NC Museum of Art hosts not-so-hidden treasure celebrating Jewish spiritual and cultural life

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Jews living in America make up just 2% of the entire U.S. population, and in North Carolina the estimate is much, much smaller. All the more reason why the North Carolina Museum of Art's permanent collection of Judaic Art is truly astonishing.

"I see beautiful works of art. I see my Jewish heritage in all its glory," Liz Kanoff Levine, whose late father, Dr. Abram Kanoff, helped establish the exhibit, told ABC11. "I see a bridge between religions and cultures of every kinds, and I see a wonderful educational opportunity for anyone who comes to visit us."

The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCAM) is one of just two permanent Judaic art exhibits among general art museums across the country. The array of pieces - not paintings - exemplify the Jewish experience, from observing the Sabbath and holidays at home to celebrating life cycle events and partaking in religious ceremonies at synagogue. The collection also spans generations, centuries and continents.

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According to curators, visitors can view "an exuberantly baroque Torah crown-a masterpiece of Venetian silver work" and "an Esther scroll in a finely filigreed case from the Ottoman Empire."

There's also "a sumptuous Torah case made in the imperial Chinese workshops for a Jewish congregation in India."

"There are human stories all throughout this gallery," NCAM Director Valerie Hillings said to ABC11 as she pointed to a piece rescued from the Netherlands in the Holocaust. "It's a story of art, it's a story of religion, of culture and transmission of culture. The diversity is one of the most exciting and important messages we can convey here."

Moving forward, Kanoff Levine said the museum is partnering with the Judaic Studies department at UNC to add more educational programs.

"This is one of the things that keeps Judaism alive."

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