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OBJECT OF THE MONTH – October 2007

Ignác Porges: Portrait of Chief Rabbi of Prague Solomon Judah Löb Rapoport
(born at Lemberg on 4 June 1790, died at Prague on 16 October 1867), Prague, 1841

lithograph on paper, 538 x 436 mm
signed and dated lower left in the lithographic stone: Ign. Porges / 1841
Provenance: acquired by the Central Jewish Museum in 1942-1944; incorporated into the museum’s collections by Dr. Josef Polák; selected from the Treuhandstelle warehouse where the item was sent after being seized from the property of Alžběta Hájková from Prague (b. 23 May 1879. Hájková was deported from Prague to Terezín on Transport AAn on 6 July 1942, from where on 14 July 1942 she was sent on Transport AAx to Maly Trostinec, where all trace of her was lost)
JMP 27.286

The third day of Sukkot on the 17th of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar (which this year falls on 29 September in the Gregorian calendar) marks the 140th anniversary of the death of the prominent scholar and rabbi Solomon Judah Löb Rapoport. Also known by the acronym “Shir”, his career is closely linked to the Prague Jewish community. Rapoport was born in 1790 in the Galician town of Lvov (then Lemberg, part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy). Despite receiving a traditional Orthodox education, he soon moved towards the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) and became a devoted promoter of the Science of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums). Based on a critical study of the Tanakh, Talmud and rabbinic literature, he put together an encyclopaedic dictionary of Judaism entitled Erekh Millin (published by M. I. Landau, Prague, 1852, Vol I.). In 1840 he accepted the position of Chief Jurist of the Prague Jewish community, where he remained until his death in 1867. He is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Fibichova Street in the Žižkov district of Prague.
The collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague contain several portraits of Rapoport. The most famous of these is probably a painting by the Prague portraitist Antonín Machek (JMP 12.574) and a related lithograph by Machek’s colleague František Šír (JMP 60.723). In Ignác Porges’s lithograph, Rapoport is depicted as an enlightened scholar interpreting a passage from the Book of Job (VIII, 8-10): “For inquire of the former generation, and apply thyself to that which their fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow. Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?.”


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