The Derfner Judaica Museum occupies a 5,000-square-foot exhibition space in the Jacob Reingold Pavilion at The Hebrew Home at Riverdale. It is the focal point for a wide range of educational and exhibition programming for residents and visitors alike. Completion of the Museum was funded in part by a furnishings grant received from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. With approximately 250 objects, the inaugural exhibition,Tradition and Remembrance: Treasures of the Derfner Judaica Museum, explores the intersections of Jewish history and memory. The stories of objects used in traditional Jewish practice are interpreted in light of the role of memory in shaping both individual and communal identities. Among the featured objects in the exhibition are a silver filigree vase, ca. 1911, and an early copper alloy Hanukkah lamp, both from the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts founded in Jerusalem in 1906. Other objects come from near and far, including a set of 18th-century German Torah implements, a handsomely illuminated 19th-century Italian marriage contract and a 2nd-4th century lamella amulet.
The Judaica Museum was founded in 1982 when Riverdale residents Ralph and Leuba Baum donated their collection of Jewish ceremonial art to the Home. A refugee from Nazi persecution, Ralph Baum, and his wife, Leuba, had an intense desire to preserve and pass on to future generations the memory embodied in the objects they collected, the majority of which were used primarily by European Jews before the Holocaust. In 2008 the Judaica Museum was named in honor of its benefactors, the late Helen and Harold Derfner.
Header photo by Michael Moran