Silver Lodz Ghetto commemorative medal sold for $6,900. Photo courtesy of Skinner Auctioneers
Preserving Jewish heritage is an ongoing conversation for Kitty Ruttenberg. She and 20 other members of The Pittsburgh Index of Judaica & Jewish Art are cataloging books, papers and objects relating to Jews and Judaism in Pittsburgh.
Over the last four years they have identified and recorded hundreds of items from local synagogues, ranging from Torah accessories to Passover plates. The job is ongoing and encompasses private collections of Judaica.
“I get caught up in the romance of it all,” says Ruttenberg. “We’re the first and only group working on the local scene in the United States.”
Her group believes it’s important in the years to come for people, scholars and art historians to have an understanding of the Jewish community and the cultural objects of daily use.
“That’s what we’re doing in Pittsburgh. We want to preserve the heritage. The items we list are old or have artistic value,” she says.
Beyond a simple inventory, the group looks at Judaica used in rituals as well as Jewish folk art, textiles and fine art. They examine how the items at hand reflect the art of the period.
With regard to collecting Judaica, “There are as many objects as there are collectors,” says Ruttenberg. “The people I know who collect, do it because they love it.”
Jewish history echoes perseverance. This is a culture of people who never stopped producing treasures of their national culture, even though their homes were lost, their rights were taken away, their presses destroyed, and their religion banned. Jewish silversmiths, painters, engravers and writers continued to work.
Judaica takes many forms. In the library of Congress is a handwritten manuscript of Einstein’s “Unified Field Theory,” presented to the Library by the Jewish author as a symbol of his appreciation of America after fleeing Nazism.
Sheet music handwritten by Arnold Schoenberg and George Gershwin along with the art of Ben Shahn and Marc Chagall are a few of the Judaica treasures in the Library of Congress collection.
The essence of Jewish culture, history, religion and mysticism was reflected in the first auction of Judaica at Skinner’s in Boston, Mass., on Dec. 7, 1994. The sale attracted a capacity crowd with a large number of collectors, private buyers for synagogue collections, national and international dealers. The 250 Judaica items offered for sale came from the estate of a prominent New York attorney.
The auction started briskly with books and manuscripts. The highest-selling lot of the sale, an 18th century Esther Scroll from Prague, with copper plate engravings, surpassed an estimate of $8,000-12,000 and brought $24,150 from a New York dealer.
A copy of the Sermon Preached at the Synagogue in Newport R.I., called “The Salvation of Israel,” and dating back to May 28, 1773, realized $2,415.
A silver Lodz Ghetto Commemorative Medal dated Oct. 17, 1941, brought $6,900. Also selling at or above estimates was a broad assortment of ceremonial items, including spice containers, Kiddush cups, charity boxes and Hanukkah lamps.
Q. I have a china tureen made by Theodore Haviland. It is gold trimmed, with pink flowers and has handles on each end. The piece is pictured in a South Carolina newspaper sent to me and priced $65. Is there interest in such an item? Any information you would provide would be helpful. Rachel Hall, Sharon, Pa.
A. It is estimated that 60,000 chinaware patterns of Haviland were designed. The china is popular and highly collectible. The Haviland Company originated in 1840 with New York china importer David Haviland.
He wanted to come up with quality nonporous porcelain and found it in Limoges, France. Natural deposits of appropriate clay led a number of china manufacturers to Limoges. Pieces are marked H & Co., Haviland & Co., or Theodore Haviland. H & Co., was used until 1890.
At that time a law was enacted that required items to be marked with the country of origin. This also serves as a way to distinguish older examples of Haviland from newer ones. Because so much of it was made, it is fairly easy to match pieces through a dealer to complete an already existing set. The Haviland dinnerware is probably the company’s most popular line.
Condition is important in valuing china. Any nicks or chips will diminish the value significantly. Your tureen in excellent condition would range in value from $75-$150.
A matching service for locating Haviland is: China by Pattern International. They are located at P.O. Box 129, Farmington, Conn. 06034-0129. Send a SASE to locate/match American and French Haviland dinnerware as well as Johann Haviland (Bavaria).
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