ELSIE K. RUDIN JUDAICA MUSEUM
The Elsie K. Rudin Judaica Museum collection is comprised of both Judaic artifacts and special artwork which have been amassed over the past sixty years into an important and nationally well-known synagogue museum collection.
After the Shoah, Rabbi Jacob Philip Rudin z”l began to collect significant Judaica artifacts at major auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christies. This need to collect orphaned Judaica for synagogues was shared by a number of Rabbi Rudin’s colleagues throughout the country as well. Members of Temple Beth-El either paid for or endowed these artifacts in memory of loved ones or in honor of special family events such as brit milah, b’nei mitzvah and weddings of children and grandchildren.
The museum’s collection of antique Judaica, dating from as early as the 16th into the 20th centuries, includes a large number of besomin (spice containers), yadayim (Torah pointers), kiddush cups, tzedakah containers, chanukiot (Chanukah lamps) and various artifacts used in family religious observances.
The Elsie K. Rudin Judaica Museum was named after Rabbi Rudin’s late wife and was dedicated in 1960. A portrait of Mrs. Rudin by Tully Filmus graces one of the walls in the present museum in the main sanctuary level of the building which had been designed by world famous architect Armand Bartos. Louise Nevelson, noted 20th century sculptor, created the enormous bema wall as well as the ner tamid in the sanctuary. A model of the bema wall and photographs, as well, were featured in the 2007 Nevelson retrospective exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York City. Nevelson was brought to Temple Beth-El of Great Neck by longtime members Dr. Seymour Meyer z”l and his wife Beth.
In the early 1950s, temple member Norma Levitt discovered the artist Ilya Schor and brought him and his work to Great Neck. Schor became one of the most significant Judaic artists of the middle of the 20th century; a true Renaissance man, Schor was a painter, engraver, sculptor, goldsmith and silversmith. He illustrated, with wood engravings, numerous books by Abraham Joshua Heschel. The first piece which Norma bought for the temple’s collection was a pewter seder plate crafted out of an antique Dutch pewter salver.
Recognized in the 1960s by The Jewish Museum in a retrospective of Schor’s work, the 36-panel doors for the aron hakodesh in the Rudin Chapel are generally recognized as Schor’s masterpiece. Each of the 36 panels portrays in his unique style the 36 lamed vovniks (righteous people) of the Torah. Norma Levitt and Esther Kaufman are credited for beginning the contemporary Judaica art collection and were certainly lamed vovniks of their generation. Temple Beth-El of Great Neck possesses one of the finest collections of Schor’s work in the world — each piece lovingly paid for and presented by temple families, continuing the tradition started by Rabbi Rudin so many years ago.
In that same philanthropic spirit of beautifying our holy space, the temple’s 20th century art collection has been and continues to be endowed by members. The collection includes works by, among others, Robert Indiana, Mordechai Rosenstein, Avram Ebgi, Moshe Gat, Moshe Castel, Tully Filmus, David Palumbo, Ivan Schwebel, Sandu Lieberman and Nathan Rapoport.
For a number of years, The Elsie K. Rudin Judaica Museum has presented to the public art exhibits such as the 56 parashot (Torah Portions) created by Israeli artist Michal Meron, sculpture by famous Israeli sculptor Frank Meisler, a large exhibition celebrating the history of Lilith Magazine, and a remarkable retrospective of the works in all media by the late Ilya Schor.
Three years ago, The Elsie K. Rudin Judaica Museum opened and inaugurated its new Art Gallery where four to five exhibitions have been presented annually. For example, the Gallery has shown solo exhibitions of works by Carla Gudeon, Tully Filmus and his two sons, Michael and Stephen, who are also accomplished painters, the mixed media paintings of Carol Buchman of Memphis Tennessee, and the extraordinary photographs of Israeli Neil Folberg. During the winter months, the temple’s Museum hosts a Members Art Salon, featuring the works of members who are professional-level artists. Not only are these well-received exhibitions, they also are intended to follow the mitzvah (commandment from Torah) of beautifying our mishkan (Holy Tabernacle). They are used as well to educate and enlighten both adults and children, a significant part of Temple Beth-El’s mission.
View our most recent acquisitions or see a sampling of other works of art in and around our temple .