Monday, August 29, 2016

The Living Torah Museum

EXHIBITION: Talmud for Taxidermy. At the Torah Animal World, one Brooklyn Rabbi Brings Stuffed History to Strange Life (Jamie Manelis,
I was surrounded. Seven lions encircled us, mouths ajar with eternal hunger. It was me, a photographer and a rabbi. Sounds like the beginning of a bizarre, hacky joke or the kind of anxiety-ridden dream you tell your therapist about (maybe you should have just had that bat mitzvah?) or possibly even a premise for a very strange and specific horror film. Regardless, it’s the kind of scene you would never imagine happening in your real life, especially in Brooklyn.

This is Torah Animal World.

“Don’t be afraid. How about holding a baby lion?” Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, founder and curator of Torah Animal World, attempts to comfort me with the stuffed baby lion, his face frozen in ferocious spirit. “Kids come in here, and they are in love because you feel like you’re walking into a lion’s den.”

That’s only the beginning of the fascinating journey through Rabbi Deutsch’s treasure chest of taxidermy delights and ancient artifacts of time forgotten. Torah Animal World is a subset of the Living Torah Museum (voted Best Museum of New York by the Village Voice) offers peculiar insight on an otherwise conventional history. Located in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Rabbi Deutsch has reconstructed his ideal museum with a collection of antiquities (both secular and not) and taxidermy animals, which he’s been collecting for over 23 years. “This was a lifelong dream,” Deutsch admits with a gleaming smile. He poses next to a smug ostrich whose plastered smirk survives even death. “I felt that if we could create something like this it would outlast my lifetime.

I posted on Torah Animal World and the Living Torah Museum back in 2010. But this new article is a good excuse to mention it again.