Submitted by the Skirball Museum, HUC-JIR
Building on the unprecedented success of the Skirball Museum’s 2018 FotoFocus exhibition, “Jewish Cincinnati: A Photographic History by J. Miles Wolf, “ which garnered the museum’s largest audience in more than fifteen years, “Jewish Cincinnati: A Photographic Record by J. Miles Wolf” extends the previous exploration of Jewish houses of worship in Cincinnati to a broader picture of the integration of the Jewish community into the larger Cincinnati community with a focus on photographs that document Jewish contributions in the spheres of business, civic life, social welfare, faith, the arts, healthcare, philanthropy, and popular culture. The exhibition opens on Thursday, October 27 at 5:30 pm with a reception and artist’s remarks in Mayerson Hall on the campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The exhibition runs through January 29, 2023.
This exhibition is the Skirball’s final contribution to the celebration of the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial which began with “A Portrait of Jewish Cincinnati” last fall, and continued with “Holy Sparks: Celebrating Fifty Years of Women in the Rabbinate.” The show is also part of the FotoFocus Biennial, a month-long celebration of photography, film, and lens-based art held throughout the Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Dayton and Columbus, Ohio region every two years. The Biennial’s theme this year is World Record, which considers film and photography’s extensive record of life on earth while exploring humankind’s impact on the natural world, and the choices we as a global community now face. According to Skirball Museum director and exhibition curator Abby Schwartz, “Jewish Cincinnati: A Photographic Record by J. Miles Wolf” is tied to the theme of World Record in a number of ways. New photography by renowned Cincinnati photographer J. Miles Wolf documents many firsts, or records, that occurred in Cincinnati—the first Jewish Hospital in America, the first commercial factory for the making of matzo, the first Jewish weekly newspaper in English in the United States.” In his inimitable fashion, Wolf explores the buildings and the people and organizations that were housed in them, conducting in-depth research to create photographs that layer history with contemporary settings and effects to tell the stories that document the rich history of Jewish life in Cincinnati.
For this exhibition, Wolf trains his discerning lens on former places of business like Herman Zeller Haberdasher, Kahn’s Meats, and the Fechheimer Brothers Company (still manufacturing uniforms in Cincinnati today), and on cultural and social venues like Pike’s Opera House and the Phoenix Club. In response to suggestions from the 2018 audience, Wolf has extended his reach to Cincinnati’s West Side and Covington and Newport in Kentucky, documenting synagogue buildings and Jewish history in these locations, where several congregations thrived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. “I was thrilled to take a deeper dive into the Jewish communities on the West Side and Northern Kentucky,” commented Wolf. “With the theme of World Record in mind, specifically the documentation of human societies within particular environments, I was able to bring back to life segments of Jewish communal life that were literally lost or buried.”
A number of public programs augment and amplify the exhibition, including lectures, gallery talks and a Jewish Cincinnati Bus Tour with Wolf and Schwartz on Sunday, November 6. The tour will visit sites in Cincinnati’s West End, Downtown, Price Hill and Avondale, and will begin and end at the Skirball Museum where participants can visit the exhibition.
Support for “Jewish Cincinnati:A Photographic Record” by J. Miles Wolf is provided by FotoFocus and the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial.