Gavriel Rosenfeld

Luckiest Number: What could be wrong with a German shoe store that emblazoned the number 18 on some sneakers? Maybe everything.

Sacred and Profane History of Cherished Jewish Number 18

Jews have long considered the number 18 to be a serious lucky charm. How many of us know that neo-Nazis also cherish the number — or why?

Rebooting The Führer

What would happen if Adolf Hitler came back to life? That’s the premise of a satirical novel — and its best-selling success hints at Germans’ desire for different approaches to the Nazi era.

Inside the Museum: Here we see the the Auschwitz exhibit, below the ramp. [Click for larger view]

Stealth Museum

Pan Pacific Park has long been an oasis in Los Angeles’s bustling, heavily Jewish Beverly-Fairfax neighborhood. Basketball courts, baseball diamonds, picnic areas and playgrounds predominate in the park’s hilly setting. It may strike certain visitors as somewhat incongruous, therefore, that the latest addition to the park is an institution that appears to run counter to its carefree spirit: the new Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

Transcending the Past: Standing next to the classical ruins of Mainz?s prewar synagogue, Manuel Herz?s boldly deconstructivist synagogue points to the future.

Blessing a Building — Building a Blessing

The construction of a new synagogue is always an occasion for celebration, so it was with particular pomp that the Rhineland city of Mainz recently dedicated its new synagogue and Jewish community center. The dedication ceremonies, held September 3, featured an array of German politicians, including German President Christian Wulff. Many of them blessed the new building and underscored its symbolic significance. Yet, while the synagogue received its share of blessings, it also gave physical expression to them in its architectural form. Designed by the German-Jewish architect Manuel Herz, Mainz’s striking new synagogue complex traces its inspiration back to the third “blessing” in the Amidah — the Kedusha. The connection between the word and the synagogue’s appearance is not immediately obvious. But Herz’s drawings for the building reveal that its sawtooth form partly derives from the jagged pattern produced by the word’s five Hebrew letters: kuf, daled, vav, shin and hay.

Frank Gehry, Specimen Fish Lamp, 1984, ColorCore, silicone, Finnform, wood. [Photo: Christine McMonagle]

Fish(y) Forms

The High Holy Days might incline most Jews to think of fish as a traditional food served on deli trays after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. But the Jewish Museum?s new exhibition, ?Fish Forms: Lamps by Frank Gehry,? asks us to think more deeply about how fish have influenced the work of one of the world?s most celebrated architects.

Light Sometimes: An impres- sive addition to Philadelphia?s Independence Mall, the new museum?s eternal LED flame will probably not be visible in daylight.

When Is a Glass Box Not Just a Glass Box?

Answer: when it houses Philadelphia’s new National Museum of American Jewish History. Scheduled to open in November, the museum is dominated by a massive glass facade and does not, at first glance, appear that different from other modernist glass and steel edifices in the United States. But looking behind the museum’s glass “veil” reveals a host of fascinating and often competing symbolic meanings that testify to the complexities of contemporary American Jewish life.

A Virtual Glimpse of Mikveh Israel: Solomon?s book considers the impact of synagogue designs by Kahn. In ?Louis I. Kahn: Unbuilt Masterworks? (Monacelli, 2000) architect and MIT professor Kent Larson built images of Kahn?s unrealized projects, including this one.

Toward a Jewish Architecture?

Long regarded as one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, Louis Kahn has become the focus of renewed popular attention. The Oscar-nominated documentary film “My Architect” (directed by his son, Nathaniel Kahn, in 2003) earned applause for its gripping portrayal of the family tensions caused by Kahn’s extramarital affairs, and recent monographs by Sarah Williams Goldhagen and Carter Wiseman have earned scholarly praise for their investigations of Kahn’s architecture. Now comes Susan Solomon’s welcome new book, which takes yet a different approach to the work of one of the modern movement’s undisputed masters.

The rear of the new Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in the Chicago suburb of Skokie.

Skokie Builds To Remember

Ever since the dedication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., in 1993, America has witnessed a Holocaust museum construction boom. The Museum of Tolerance (Los Angeles, 1993), the Holocaust Museum Houston (1996), the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (New York City, 1997) and the Holocaust Memorial Center (suburban Detroit; 2003) are merely the most prominent examples of a new genre of architecture that has found increasing expression in a variety of American cities.

The Irony of Eisner: His premiership was prematurely curtailed when he was assassinated on his way to resign.

The Forgotten Revolutionary

It’s probable that few Americans have heard of Kurt Eisner. But they currently have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with a figure whose tragic fate anticipated much of the 20th century’s political violence.

FORMER GLORY: The interior of the Hurva synagogue as captured on a 1920s postcard.

A New Ruin Rising

Can a ruin still be called a ruin once it has been rebuilt? This is the not-so-theoretical question that visitors to Jerusalem’s Jewish quarter may be asking after strolling by the construction site where the preserved remains of the Hurva (Ruin) synagogue used to stand.