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Jewish Magic and Amulets

Thursday, November 11 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am

|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every week that begins at 10:00 am on Thursday, repeating until Thursday, November 18, 2021

Contrary to popular belief, magic played an important role in the daily life of Jews in the premodern world. This was especially true in the home—and chief among the domestic events that called for magical intervention was childbirth, both dramatic and dangerous before modern advances in medicine and hygiene. Carefully prepared amulets were hung on the walls of the birthing room, the baby’s crib, the mother, and even the baby, making use of centuries-old rituals and texts. In order to understand why and how amulets were produced, we will first examine the approach to and place of magic in Judaism. Drawing on the disciplines of art history, folklore, and anthropology, we will learn to analyze the textual and artistic background and meaning of the amulets, the secrets of “practical Kabbalah” behind their making, who made them and for which sectors in Jewish society, and the beliefs and traditions associated with their usage. This series will concentrate on items produced in the early modern to modern period in Europe and the lands of Islam, from Germany and Poland to Morocco and Kurdistan.

Thursday November 4, 2021
Intro to Magic and the Place of Magic in the Jewish Tradition and World

In the first lecture we will examine what is magic and how it relates to religion and science from the ancient past to modern times. Emphasis will be placed on magic and magical phenomena in the Bible and how they were interpreted in the Jewish tradition and transformed in works of art, printed materials and objects.

Thursday November 11, 2021
Jewish Childbirth Amulets from Europe
(Germany and Poland)

We will look together at visual evidence of historical childbirth methods and rituals and the fundamental Jewish  concept of fertility vis-à-vis the high danger through most of our history of pregnancy and childbirth for both baby and mother. In this lecture we will examine the magical methods and amulets used by Ashkenazi Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe to cope with this problem and protect the mother and baby.

Thursday November 18, 2021
Jewish Magic and Amulets in the Lands of Isalm – the Khamsa, etc.
(Morocco, Iran, Kurdistan, Palestine, etc.)

This lecture will focus on examples of precious Jewish amulets created among the communities of Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq, and North Africa. Jewelry has been a highly esteemed craft in Islamic societies, attracting attention to its beauty, elaborate designs, and intricate artistry, while often serving amuletic purposes, believed to protect their wearers. We will also examine how central magical motifs in the lands of Islam, the fish and the khamsa in particular, were totally “Judaized” in this process.
Professor Shalom Sabar lectures widely across Europe and the United States on Jewish and folk material culture, objects associated with the cycles of life and of the year, and ritual and custom in the Jewish communities in Europe and in Islamic lands. He is interested in the culture of Italian Jews and the Sephardic diaspora in Europe, the cultural and artistic interrelationships between the Jewish communities and their Christian and Muslim neighbors, and the image of the Jew and Hebrew writing in art. Professor Sabar has published over 200 books and articles. He is an avid collector of Jewish art objects and Israeli ephemera and presents lectures and guides tours to Jewish sites in Europe, North Africa, India, and Central Asia.

There is no fee, but please RSVP for planning purposes. This event is held virtually on Zoom. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the event. For more information, contact Program Director Ilene Tatro at itatro@cbisd.org.

CSP Partners: Beth Israel (San Diego, CA), Brotherhood Synagogue (Gramercy Park, NYC), Congregation Beth Shalom (Seattle, WA), Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Fountain Valley, CA), Congregation B’nai Israel (Tustin, CA), Jewish Collaborative of Orange County, CA, Shomrei Torah Synagogue (San Fernando Valley, CA), Temple Bat Yahm (Newport Beach, CA), Temple Beth El of South Orange County (Aliso Viejo, CA), Temple Beth Emet (Anaheim, CA), Temple Beth Ohr (La Mirada, CA), Temple Beth Tikvah (Fullerton, CA), Temple Beth Shalom (Needham, MA), Temple Beth Sholom (Santa Ana, CA), Temple Emanuel (Newton, MA), Town & Village Synagogue (NYC, NY), University Synagogue (Irvine, CA), Valley Beth Shalom (Encino, CA) & Walnut Street Synagogue (Chelsea, MA)


Thursday, November 11
10:00 am - 11:00 am
Event Categories:


CA United States


Adult Education