to their psychological state. My friends are not getting out of bed, neither am I,” he described their condition since the Oct. 7 attack.

“I am practically unable to do anything. I had to get a dog to help me survive in my daily life. The goal for all of us is to return to work and function normally, but we cannot do it without adequate help,” Ben Shimon added.

The parliamentary hearing focused on alleged failures of the state bodies towards the survivors of Oct. 7. There were complaints about the difficulties, notably bureaucratic, that the survivors faced in getting their post-traumatic stress disorder recognized, as well as in receiving the needed care.

“Why should I constantly prove what I experienced? Why am I forced to go back to the details of what I experienced for them to believe me?” Naama Eitan, another survivor of the music festival, asked during the hearing.

“I participated in a study that monitored my pulse and other parameters and revealed how bad my health is. I sleep on average two hours a night. Each morning at seven o’clock, I relive the moments when I was hidden in the bushes with terrorists passing by me. I can no longer move on my own, I need to be constantly accompanied,” she described.

During the Hamas-led attack, 364 people were brutally murdered at the Nova Music Festival and dozens were taken to Gaza as hostages. In total, Palestinian terrorists led by Hamas massacred 1,200 people and kidnapped 253 others as hostages during their surprise invasion of southern Israel. Mounting evidence has revealed the terrorists perpetrated systematic sexual violence, including torture and mass gang rape, against Israelis during the onslaught.

According to recent studies, 600,000 Israelis were awaiting psychological support since Oct. 7.

The Israeli Ministry of Health says that they do not have any information or statistics about the claim made of 50 survivors who have committed suicide.

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Israeli Footballer Who Left Scottish Team After Oct. 7 Scores First Goal in American League

Charlotte FC forward Liel Abada (11) during the first half against the Toronto FC in the Major League Soccer match up at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, April 13, 2024. Photo: Scott Kinser/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

Liel Abada, an Israeli footballer who left the Scottish club Celtic FC in March due to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, scored his first ever goal in the American MLS league for Charlotte FC last week.

The goal came in the 69th minute in the team’s victory against Toronto FC.

“I have been waiting for this goal for a very long time,” Abada said. “I had a very, very difficult time in Scotland. Now I’m happy, and I just wanted to enjoy it.”

Abada, one of the most promising young strikers in world football, scored 15 goals in the 2021-22 season as Celtic won the League Cup and the Scottish Premiership title. But he allegedly sat out games for Glasgow’s Celtic FC amid anti-Israel fan protests. Soon afterward he left the club under unclear circumstances. In the first game following the Hamas terror group’s onslaught across southern Israel on Oct. 7, Celtic fans displayed massive banners that read “Victory To The Resistance.”

Abada, who is from the Israeli city of Petah Tikvah, had two remaining years on his Celtic contract.

“Leaving Celtic wasn’t in my plans, yet life’s unpredictable turns remind us that we’re not always in control,” Abada wrote in March on Instagram.

Charlotte FC acquired Abada for a hefty $8 million in order to purchase his contract from Celtic. Abada is signed through 2026 with an option for 2027 and will occupy an international roster slot.

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