An important collection of Judaica donated to Boston’s Museum of Fine Art places its holdings on a national footing among mainstream museums in North America.
Lynn Schusterman, a philanthropist to many Jewish causes and an art collector, donated a collection of 119 decorative and ritual objects. Her gift also includes an undisclosed amount of money that will allow the Museum of Fine Art to conserve and study the works, and develop school programs.
“This foundational gift establishes the MFA as one of a very few encyclopedic art museums in America working to build a collection of Judaica,” museum director Malcolm Rogers said in a statement.
Until now, the museum’s Judaica collection was limited to a dozen works.
“Having Jewish art in a mainstream museum demonstrates that Jewish art is part of mainstream art,” Jonathan Sarna, a leading scholar of American Judaism, told JTA in an email.
Sarna, a Jewish studies professor at Brandeis University, is advising the museum on the collection.
Several pieces of the Schusterman collection will go on display immediately, including an intricately detailed silver Hanukkah lamp from the early 20th century by the Israeli artist Yehia Yemini. The works that are primarily objects used in home rituals and ceremonies will be integrated into the existing galleries — an approach that appeals to Schusterman, according to a report in the Boston Globe.
Schusterman, of Oklahoma, told the Globe that she chose the Museum of Fine Art after noting the lack of Judaica in its new Art of the Americas wing during a visit last year. She was encouraged by an earlier gift by Jetskalina Phillips that allowed the museum to purchase a $500,000 Hanukkah lamp from the 18th century and hire its first curator of Judaica.
The Schusterman collection includes 31 Hanukkah lamps, 22 spice containers and eight pairs of silver Sabbath candlesticks, as well as works on paper, textiles, paintings and sculpture.