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Judaism in the American Home: About the Exhibit

A Special Exhibit of decorative, ritual, and household objects from Jewish-American homes featured in the Undergraduate Library April 14, 2013 through May 12, 2013.

Guide to the Exhibit

Exhibit Opening

About the Jewish Heritage Collection

Jewish Heritage Collection Image

The Jewish Heritage Collection was donated to the Special Collections Library at the University of Michigan by Mrs. Constance and (the late) Theodore Harris of Beverly Hills, California, in honor of their grandsons, Mark and David Harris who grew up in Birmingham, Michigan.  The collection was formed to reflect Jewish life, and it does so in an unusual assemblage of artwork, books, printed ephemera such as pamphlets and postcards, and objects of everyday and religious significance ranging from dolls and serving dishes to menorahs and mezuzahs. 

About the Guest Speaker

Photo of Ori Z Soltes

Dr. Ori Z Soltes

Ceremony and Community within the Question of 'Jewish Art'

April 14, 2013

Dr. Soltes currently teaches theology, philosophy and art history at Georgetown University. He has also taught across diverse disciplines for many years at The Johns Hopkins University, Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, Siegel College in Cleveland, and other colleges and universities.

Dr. Soltes has lectured at dozens of museums across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has been interviewed for a score of programs on archaeological, religious, art, literary and historical topics on CNN, the History Channel and Discovery Channel, and he hosted a popular series on Ancient Civilizations for middle school students.

For seven years, Dr. Soltes was Director and Chief Curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, where he created over 80 exhibitions focusing on aspects of history, ethnography and contemporary art. He has also curated diverse contemporary and historical art exhibits at other sites, nationally and internationally. As Director of the National Jewish Museum he co-founded the Holocaust Art Restitution Project and has spent ten years researching and consulting on the issue of Nazi-plundered art.

Dr. Soltes’ scholarly work includes 200 publications—books, articles, and catalogue essays.  Among the issues he has written and spoken about are Jewish art, mysticism across religious traditions, the Holocaust, and the Middle East.  Dr. Soltes leads annual study tours to museums and art and archaeological sites throughout Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Special Recognition

The Exhibit Committee, consisting of Paul Beavers, Rachael Clark, Mike Hawthorne, Karen Liston, Cindy Krolikowski, Ruth Stern, David Weinberg, and Jill Wurm, wishes to thank Mrs. Constance Harris and Peggy Daub, the Special Collections Librarian at the University of Michigan, for their assistance and advice. 

Special thanks go to:

Rachael Clark, Karen Liston, and David Weinberg for curating the exhibit.

Ruth Stern and Jill Wurm for publicizing the exhibit on campus and in the Detroit community.

Diane Paldan and other members of the Special Collections Team for their assistance with preservation advice, assistance, and supplies.

James Van Loon for assisting with preparation of and lighting for the exhibit space.

Map & Parking

WSULS Undergraduate Library

David Adamany Undergraduate Library

Visitors/Guest Parking

About the Exhibit



Sunday, April 14 – Sunday, May 12
Exhibit Hours: Sunday to Friday 11 AM – 6 PM and Saturday 11 AM – 5 PM

Sponsored By

The Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies and the University Library System, Wayne State University

The exhibit includes ritual objects, kitchen items, children’s toys, and souvenirs from the vast Jewish Heritage Collection donated by Mrs. Constance Harris, a resident of Birmingham, Michigan, to the Special Collections Library at the University of Michigan.

The items displayed illustrate the efforts by Jews in the United States to define the evolving notions of “home” in their lives - from the romanticized representation and poignant memorialization of the east European world or “old home” that many of their ancestors left behind, through their attempts to maintain home religious traditions and ties to Jews in the land of Israel, to their emerging self-consciousness at “home” in America.

Though their exact age and origin are largely unknown, some of the objects are rooted in the past and reflect traditional beliefs and practices.  Others are contemporary and suggest newly-formed American sensibilities.  Some are for everyday use or for holiday celebrations; others are meant mainly for display.   Some are aesthetic pieces; others are "kitsch."  Taken together, they provide a remarkable insight into the rich religious and cultural life of American Jews over the past century.