About Sidney Eisenshtat

Sidney Eisenshtat, 1914–2004, architect.

Sanctuary of Temple Emanuel
Sanctuary of Temple Emanuel, Los Angeles, California, c. 1954. University of Southern California::Architecture and Fine Arts Library, SE Box 22.

At the height of his career, Sidney Eisenshtat was considered one of the half dozen leading architects in the country.1El Paso Times, July 31, 1960, p. 44 Born in Connecticut, he moved to California with his family when he was twelve. He entered the University of Southern California at 16 and at 25, became the youngest architect to get a license in the state. Although he designed private residences, public facilities and large-scale commercial buildings—many of which became L.A. landmarks—he is perhaps best known today for his innovative, often soaring, synagogue work. His buildings were dramatic, light, airy and spacious, displaying a kinship with the expressionism of Eric Mendelsohn, whom he greatly admired. “Design is not wall or decorations. It is only space occupied by human beings. You have to enclose that space, and if you do it well, it is good design.”2Fine Design Pays Way, Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1964, p. J25 Nevertheless, art took a prominent place in his work. “Eisenshtat, who plans all his major jobs to include art, makes it a practice to work with architectural artists as often as possible.”3Schoen, Myron, quoting Joseph Young in the May-June issue of Creative Crafts, Asks Art, Not Draftsmanship, for the Temple, The National Jewish Post and Opinion, December 8, 1961. He “insisted that art be included in the building’s budget.”4Rourke, Mary, Los Angeles Times, Sidney Eisenshtat, 90; Was Known for His Innovative Synagogues, March 5, 2005, p.59.

Eisenshtat’s first major religious commission came from the congregation of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. Stephen Kayser recommended Ismar David to Eisenshtat to design bronze Hebrew lettering for “two wall tablets (10 Commandments) … of white marble, each 11′ high and 3′ 6″ wide.” Eisenshtat and David enjoyed a good working relationship on the project. The two men met during the Davids’ trip west in the summer of 1955.

Correspondence between Sidney Eisenshtat and Ismar David and Hortense Mendel. Ismar David papers, box 7, folder 151, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT.
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About John Dreyfus

John Gustave Dreyfus, 1918–2002, book designer, printing historian, typographic advisor to Monotype Corporation, founding member and second president of ATypI.

Ismar David and John Dreyfus
Ismar David and John Dreyfus at the fiftieth anniversary celebration of Chiswick Books, September 21, 1985.

His erudition on a wide range of topics made him a respected lecturer and author, but John Dreyfus was universally loved and admired for his generosity, elegance—sartorial and rhetorical (in English, French or German)—and kindness.

Like Rollo Silver, Dreyfus was a mainstay at the Heritage of the Graphic Arts lecture series, organized by Bob Leslie’s at Gallery 303. Beginning in 1965, when his topic was Jan Van Krimpen, whom he had known well, until 1980, Dreyfus spoke nearly every year. The keepsake for his Baskerville lecture in 1971 included a reprint of Ismar David’s Baskerville portrait, originally done for a type specimen produced by the Composing Room. On April 26, 1971, Ismar David wrote:

Dear John,
We are looking forward to your lecture at Gallery 303. It has always been delightful and instructive to listen to you, and I am sure the lecture on Baskerville will be no exception.

Dr. Leslie told me that you intend to use the Baskerville drawing from a Composing Room type speicmen for a keepsake. I will be pleased to se it revived and you certainly have my permission to use it.

So, we, Dorothy and myself are expectin you in the fall.

With best wishes…1Ismar David papers, box 2, folder 42, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT.

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About Beth Israel Memorial Park

Beth Israel Memorial Park, a cemetery and mausoleum complex in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

Construction at Beth Israel Memorial Park, Woodbridge, New Jersey, c. 1965.
Ismar David papers, box 16, folder 344, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT. Photographed by Jiageng Lin.

Beth Israel was founded in the 1927, based on the relatively modern concept of a memorial park. An ad that ran in the New York area read:

At Beth Israel Memorial Park you find a modern Jewish Burial Estate where all is dignity, beauty and peace. There are sweeping, unbroken vistas of lovely, landscaped lawns and gardens and NOT A SINGLE TOMBSTONE. And yet the reverent traditions of the past are fully preserved, for at Beth Israel graves are marked with flat bronze plaques of a type first used in Palestine many years ago. These handsome markers are even more durable than stone and are in full accordance with all Jewish precepts.1Advertisement, New York Daily News, September 17, 1951.

