Blick in die Judaica-Sammlung des Jüdischen Museums Frankfurt

The Jewish Museum’s Judaica Collection

Collection Overview

Our Judaica collection is among the most outstanding collections of Jewish ceremonial art objects in Europe. It comprises a total of around 800 objects from a variety of sources.

The Collection’s Centrepiece

View into the former Museum of Jewish Antiquities, around 1922
View into the former Museum of Jewish Antiquities, around 1922

The collection contains some 90 ceremonial objects that once belonged to the Museum of Jewish Antiquities. The majority of these objects stem from the Frankfurt Jewish quarter, the Judengasse, at the end of the 17th / beginning of the 18th century, the heyday of Jewish ritual objects in Frankfurt. The Museum of Jewish Antiquities is the predecessor of the modern Frankfurt Jewish Museum. The former was opened in 1922 as one of the first Jewish museums of the German Empire under the sovereignty of Frankfurt’s Jewish Community. It had an extensive collection displaying primarily Jewish ritual objects. A large number of objects in the collection were destroyed in the November pogrom in 1938.

Just under 1,000 objects survived and wound up in Frankfurt’s History Museum. Other ceremonial objects ended up on the local art market. In 1987, the City of Frankfurt decided to give the ritual objects from the Museum of Jewish Antiquities still remaining in the History Museum’s collection to the newly founded Jewish Museum. These objects thus constitute the centerpiece of the current Judaica Collection.

Important Ritual Objects

Frankfurt’s Jewish Community entrusted the museum with the early-20th-century Judaica Collection as a permanent loan. Most of the objects are from the important Jewish silverware companies Lazarus Posen Wwe and the brothers Felix and Leo Horovitz. These companies were known in Frankfurt and beyond for particularly elaborate and carefully crafted ritual objects. The museum collection’s objects are primarily synagogue decorations from the Frankfurt synagogues on Börneplatz and Friedberger Anlage.

The collection also comprises around 70 Hanukkah lamps from around Europe. They had been donated to the Museum of Jewish Antiquities (1922–1938) by businessman Sigmund Nauheim (1874–1935) and  survived the Nazi period. The collection grew with the addition of objects crafted in Central and Eastern Europe in the 19th century and donated by private collectors such as Ignatz Bubis.

A Collection Reflecting History

Cover of the catalogue "Pracht der Gebote" (Splendour of the Commandments)
Cover of the catalog "Pracht der Gebote" (Splendor of the Commandments)

The catalog "Pracht der Gebote" (Splendor of the Commandments), published by the Wienand publishing house in 2006, presents the diversity of our Judaica Collection. It also focuses on ceremonial objects saved by émigré survivors or collected and acquired after World War II. These objects from many different European regions reflect the variety of Jewish cultural rites and the marvelous German-Jewish culture before its systematic destruction by the Nazis.

A large portion of the objects simultaneously bear witness to this rupture in civilization. The provenance of most of the ceremonial objects testifies to the organized theft and expropriation of Jewish cultural objects between 1933 and 1945. The museum is undertaking systematic provenance research of the items in its Judaica Collection with the support of the German Lost Art Foundation.

Collection Focal Areas

Memorial Light by the Frankfurt-born artist Tobi Kahn
Memorial Light by the Frankfurt-born artist Tobi Kahn, edition 4/7

Instead of further expanding its collection of ceremonial objects from the period before the Shoah, the Jewish Museum has chosen instead to focus on collecting modern Judaica objects by artists. One such example of this new collection focus is the Memorial Light by artist Tobi Kahn (born in 1958). Kahn comes from a Frankfurt family and currently lives and works in New York City. As is the case for most of the Jewish Museum’s purchases, this acquisition was also made possible by the Society of Friends and Patrons of the Jewish Museum.