Art for the Home
Arriving in ever increasing numbers during the
last decades of the nineteenth century, Jewish immigrants to America
did not find the Jewish ambience of the shtetl (small town) in the
Jewish sections of the larger cities. To compensate, many made their
homes as visibly Jewish as possible with religious prints and
In 1874, the H. Schile company on New York's Lower
East Side published three lithographs for the Jewish trade. A mizrach,
an ornamental sacred picture placed on the east wall of a home for
daily prayers directed toward Jerusalem, was preserved as issued, a
black-on-white lithograph. Two lions which have human faces hold up a star of David in and about which
is inscribed in Hebrew the verse most often found on a mizrach,
"From the rising [East sun] unto the setting of the sun the
Lord's name is to be praised!" (Psalms,
113: 3). At the bottom as the title of the print, the verse is
printed in English.
All prayer is
oriented eastward, toward Jerusalem. To point the direction, a
mizrach is hung on the eastern wall of the house. This one,
published by H. Schile Company, is a lithograph, black on white,
or which color could later be added by hand.
Mizrach, New York, 1874. Prints and Photographs Division.
The other two lithographs are of Moses and Aaron. These have come down
in their completed state, hand-colored in bright hues. Moses, in rich
garb, a prayer shawl draped over his head and shoulders, holds the
tablets on which the Ten
Commandments are inscribed in Hebrew. Aaron, in ornate priestly
vestments, holds a censer. Inscribed in Hebrew is the biblical verse,
"And they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and
for his sons" (Exodus, 28:4).
Published as a black
on white lithograph by the H. Schile Company of New York, the
color added by hand, Moses, with a tallith (prayer shawl) on his
shoulders, holding the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, would
have been welcome in many a nineteenth-century American Jewish
Moses, New York, 1874. Prints and Photographs Division.
The inscription in
Hebrew makes this brightly colored lithograph of Aaron
appropriate for the walls of a Jewish home. Produced by the H.
Aaron, New York, 1874. Prints and Photographs Division.
In the same year A. M. Bleichrode, also of New
York, published , Memory Table in three languages (Hebrew,
German, and English), an open book, with lined blank pages awaiting
the inscription of the family's vita statistics. Above is a depiction
of the Cave of Machpelah in
the city of Hebron, burial
place of the patriarchs and matriarchs (a direct copy from S.
Shuster's lithograph in A Descriptive Geography ... of Palestine by
Joseph Schwartz, Philadelphia, 1850). Flanking it are candelabra with
burning candies, beneath which are inscribed, in Hebrew, "For
the mitzvah is a lamp; and the Torah is light" (Proverbs,
6:23), and "the candle of the Lord is the soul of man"
(Proverbs, 20:27). A man and a
woman clasp hand above the verse, "The beloved and dear in their
life were even in their death not divided" (Samuel
II, 1:23). Above them, in Hebrew and German, is the rabbinic
The Lord hath given: Man comes out of the
womb, his hands clasped, as if to say: All the world is mine, I
will besiege fortified cities, amass the treasures of king without
The Lord hath taken away: Man returns to his
eternal home with hands spread open, as if to say: Naked I return
there, nothing can I take with me. Neither possession nor great
wealth will avail in the day of trouble and reckoning.
At the top, two putti angels aloft hold a banner
which, in Hebrew wit] English and German translation, bears the
legend, "A good name is better than good oil and the day of
death than the day of birth" (Ecclesiastes
This Gedenkblatt or Memory Tablet "for dear and de parted ones" in three
languages, German, Hebrew, and English, leaves space on the pages
of the open book to record the names and dates of death of the
dear departed, so that their presence might remain in the home on
whose walls this tablet would be hung and their Yahrzeit observed. Published by A. M. Bleichrode.