The Shipper family assumed ownership in 1939.2Hendy, Valerie, Cemetery’s gardens teach ancient Biblical lessons, Central New Jersey Home News, August 16, 1980, p. 4. By 1951, Leon Shipper was vice president and had already overseen features for the area, including a Holocaust memorial. The park eventually expanded to include Christian and non-sectarian sections, as well as mausoleum complexes. Gedeon Takaro handled advertising for a period of time.

Ismar David’s first work for Beth Israel was the design for the Bible Archway in the Bible Gardens, dedicated in 1957. He went on to design mausoleums and general layouts, bronze grave markers graphics and decorative features for Beth Israel, as well as Rose Hills, King David, and other parks owned by the Shipper family until at least the late 1970s. David worked closely with the Shippers and the J.C. Milne Organization, who also built mausoleums for Pinelawn Memorial Park, and was involved with the technical minutiae needed for Jas. H. Matthews & Co. to produce a six-paneled bronze door for a private mausoleum at Beth Israel.

In the early 1970s, when Ismar and Dorothy David purchased a coop apartment, Leon Shipper wrote a touching tribute in what would have been a pro forma reference letter:

In the past 22 years, Mr. David has deigned works of art and architecture for our organization which has been widely acclaimed by leading critics and museums and members of his profession.

What is more important is that he is a warm, compassionate, intelligent human being and devoted friend.

Ismar David at Beth Israel Memorial Park
Ismar David, standing in front of the glass chapel at Beth Israel Memorial Park, 1966.
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A First Lady’s Visit

Bible Gardens dedication ceremony
Ismar David, with fedora in lap, listens to speaker Alma Moldenke at the dedication ceremony for the Bible Gardens at Beth Israel Memorial Park, Woodbridge, New Jersey, 1957.

The dedication of the Bible Gardens at Beth Israel Memorial Park had been optimistically planned to coincide with the anniversary of the State of Israel on May 14, 1954,1The Central New Jersey Home News, November 1, 1953 but finally took place on June 2, 1957. New Jersey Secretary of State Edward J. Patten, Alma Moldenke, co-author of Plants of the Bible, and Rabbi Theodore Friedman of Temple Beth El in Orange, New Jersey spoke. Ten-year-old Marjorie Tzeses presented a bouquet of Biblical flowers to the indisputable headliner of the event, Eleanor Roosevelt.

After her time as First Lady, Mrs. Roosevelt remained politically and socially engaged, much admired and extremely busy. Her syndicated feature, My Day, which had been running six days a week since December 31, 1935 reflected not only her opinions on the issues of the day, but also, in a fairly perfunctory way, her daily schedule. Her June 4, 1957 column ends with these lines:

On my return to New York Sunday I stopped in New Jersey for ceremonies opening the Bible Gardens of Israel at Woodbridge. I unveiled a 12-foot-high bas relief mat-portrait of the Holy Land in Biblical times. These gardens are an important project that will make Bible stories more real for children, for the sponsors plan to grow there the trees and flowers of the Holy Land.2Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day, June 4, 1957, The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Digital Edition (2017), accessed 8/13/2022.

Hortense Mendel and Ismar David were at Beth Israel that day, seated behind Mrs. Roosevelt. Hortense snapped a few of her signature woozy, yet atmospheric photos.

Bible Gardens dedication ceremony
Hortense Mendel can be glimpsed (back row, center) at the dedication ceremony for the Bible Gardens at Beth Israel Memorial Park, Woodbridge, New Jersey, 1957. Ismar David papers, box 16, folder 344, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT. Photographed by Jiageng Lin.
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A Guide to the Bible Gardens

Under the rubric Broadway , New York Daily News columnist Danton Walker reported this item:

New York realtor Leon Shipper leaves for Israel July 24 to develop a new idea in cemeteries (a “Garden of Israel,” with token soil from that land).1Walker, Danton, Broadway, New York Daily News, July 14, 1953, p. 41BL.

