A Modern Take on the Seder Plate Read More
Before the Passover holiday, discover a modern take on a traditional ritual object on view now at the Jewish Museum
“If we design objects that look old, people will think the ceremonies are old.” — Moshe Zabari
Passover begins at sundown this Friday, April 19 and celebrates the liberation of Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt, as told in the Book of Exodus. Occurring over eight days, this Jewish holiday is marked on the first night by the central observance of the Seder, a ritual meal with symbolic foods that represent important elements of the story.
In preparation for the Seder, listen to Jewish Museum collection artist Amy Klein Reichert and the Jewish Museum’s Senior Curator Emerita Susan Braunstein discuss this Passover set designed by Ludwig Yehuda Wolpert, celebrated as the first artist to apply the aesthetic principles of modernism to the making of Jewish ceremonial art:https://medium.com/media/d703358b1b07ae66d9455fb9fe240102/href
My name is Amy Reichert. I am an architect, exhibit designer, and designer of Judaica, and we’re standing in front of a Seder plate by Ludwig Wolpert.
Its streamlined appearance reflects the aesthetic principles of the avant-garde Bauhaus school in which Wolpert was trained. Yet, its function is traditional. Centerpieces like this one play an important role during the Seder, which is the ceremonial meal that Jews hold on the first and often second night of Passover.
The Passover celebration is really the core of Judaism in many ways, which is about being a stranger in a strange land, becoming enslaved, and then being redeemed. So it’s a story that really can resonate across the ages and is specific to the Jewish people, yet kind of expresses universal yearnings for freedom and the ability to take charge of one’s life.
The Seder plate itself is kind of the main stage prop that we’re called upon to use. It contains ritual foods that symbolize both slavery and freedom, bitter herbs which articulate the bitterness of slavery in Egypt, springtime green, which celebrate freedom. So we eat some of these, we point to them, we lift them, we really engage with the Seder plate to a large degree. It’s kind of the diva or the star of the show on the Seder table.
This Seder plate, even though it looks totally modern and really reminds me of nothing so much as a cocktail set from a 1920s screwball comedy, yet it fulfills perfectly the demands of what it’s supposed to hold, what it’s supposed to do. So in a very modern idiom it sort of fulfills all the traditional demands on it.
Ludwig Wolpert’s Passover Set is on view now in Scenes from the Collection at the Jewish Museum. Plan your visit during Passover Free Admission Days on April 20, 21, 26, and 27. Learn more about the holiday through more works in the collection online at TheJewishMuseum.org/Collection.