The Breman Hosts Collection of Torah Pointers

The Breman Hosts Collection of Torah Pointers

The collection includes both historical pieces as well as those done by contemporary craftsmen and artists.

Wendell Castle -2004 silver and stained walnut. Table is stained walnut Hand is sign form.
Wendell Castle -2004 silver and stained walnut. Table is stained walnut Hand is sign form.

The Breman Museum is presenting The Guided Hand, an international collection of 130 Torah pointers, or yad, which is the Hebrew word for finger.

A number of the pointers were created as commissions from The Barr Foundation’s Judaica Collection. The collection was started by Clay Barr in Norfolk, Va., as a memorial to her husband who died in 1994. Barr was a guest of The Breman on Sunday, Oct. 29 to talk about the origin of each pointer and some of the artists who created yads for the collection.

The Guiding Hand exhibit is at The Breman through December 2023

Among the artists whose work is represented in the exhibit are Tobi Kahn, Wendell Castle, and Albert Paley. The collection is being exhibited in the Breman’s Discovery Gallery, which is an intimate space as guests enter the museum’s exhibition galleries. The collection will be on display through December.

Breman Executive Director Leslie Gordon said, “It is a perfect fit for The Breman, with our mission to share the richness of Jewish culture with guests of diverse backgrounds. It also extends our growing profile as a presenter of the visual and performing arts.”

Bernard Bernstein – rosewood and silver

The use of the yad in the public reading of the Torah in synagogues is to help guide the reader from word to word, while at the same time protecting the Torah from potential damage that might occur when a finger comes in contact with the parchment of the scroll or the ink of the letters. It’s a practical tool but, over the centuries, the design of the yad has evolved into a distinct art form of great variety.

Alsace filigree (circa 1700)

While yads can be simple wooden pointers, they have evolved into objects of silver with gold, jewels, or ivory ornamentation. Others have been shaped from materials as diverse and unconventional as Lucite, paper, graphite, porcelain, or glass. The contemporary yads on view at The Breman express each artist’s own style and creativity, but they reflect all the inspiration and reverence of the spiritual connection to the holy text.

Phillip Aduatz – 2012 polyurethane

How and where the yad originated is not known but the collection at the Breman has a wooden pointer from Afghanistan and a silver pointer from Italy that goes back to the 17th century. The collection also contains works from, Austria, Germany, Holland, Iran, India, Israel, Poland, Russia, India, Romania, the United States, the more generic “Europe,” or “Eastern Europe.”

Tom Herman – Lily of the Valley pointer – carved hand, gold and carved pearls

In addition to its stop in Atlanta, the Barr Collection will also be seen at the Torggler Fine Arts Center in Newport News, Va., and the Skirball Museum on the Hebrew Union College campus in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Guiding Hand is presented with the support of the Robert G. and Ellen S. Gutenstein Family Foundation.

read more: