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An Unorthodox Collection

Okay, here’s one: What do the Orthodox Union, Miami Beach and a large fiberglass phallus have in common?

For those hopelessly in the dark, the answer to the riddle is Naomi Wilzig, the 70-year-old founder of the World Erotic Art Museum. Set to open this Sunday in Miami Beach, Fla., the museum will house works culled from Wilzig’s private collection of erotica. At 4,000 pieces, it is one of the largest such collections in the United States. The museum’s Web site (www.weam.com) boasts that it is the “world’s largest public view collection of erotic art.”

Raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, Wilzig — a onetime honoree of the Orthodox Union’s women’s division — began collecting erotic art after her eldest son, Ivan, a recording artist, asked her to help him furnish a new apartment with some “conversation pieces.” What began as a housewarming gift quickly turned into a passion. Aware of the controversy that her interest might engender in her Orthodox New Jersey community, Wilzig made sure to keep her art in Florida. In the Miami Sun Post, she commented that she “never put it up in Jersey because rabbis and community leaders came to visit regularly.”

However, Wilzig’s Jewish identity is not completely absent from this otherwise ecumenical collection. One of her favorite pieces is “a sculpture of Adam being created out of dust of earth, suspended in time and space,” she told the Forward. Also on display are a sculpture of Adam and Eve from the Bezalel School in Israel and a metal sculpture of a kneeling nude that, according to Wilzig, looks like a Kiddush cup. L’Chaim!

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