Threshold to the Sacred: The Ark Door of Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue

March 02, 2013–May 26, 2013

Threshold to the Sacred: The Ark Door of Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue focuses on a work of exceptional historical importance jointly owned by the Walters Art Museum and the Yeshiva University Museum: an intricately decorated and inscribed wood panel from a Torah ark, a special cupboard that holds the sacred Jewish scripture. The panel is believed to come from the famous Ben Ezra synagogue of Old Cairo (Fostat), Egypt, which has captivated public imagination for over a century. Associated with the famous medieval thinker Moses Maimonides (1135–1204), the Ben Ezra synagogue is the site of the great 19th-century discovery of the Cairo Geniza, a treasure trove of documents on medieval Jewish life around the Mediterranean. This exhibition presents Geniza documents, photographs of the Ben Ezra synagogue, and art from Jewish and Muslim artisans, together with conservation science research, to relate the fascinating ‘object biography’ of the Walters-Yeshiva ark door.

A version of this exhibition will travel to the Yeshiva University Museum (New York City) October 27, 2013–February 23, 2014 .

This exhibition is supported by The Irving Kohn Foundation and Nancy Kohn Rabin in memory of Josephine Kohn, The Richard S. and Rosalee C. Davison Foundation, The Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, The Himmelrich Family Fund, The ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Gloria and Joseph Askin, Sara and Nelson Fishman, Clara and Michael J. Klein, Phyllis and Harvey Meyerhoff, The Morton B. and Tamara S. Plant Family Foundation, Inc., Rona and Arthur Rosenbaum, Laura and Barrett Freedlander, Jane and Michael Glick, Paula and Roy Hoffberger, Elaine and Philip Zieve, and other generous donors.