Friday, November 04, 2005

THE TREE OF LIFE synagogue mosaics exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is reviewed by the Forward in "The Roman Era, Revised". (Requires free registration). Excerpt:
"If you were wealthy, you could afford marble and the poor had plaster floors," [archaeologist and cultural property lawyer Lucille] Roussin said, meaning it [the synagogue floor at Hamman-Lif] was likely that this community was someplace in between. The inscriptions on the floor were written in Latin, the least common language for Jews of the period, trailing Greek and Aramaic. This suggests a high level of comfort with the prevailing culture. The designs also speak loudly. Some scholars believe that elaborate figurative images may indicate that the communities' interpretation of Jewish law was less strict — much like Reform Judaism today — than in places where only the geometric mosaics condoned by the rabbis are found. It is also possible that the Jews of Hammam-Lif simply had less knowledge of Jewish law coming together in Israel and in Babylonia.

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