Leon Shipper’s concept to make “an authentic ‘piece of Israel’ transplanted here as a permanent Land of the Bible exhibit”235 Tons of Sculpture from Italy Arrives for ‘Garden of Israel,’ Central New Jersey Home News, July 10, 1955, p.5. began around 1951. He consulted various experts, including landscape architect Allan Dalsimer, Harold N. Moldenke of the New York Botanical Gardens, Michael Yohary at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and Stephen Kayser at New York’s Jewish Museum, who introduced Shipper to an Israeli designer, Ismar David.

Traveling by car throughout Israel for four weeks in the summer of 1953, Shipper visited important Biblical sites, choosing and carefully documenting specimens of rocks, boulders and sand to be excavated and sent to the United States. He also selected marble from quarries in Jerusalem, Galilee, Mount Carmel and Mt. Giboa, to be finished in the Carrara studio of Bernard Zuckerman, a prominent sculptor of memorial works.3Hundreds of Tons of Biblical Boulders To Become Monument In Garden Of Israel, The Freehold Transcript and Monmouth Inquirer December 24, 1953, p.29. On October 28th of that year, the first shipment of material— one hundred tons of stone from Safed, the Red Sea, Elat, the Negev, the Ayalon Valley, Galilee and Gilboa—arrived in New York, but it was not until midsummer 1955 that the 36-tons (packed in 62 crates) of marble which made up most of the main feature, the Bible Archway, arrived from Italy. The 12-ton center monolith from Mt. Carmel, “the largest block of marble ever quarried in the Holy Land since ancient days”4Vineland Daily Journal, May 25, 1957, p.3 arrived at Pier 9 in Jersey City from Mt. Carmel on August 2, 1955.5Marble From the Holy Land Here for Woodbridge Garden, Central New Jersey Home News, August 2, 1955 The “world’s only bronze map-portrait of the Holy Land,”6Ibid. sculpted in the New York studio of Rochette and Parzini and cast in bronze by the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, arrived in late October.7Bronze ‘Portrait’ Shown Depicts Old Testament, Ridgewood Sunday News, October 23, 1955.

Ismar David designed many features for the Bible Gardens, including the 60 x 18 foot Bible Archway colonnade, featuring the twelve tribes of Israel, an inscription from Deuteronomy and the bronze Land of Israel map; and a wrought iron Moses.

In 1959, Beth Israel Memorial Park published a guide to the plants and features of its Bible Gardens.

Bible Gardens of Israel
The Bible Retold Through Plant Life
and Works of Art and Architecture

Photographed by Jiageng Lin.
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Pearl-Pressman-Liberty Co.

Harold B. Pressman, 1913–2010, printing executive.

After graduating from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) in 1933 with a degree in printing management, Harold Pressman joined Pearl-Pressman-Liberty Co., the printing firm founded by his father, Charles Pressman, and his partner, Manuel Pearl. In 1952, the younger Pressman became President of the company and helped build it into one of the largest and most successful printing enterprises in the Delaware Valley1The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 29, 2010, p. B09.

Pressman was very active in printing and graphic arts organizations, serving as president of the Graphic Arts Association of the Delaware Valley, a member of the board and chair of the finance committee of Printing Industries of America, and a member of the board of the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation. 2Ibid.

In 1971, when Ismar David was searching for a publisher for his Psalms drawings, he had Harold Pressman make hand set two proofs of a double spread in two type variations.

Cuts made for the Pearl-Pressman-Liberty samples of The Psalms.Ismar David papers, box 82, folder 1093, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT. Photographed by Jiageng Lin.
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About the Whitehills

Clayton Whitehill, 1898–1963, painter, educator, writer.

Laura Lee, c. 1898–1965, film critic, writer.

Clayton Whitehill, son of a Philadelphia furniture manufacturer, graduated from the Columbia University School of Journalism, where he was president of the senior class. He edited “With the Intercollegiate” in The Maccabaean, a monthly publication of the Zionist Organization of America, and wrote book reviews for The American Hebrew. After graduation, he joined the staff of the United News in Washington, D.C., where he reported on political, labor and economic issues. However, he wrote a vivid and moving eyewitness account of the tragic collapse of the Knickerbocker Motion Picture Theater on January 28, 1922. He had happened to be passing by when its snow-laden roof collapsed, killing more than a hundred adults and children.

