By Joshua Mizrachi
This fall, our community will have an opportunity to experience the 2,000-year old Dead Sea Scrolls in many different ways, including a spectacular five-month exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center for which The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati will be the Presenting Sponsor. “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times” will open on November 16, and last through mid-April at the Museum Center. In addition, HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus—which has a unique historical connection to the Dead Sea Scrolls—the Jewish Federation, UC Judaic Studies, and many other institutions will organize complementary exhibits, scholarly lectures and other programming related to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
This new exhibition features the most comprehensive collection of ancient artifacts from Israel ever organized, including one of the largest collections of the priceless 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls displayed in North America. This exhibition is created by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) from the collections of the Israel National Treasures and produced by Discovery Times Square and The Franklin Institute.
“I am excited that these 2,000-year-old biblical manuscripts from the Judean Desert caves will be in Cincinnati. These are some of the most important ancient manuscripts in the world and, with the support of several renowned community partners, they will be exhibited at Cincinnati Museum Center,” said Douglass W. McDonald, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “As a young seminarian, I studied these early Jewish and pre-Christian texts of the Old Testament. I never expected to personally see these ancient handwritten texts about the ancient Western Civilization. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in our community and another example of partners coming together doing remarkable things which make our city great.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and unearthed in caves on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea from 1947-1956. Considered among the world’s greatest archaeological discoveries, the Scrolls contain the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible. Of the more than 600 objects from the Biblical to Byzantine Period in Israel, many objects are from recent archaeological excavations in Jerusalem and have never been publicly exhibited. Objects include remains of religious articles, fragments of the Scrolls, weapons of war, stone carvings, textiles and beautiful mosaics, along with everyday household items such as jewelry and ceramics. In addition, the exhibition features a compelling scale recreation of a section of Jerusalem’s Western (or Wailing) Wal—complete with an authentic three-ton stone from the Wall in Israel.
The Cincinnati Community plans to incorporate the exhibit into the “Israel at 65” celebrations, and the UC Judaic Studies Department, which will focus its entire fall Lichter Lecture Series on the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition, educators associated with the congregations, Mayerson JCC, Xavier University and a dozen other local Jewish and non-Jewish institutions will come together this month to brainstorm creative ways to both feature and learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls in multiple venues throughout the community. Other local community partners include the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Dioceses of Southern Ohio, and SC Ministry Foundation, Office of the Provost.
“The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati is delighted to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. This is an excellent opportunity for our community to experience something thoroughly unique,” said Michael R. Oestreicher, president of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. “We believe that this exhibit will enrich our community as it showcases these precious artifacts so full of significance in Judeo-Christian tradition. Dead Sea Scrolls will engage people from many different backgrounds, faiths and cultures.”
Cincinnati has a very special and unique part in the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls which will be highlighted in the exhibition. Hebrew Union College and former president (1947-1971), Dr. Nelson Glueck, played an important role in the events surrounding the scrolls from the time they were discovered. He lead the charge in recovering scrolls from antiquities dealers and authenticating them. In 1969 he raised $10,000 to produce a photographic security copy of the scrolls, which was stored on the Cincinnati campus in case anything happened to the originals. In subsequent decades, HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus continued to lead in Dead Sea Scroll scholarship, and the College-Institute will host events this year to showcase the connections between Cincinnati and the scrolls—an important element in The Jewish Foundation’s investment in the Cincinnati campus and enhancing its exhibit capacity.
Further enhancing the Dead Sea Scrolls experience will be a series of programs leading up to and throughout the run of the exhibition showcasing the science of archaeology and real objects from biblical times.