MFAH Establishes a Gallery for Judaica, Opening December 3, 2023

The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Gallery for Judaica will present two dozen objects, including loans from the Jewish Museum, New York; Houston collections; and recent acquisitions from this new MFAH collecting initiative.

With the Herzstein Gallery, the MFAH joins a small group of North American encyclopedic museums with a commitment to collect, display, and study Judaica. 

HOUSTON—November 2, 2023—The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will open a new gallery for Judaica on December 3, 2023. The new space, which has been endowed by the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, allows for a permanent presence at the Museum of works of art made for Jewish communities around the world to fulfill the practice of their faith. More than two dozen objects will be displayed in the inaugural installation of the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Gallery, primarily from a group of recent acquisitions that have launched this new collecting initiative.

The installation in the Herzstein Gallery will benefit from a partnership with the Jewish Museum, New York, that has paired significant loans to the MFAH with scholarly collaborations. That partnership launched in summer 2022 with the exhibition Beauty and Ritual: Judaica from the Jewish Museum, New York; some objects lent from the collection of the Jewish Museum will be on view in the Herzstein Gallery when it opens in December. The gallery is also an important component of the World Faiths Initiative at the MFAH, which seeks to bring attention to the central role of religion and faith in the creation of many of the works of art in the Museum’s collections and exhibitions. It is funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

“With the opening of the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Gallery for Judaica, we will complete the suite of galleries in the Caroline Wiess Law Building that have been developed over the past 15 years to reflect the diversity of Houston’s communities,” commented Gary Tinterow, Director, Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, of the MFAH. “The galleries adjacent to the Herzstein Gallery are devoted to the arts of Korea, Japan, India, China and the Islamic worlds. With the Judaica gallery, our goal is to provide our visitors an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of ritual objects made for Jewish homes and synagogues, and to marvel at both the continuity and the variety of these essential objects created over millennia for communities dispersed across the globe.”

The Herzstein Gallery will feature an outstanding collection of historical Judaica recently acquired by the Museum. Significant works on view will include a rare 5th-century late-Roman oil lamp; an especially precious 14th-century illustrated Mahzor, a community holiday prayer book created in Mainz, Germany; an early-19th-century silver and gold Torah Shield produced in Munich; a silver Torah Crown made in Venice; a jeweled silver Torah Crown made in Poland; and a variety of silver Torah Finials made in Central Asia, Holland, England, and Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries, in addition to objects from Turkey and North Africa.

While the MFAH has a history of presenting temporary exhibitions of Judaica, there are currently no permanent spaces reserved for its display. The new gallery situates the MFAH within a small group of encyclopedic art museums in North America that have made a commitment to collect, display, and study Judaica, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Organization and Funding
The inaugural installation of the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Gallery is being curated by Christine Gervais, the Fredricka Crain Director, Rienzi and Curator, Decorative Arts at the MFAH. Beth Schneider, former Head of Learning at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and former Education Director of the MFAH, is a consultant to the project and is also working with the MFAH on gallery interpretation and related programming.

About the World Faiths Initiative at the MFAH
Funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s World Faiths Initiative seeks to activate themes of religion, faith, and spirituality in the Museum’s encyclopedic collections through innovative programming and reimagined displays. The focus on the many expressions of faith in the collections of the MFAH seeks to honor the diverse communities of Houston and inspire connections across cultures and beliefs. The World Faiths Initiative is centered on installations and public programming exploring the role of faith and spirituality in the creation of works of art.  The project team is being led by Aimée Froom, MFAH Curator, Art of the Islamic Worlds, and Caroline Goeser, W.T. and Louise J. Moran Chair of Learning and Interpretation.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Spanning 14 acres in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the Fayez S. Sarofim Campus of the MFAH comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present collections of American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the Glassell School of Art, with its Core Residency Program and Junior and Studio schools; and the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art.

Media Contact
Melanie Fahey, Senior Publicist | 713.800.5345