But by the end of the decade, Whitehill seems to have left journalism and, at some point, begun to work in advertising and typography. He taught advertising design at the then Philadelphia School of Industrial Art. By the 1940s, he was exhibiting his “subtle and imaginative”1The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 19, 1943, p. 58. paintings. In 1947, Barnes and Noble published his Moods of Type, which was still in print more than six decades later. Its blurb read, “Throughout history, in every period of advance in culture and design, the basic key to every change and progression is to be found in the forms and shapes of the letters used by men in the graphic communication.” Through the 1950s, Whitehill taught painting extension courses, gave lectures and was president of the Philadelphia chapter of Artists’ Equity.

Laura Lee enjoyed almost as disparate a career path as her husband. She hailed from Hutchinson, Kansas and got a degree in chemistry from the University of Chicago. Initially she worked as a chemist and bacteriologist, but in 1929, she joined the staff of The Evening Bulletin, becoming its movie critic in 1937. Post-retirement she continued to write occasional stories for the paper. During 1953 and 1954, the couple spent twelve months traveling and working in Europe. After their return, Clayton told a reporter that he felt a greater kinship artistically with northern Europe, but “[o]f course, Italy is a sublime place to live gloriously…” He and Laura moved to Perugia in 1958. Clayton continued to exhibit his work in the United States and Italy until his death in 1963. In 1964, a studio in the Jeanette W. Rosenbaum (his late sister) Art Center was named in his honor. In November 1965, Laura Lee was found in her gas-filled apartment in Perugia. Friends told police that she had been despondent since the death of her husband.2Special to The Inquirer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 20, 1965, p. 21.

In his preface to Moods of Type, Clayton Whitehill wrote, “The suggestion to write this book came from Dr. Leslie and Miss Hortense Mendel of the A-D Gallery, New York. For this and for their criticism and encouragement, I’m deeply grateful.” Whitehill illustrated and designed the jacket for a Jewish Publication Society, Memoirs of American Jews, but presumably had a closer connection to the Philadelphia-based firm, if he could keep tabs on its encouragement of printer Westcott & Thompson’s pressure on Intertype to speed up production of David Hebrew, as indicated in the note below. Ismar David and Hortense Mendel must have been invited to a send-off for the Whitehills on the Cunard liner Britannic on the eve of their year-long travels in Europe.

Letter from Clayton Whitehill and Laura Lee
Letter from Clayton Whitehill and Laura Lee, 1953.
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About Robert Haas

Robert Samuel Haas, 1898–1997, graphic designer, photographer, printer and educator.

After mustering out of the Austro-Hungarian army in 1918, Robert Haas studied electrical engineering at Vienna’s Technische Hochschule, while simultaneously taking classes in economics, history and music at the city’s university, and typography and lettering with Rudolf von Larisch at the Kunstgewerbeschule and Akademie der bildenden Künste. He had co-founded the ground-breaking graphics studio, Officina Vindobonensis, and already been a successful printer and graphic designer for some time, when he spent two years learning photography from Trude Fleischmann. While continuing his graphic work, Haas became a photojournalist, celebrity portraitist, official photographer of the Salzburg Festival and created the world’s largest (32 x 8 meters) photomontage for the Austrian Pavilion in the 1937 World’s Fair. The following year, he fled Austria for England.

He spent six months working in London before heading to the United States. North Carolina’s miraculous little Black Mountain College took him in, as it had fifty-one other refugees from Nazi Germany during those dark times,1Darwent, Charles, In World War II-Era North Carolina, A Haven for German Jewish Artists and Academics, Jewish Book Council, November 6, 2018. including Xanti Schawinsky. But, without enough work in Black Mountain, Haas moved to New York, where, in 1941, he founded the Ram Press on 25th Street in Manhattan. In addition to designing and printing for the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum, he helped Clark and Way, for a time, with printing the historically trouble-prone Frick Collection catalogue.

Haas taught calligraphy (and later typography) at Cooper Union, concurrently with Ismar David. The enigmatic note below was written long after both men had stopped working there. The reference to Haas’ brother is presumably to Georg Haas, a zoologist and paleontologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem since 1932, who had died eight months earlier.

