Using the Crowd to Identify a Mezuzah

I bought a mezuzah at the estate auction of Rabbi Robert Rothman in May, 2022. The auction was held by Black Rock Galleries in Connecticut. The late Rabbi was an avid  mezuzah collector and there were more than twenty-five  lots of mezuzahs for sale that day. I paid $205 for this mezuzah plus costs (the total was about $275). 

I was initially attracted to the mezuzah because it used a phrase from the beginning of Pirkei Avot (משֶׁה קִבֵּל תּוֹרָה) about Moses receiving the ten commandments. It also had a figure of Moses receiving the ten commandments. Both were unusual. And it had a door that hid the scroll or klaf. Another unusual feature. It was not old, my guess is that it was probably made in the last quarter of the 20th Century. Someone had put a lot of thought and work into this mezuzah case. It was unmarked. I knew it would take a lot of sleuth work to identify it.

 

The mezuzah was made in the style of Ilya Schor but was not a Schor. I knew that much. It was cast which meant that it was made by pouring metal into a mold. It tested as silver which was a good sign. I had seen figural silver pieces through the years made by Oded Davidson but did not think it was his work. His was better. I checked LiveAuctioneers, Invaluable and Bidspirit auction websites but did not find it, There were some similar but not the same or close to it. The only piece that I found online that looked similar was a Purim grogger listed by Menorah galleries that was made and signed by Peter Ehrenthal of Moriah Galleries in New York. But this piece was not signed. So, what to do?

 

I decided to post a photo of the mezuzah on the Judaica Collectors group on Facebook and ask the 3800 members for help. I was hoping that the power of the crowd would help me identify the mezuzah. I got almost 50 responses. Some guessed Ilya Schor. Two people helped us with the answer. The first was Ron Kurstin who owns the most amazing collection of 2000+ mezuzahs including three by Ilya Schor. His guess was that the mezuzah might have been made by Peter Ehrenthal. Ehrenthal was a silversmith who owned the famous Moriah Galleries in New York City. The gallery sold the highest quality works to the best collectors and to museums. Then, another member, Rhonda Gribetz identified the mezuzah as an Ehrenthal and offered details such as the edition size and the price. I asked her how she know. She said she sent the photo to the family. I asked Rhonda to make that connection and she did. Rhonda put me in touch with Peter’s son, Michael, who identified the mezuzah as one made by his father in the late 20th century.

So here is what we discovered:

The mezuzah scroll was made by Peter Ehrenthal. It is made of sterling silver. It weighs 119 grams and is 20 cm long. It was made in an edition of 12  in the late 20th Century.  Original price $500 – $1000. 

Many thanks to the Facebook Judaica Collectors group, to Ron and especially Rhonda for helping to solve this mystery.

 

 

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