Why would a secular kibbutz so busy reclaiming the soil of their ancient homeland collect Jewish ceremonial art?
This story begins in 1938 in the “art corner” of the small wooden studio of the painter Chaim Atar (1902-1953), a member of Kibbutz Ein Harod (founded in 1921) and an energetic visionary of the first generation of kibbutz pioneers, who conceived the idea of the Museum of Art, Ein Harod.
Chaim Atar (self portrait)
Chaim Atar collected Jewish ritual items brought by the kibbutz members who arrived from Europe in the 1920’s. The wimple (torah binder) or the mizrach from their parent’s home survived the trials and tribulations of their journey to Israel. Many of the founding members came from traditional homes in Eastern Europe and envisioned the kibbutz as a revolution within Judaism. They dreamed of a Social Jewish renaissance that would integrate tradition with new values of nature, freedom and equality. In the 1930’s Atar scoured the local markets buying chanukiot, torah finials and jewelry that were brought by Olim from Syria and North Africa. His Judaica collection and reproductions of illuminated manuscripts provided a source of inspiration for the holiday decorations of the Kibbutz Dining room.
After Chaim Atar passed away in 1953, his legacy was continued by Zusia Efron the new Director of the museum. Under Efron’s leadership the collection grew to over 1,000 important Jewish books, scrolls and ritual items.
(Morocco, Late 19th c.)
The Museum collection includes Jewish ritual objects from Israel and the Diaspora from the past centuries. Every item carries the story of an individual, a family, community or congregation. The Judaica wing exhibits paintings of Jewish life, contemporary and traditional Judaica, as well as exhibits of Israeli artists working in the Jewish context. By creating the Judaica collection the kibbutz pioneers were hoping to be an active part of shaping the Jewish collective memory, linking the past to the present, which was so crucial to their developing identity. It is our hope that by sharing these artifacts with you their dream will live on.