Gedenkblatt (Memory Table[t]), New York, 1874. Prints and
Two years later, in 1876, S. Eckstein published a
beautifully illustrated Independent Order of B'nai B'rith membership
certificate, lithographed by the American Oleograph Company of
Milwaukee. B'nai B'rith, organized in New York in 1843, was the first
Jewish fraternal order in the United States. By the end of the
century it had lodges throughout the world, including Jerusalem. it
not only served the needs of its members, but increasingly engaged in
communal service endeavors. Its orphan asylum in Cleveland, for
example, set standards rarely equaled. The Eckstein certificate
depicts both the Order's Jewish heritage and its benevolence. At the
top, under a crest of an eagle astride an American shield of stars
art stripes, flanked by the ladies Liberty and Justice, is the motto:
"Benevolence, Brotherly Love and Harmony." Beneath, angels
on the altar, a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), and crossed shepherds' crook! Four panels depict Moses
with the Tablets of the Commandments and Abraham and Isaac above, and
below, a doctor visiting a sick brother, and lodge brothers calling
upon a bereaved widow and orphans. At the bottom is the Cleveland
Orphan Asylum and, in Hebrew, the priestly benediction: "The
Lord bless thee, and keep thee; The Lord make his face to shine upon
thee, and be gracious unto thee; The Lord lift up his countenance
toward thee, and give thee peace" (Numbers,
A member of B'nai
B'rith, America's oldest and largest Jewish fraternal order,
could proudly display his membership certificate, whose
illustrations would remind all of the order's mission, and its
threefold devotion: to country-the American eagle and shield; to
faith Abraham and Isaac, and Moses at Sinai; and to fraternal
benevolence visiting the sick, consoling the bereaved, caring
Membership Certificate, B'nai B'rith, Milwaukee, 1876.
Prints and Photographs Division.
In Milwaukee, too, The Dying Ben B'rith: An
Episode in the Yellow Fever Scourge of 1878, by A. L. Baer, was
published in 1883, "Dedicated to the Asylums of the Independent
Order of B'nai B'rith." In this account in verse of the Order's
benevolence to the family of a brother smitten by the dread plague,
what are particularly moving are Robert Schade's illustrations, none
more so than a scene at the cemetery.
First in B'nai
B'rith's threefold mission is benevolence-brotherly love and
harmony follow. A richly illustrated record of its fulfillment is The Dying Ben B'rith: An Episode in the Yellow Fever Scourge
of 1878. We see a visit to the cemetery, drawn by Robert
Schade, from a photo by Hugo Schroeder.
A. L. Baer, The Dying Ben B'rith, Milwaukee, 1883. General
Origin of the Rites and Worship of the Hebrews, by M. Wolff, New York 1859, is the most crowded with detail of
Hebrew prints published in America. So complex is the medley of law
and lore, literature and mysticism, that a special 112-page booklet, Explication
of An Engraving..., was published with it. The history of its
publication, given in the words of its publisher, Max Wolff,
"formerly Minister of the Congregation 'Ohabei Shalom,' Boston, Massachusetts," is revealing:
This pictorial representation was originally
composed by the learned and accomplished Dr. Rosenberg, and by him
published in Paris in the year 5611-185 1. Some two years ago
 a copy ... Was presented to me.... Many called upon me to
explain the plan; others, again desired to possess copies with an
explication in the vernacular tongue, and urged me to undertake an
Anglo-American edition from the French original; and when I
reflected how little the spirit and profound character of the
institutions of Israel are known among Gentiles, while even among
Hebrews, here, in the United States, the study of the sacred
language and literature ... [and] the Talmud, is so greatly
neglected ... it struck me that I would be doing a good service ...
to edit and to publish.
A 112 -page booklet
went with this massively detailed engraving, which was so
complex, filled with information, and replete with symbols of the
Jewish tradition. Its publisher and author was Max Wolff, a
religious functionary-a cantor in Boston and San Francisco.
Max Wolff, Origin of the Rites and Worship of the Hebrews,
New York, 1859. Hebraic Section.
Sources: Abraham J. Karp, From
the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress,
(DC: Library of Congress,