The Museum of the Bible hosts a new exhibition with unprecedented access to the life, culture and history of the Samaritans, a 2,000-year-old community.
The exhibition is on view until April 12, 2023.
The Jewish Art Salon is excited to have been a partner with The University Center for Israel Studies, under the direction of Dr. Steven Fine, Dean Pinkhos Churgin Chair in Jewish History, in the creation of this first of its kind exhibition, The Samaritans: A Biblical People, with its Jewish Art Salon’s contribution Jewish Artists Encounter Samaritan Culture.
The Samaritans have lived in the land of Israel, beside their sacred mountain, for
millennia. They trace their lineage back to the Israelite tribe of Ephraim. They are
mentioned in biblical and rabbinic texts, but few people know that this ancient people
still exists as a micro-community today in the modern world.
“Our exhibition is an extraordinary opportunity to encounter the Samaritans as real
people, from earliest biblical history to the present,” said Dr. Fine. “Fascinating artifacts and exquisite media create a truly memorable experience of the Samaritans and their relations with Jews, Christians and Muslims over millennia.”
“The Samaritans are a unique people whose story also reflects universal questions about identity, belonging and tradition,” said Dr. Jesse Abelman, curator of Hebraica and Judaica at Museum of the Bible. David Selis is assistant curator.
Opening night images here
Jewish Artists Encounter Samaritan Culture
Eight Jewish Art Salon artists, Americans and Israelis, studied the history of the Jewish-Samaritan relationship and created art for this exhibition:
Andi Arnovitz, Judith Joseph, Richard McBee, Mark Podwal, Archie Rand, Joel Silverstein, Hillel Smith and Yona Verwer.
From top left
Yona Verwer, Tabernacles; Mark Podwal, Samaritan Alphabet;
Judith Joseph, Voice of the Bell; Hillel Smith, Hineni;
Archie Rand, Samaritans; Andi Arnovitz, Palimpsest;
Richard McBee, Akeidah The Encounter; Joel Silverstein, Death of Shobach
About the art
Excerpts from Contemporary Jewish Artists Encounter Samaritan Culture: A Visual Essay by Steven Fine and Richard McBee
Members of the Jewish Art Salon studied textual, historical and visual sources with Professor Steven Fine via zoom over several weeks.
Many of the works focus on the parallel paths taken by Samaritans and Jews.
In The Samaritan Series, Mark Podwal sets Samaritan iconography in conversation with his earlier work on Torah imagery, Hebrew calligraphy (here, Samaritan), the flora and geography of the Land of Israel and the menorah as lighting fixture (a double entendre in Hebrew). The Abisha Scroll is particularly prominent in his effervescent images.
In Tabernacles, Yona Verwer set imagery drawn from Samaritan Tabernacle drawings in conversation with medieval Jewish depictions of the Tabernacle. She printed her two tabernacles on a vertical blind, so that each could be seen to varying degrees simultaneously— or separately.
Andi Arnovitz created Palimpsest as an assembly of (almost) identical Samaritan and Jewish Torah texts printed back to back on rice paper then bound, rolled and shelved.
Hillel Smith, Richard McBee and Archie Rand interpreted the Samaritan-Jewish relationship in figurative terms.
Smith drew on the visage of Jacob son of Aaron, creating a contemporary legend in Samaritan Hebrew that Samaritans can read, but others can only recognize.
In The Encounter McBee presents the Binding of Isaac, with two “Abrahams”— an American Orthodox Jew and a Samaritan. The Samaritan “Abraham” bears the iconic features of high priest Jacob son of Aaron. Each ascends the mountain to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as described in Genesis 22.
In The Samaritans, Archie Rand creates an iconic association between a Jewish and a Samaritan man, each in ritual garb and both set at the time of religious focus.
Judith Joseph created a homage to Badri Cohen’s Passover tale, creating a bell reminiscent of those worn by the sheep titled The Voice of the Bell, Joseph’s bell is engraved with flora typical of plants on Mount Gerizim. Leather strands dangle small bells that tinkle in the wind, each strand punched with Samaritan script.
In The Death of Shobakh, Silverstein engages the “Epistle of Joshua Son of Nun,” a story preserved in the Samaritan chronicles that was absorbed into Jewish literature during the Early Modern period. Drawing on comic book and other pop culture imagery, Silverstein tells the story of Shobakh, king of Armenia, who led a great legion to the valley of Shechem to take back the Land from Joshua and the children of Israel.
Museum of the Bible, September 16-January 1, 2023
400 4th St. SW, Washington, DC 20024
1-866-430-6682 Daily 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Opening Events September 15
A First Look at The Samaritans
Exhibition is open to guests registered to attend the panel discussion.
5:30–6:30 p.m., Floor 5
Panel Discussion: The Samaritans: Ancient and Modern virtual and in-person program
6:30–8:00 p.m., Floor 6
Get Tickets: Virtual or In Person
On September 16 and 18: screening of the documentary The Samaritans: A Biblical People, which reveals Samaritan life through interviews with several members of the community.
The exhibition is accompanied by an exquisitely illustrated 240 page publication, edited by Steven Fine.