If you’re a fan of history — and Jewish history in particular — then a visit to the Skirball Museum at Hebrew Union College in Clifton is a must.
Many may not know that Cincinnati is the birthplace of Reform Judaism, a movement created by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise in the 19th century that took a more liberal approach to Jewish rules and customs than ever before. The Reform movement is now American Judaism’s largest, with more than 35 percent of Jewish people in the United States identifying to the denomination.
History lesson aside, Cincinnati’s Skirball Museum (no relation to the one in L.A.) is a treasure trove of interesting Jewish artifacts.
Want to see the largest piece of Biblical-era pottery that carried the Dead Sea scrolls, some of the oldest existing text of the books of the Bible? It’s there. Ever hear the saga of the Weinberg Torah, which dates back to the 17th century and, through its remarkable story of endurance, became a symbol of the Holocaust? That’s there, too.
Portraits, letters, and even the desk and chair of Rabbi Wise are also on display. Though maybe your stomach drives your interests and you’d be more interested in seeing one of the first-ever boxes of Manischewitz (a brand of kosher food products that got its start in the Queen City). Yep, you guessed it — that, too, is on display at the museum. Works by famous artists like Henry Mosler, John Aubery, and Mark Podwal also make an appearance.
The museum has a number of rotating exhibits, but most notable in the coming year is “Israel at 70: A History in Art and Photographs,” which opens March 8. As Israel celebrates 70 years (hence the name), the museum will present paintings, sculptures, silversmith work, and photography that explores early pioneers of Israeli art, as well as a selection of work from today’s masters.
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The Skirball Museum at Hebrew Union College is located at 3101 Clifton Avenue (45220).