Discovering Bezalel Mezuzahs 1906 – 1929

Discovering Bezalel Mezuzahs 1906 – 1929

Items made by Bezalel are highly sought after by collectors of Judaica and Israeliana.  Founded in 1906 by artist Boris Schatz and named after the biblical craftsman who built the Tabernacle, Bezalel was established as a national academy for Arts & Crafts. 

Schatz studied art in Paris and served as an artist in the Royal Court in Bulgaria. He  immigrated to Eretz Israel with the expressed desire of establishing a school that would train artists and craftspeople. Those skills would provide them with a way of making a living in the promised land.

The Bezalel Academy taught its students a wide range of skills including silver and gold filigree work, Damascene brass work, wood carving and inlay, embroidery, metal etching, lacework, ivory miniatures, painting on porcelain, brass casting, terracotta, painting and  lithography. 

Schatz hired established artists from Europe such as EM Lilien, Abel Pann and Zeev Raban to teach at Bezalel. In addition to teaching, Raban played a major role in designing works commissioned by institutions and wealthy patrons.

Bezalel began to have financial challenges during World War I and they continued in the years that followed. Schatz traveled around the world attending exhibitions, promoting the Bezalel brand and raising funds. The first Bezalel school folded in 1929 but was restarted several years later. Readers interested learning more should read Bezalel 1906 – 1929 edited by Nurit Shilo-Cohen published The Israel Museum, 1983. Schatz died on a fundraising trip to the US in 1932. 

Today, the Bezalel Academy is Israel’s national Academy of Arts and is a driving force in Israeli and Jewish art and design.

We categorized the Bezalel mezuzahs into three groups: silver mezuzahs with traditional Jewish motifs, silver mezuzahs made in a traditional Yemenite style and die stamped metal mezuzahs. 

We hope to add a section of Bezalel mezuzahs made of wood in the near future.

Silver Bezalel Mezuzahs

Palestine 1906 – 1929

Description:

Group of Bezalel Silver mezuzahs some with filigree design with  pomegranates, lions, trees and menorah motifs.

Materials: sterling silver

Length: 3 – 4 inches/ 8 – 10 cm

Marks: Bezalel, Jerusalem, Palestine

First mezuzah on left is displayed on page 266 of the Israel museum book on Bezalel, 1983 edited by Nurit Shilo-Cohen

Source: Ron Kurstin Collection

bezmez3

Bezalel Yemenite Mezuzahs

Palestine 1906 – 1929

Bezalel taught Yemenite students the Yemini style of silversmithing that was developed over centuries by Jews who were silversmiths in the Yemini royal court in Sana’a. 

Material: Sterling silver

Marks: Bezalel, Palestine or Jerusalem

Size: 3-4 inches/ 8 – 10 cm

Source: Ron Kurstin Collection

Yemenite students at Bezalel

Prior to World War II, most mezuzahs were made of wood or inexpensive metals. Bezalel also made mass produced mezuzah cases. Here are some of them:

Bezalel Mezuzahs

Palestine 1906 – 1929

This last set of mezuzahs are made of of die stamped metals such as brass, copper and tin.  They are decorated with Jewish motifs. They are inexpensive to make and can be mass produced. Often, these were given out to donors who supported the Bezalel Academy.

Material:  tin, brass and copper

Marks: see example below 

Size: 2.7 x .5 inches/7 x 1 cm, a few larger

Source: Ron Kurstin Collection

Bezalel Mezuzahs

A view of the back of a mezuzah

Designed by Zeev Raban

Back (English) Made in Palestine, Jersualem POB 398

Back (Hebrew) Toseret Bezalel, Yerushalem, Eretz Israel


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *