A Chandelier for Women - A Tale About the Diaspora Museum and Maurycy Gottlieb's 'Day of Atonement' - Jews Praying on Yom Kippur

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2006




Indiana University Press




The Yom Kippur exhibit at the Diaspora Museum in Tel-Aviv included a rendition of Maurycy Gottlieb's painting "Jews Praying on Yom Kippur." While the original painting at the Tel-Aviv Museum included women, the Diaspora Museum's version replaced the women with a chandelier. This article reviews four arguments presented by the Diaspora Museum in its defense: the argument that the curators were not aware of feminist theories, as well as historical, structural-sociological, and pragmatic arguments. The article attempts to refute each argument and further to suggest that in order to understand why the Museum altered the painting one must focus on Abba Kovner, the leader of the team that developed the permanent exhibit. Kovner's ambivalence concerning the dramatic changes in the lifestyle of Jewish Communities in Eastern Europe since the 19th Century was translated into a determination to depict nostalgia rather than an historic understanding of Jewish life. Jewish women were agents of change in these communities, and Kovner's ambivalence about these changes led him to eradicate the women from the painting.

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