Dear Mr. David:

Many thanks for your beautiful drawing which I shall keep as a valuable memorial to my brother.

Again, my apologies for the invonvenience I have caused.

Cordially,
Robert Haas
5/11/82

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Master Builder

Erich, later Eric, Mendelsohn, 1887–1953, architect. His spectacular Ufa Universum-Theater building opened in November 1928, the year Ismar David arrived in Berlin. Part of a larger complex of housing, shops and a cabaret on Kurfürstendamm in Charlottenburg, the Universum was one of a series of high profile buildings that made Mendelsohn one of the best known architects in Germany—and Europe—at the time.

Erich Mendelsohn
An undated portrait of Erich Mendelsohn.Wikipedia

Born in Allenstein (now Olsztyn,Poland), Eric Mendelsohn was the son of a milliner and the owner of a souvenir shop. His parents had not wanted him to study architecture, but after two semesters of economics at the University of Munich, he was able to persuade them to let him change course. He attended the Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg for two years, then returned to Munich to finish his degree at the Technische Hochschule there in 1912. After military service during the First World War, he settled in Berlin. His first and perhaps most famous building, the unorthodox, expressionistic Einsteinturm launched his career. Melding the emotion of expressionism and prevailing utilitarian concepts, Mendelsohn designed dynamic large-scale works, including the Friedrich Steinberg, Herrmann & Co. Hat Factory in Luckenwald; Schocken department stores in Stuttgart and Chemnitz, as well as private residences, like his own at Rupenhorn 6. In 1933, as the political situation in Germany became untenable, Mendelsohn left the country for Holland and then England. At the same time he began a partnership with Serge Chermayeff in London, he opened an office in Jerusalem and divided his time between the two cities. His first commission in Jerusalem was a house for Chaim Weizmann. He reunited with old friends, designing a villa and a library for one of them, Zalman Schocken, and tackled public work projects like the Hadassah Hospital and a plan for Hebrew University. In 1939, the Mendelsohns moved to Jerusalem full time, but in 1941, with the German Army approaching in Egypt and disillusioned professionally by various circumstances in Palestine, the couple migrated to the United States. At the end of the war, they settled in San Francisco. In addition to lecturing and teaching, Mendelsohn brought his bold fusion of art, spirituality and function to four American synagogues.

In 1921, Mendelsohn had lost his left eye to cancer. In mid November 1953, he succumbed to a recurrence of the disease. A memorial to the six million victims of the Holocaust, which would have been built in Riverside Park in New York City, remained unfinished at his death. Only few months earlier, Ismar David had written to him. They had been acquaintances at the Jerusalem Artists Club.

Letter Erich Mendelsohn
First page of a draft letter to Erich Mendelsohn, 1953. Ismar David papers, box 1, folder 3, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT.

I have wanted for some time to send you greetings & only recently in a conversation with Mr. Paul Grotz of Architectural Forum when you name was mentioned I determined to write to you without further delay. It is possible that you may remember our meeting numerous times at the Jerusalem Artists Club or that you may recall my work as a graphic & industrial designer there. In the course of several visits to the United States I have had a wide variety of commissions. In 1951 to design a series of modern Hebrew alphabets for the Intertype Corp. in 1952 to design and supervise the installation of the Israel Exposition in N.Y. for the Bonds for Israel Organization. In connection with this last there were many smaller assignments and a second large exposition in Florida.

At the moment I am occupied with a number of projects and am also assembling a small exhibit of my work for the Jewish Museum. This will be quite comprehensive, covering my work in calligraphy and lettering and the designs for books, advertisements and decorative object of all kinds including Jewish ceremonial pieces such as the menorah, Sabbath lamps etc. As a contemporary artist I have tried to retain the strength, beauty and simplicity of Hebrew traditional design but to strip it of the tasteless superfluities which have been added

Letter to Erich Mendelsohn
Second page of a draft letter to Erich Mendelsohn, 1953. Ismar David papers, box 1, folder 3, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT.

It would give me pleasure to meet with you again. Will you be in N.Y. in the near future? Perhaps we can arrange an appointment either here or in the West to which I may be traveling. I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience and in the meanwhile with kind regards and many good wishes I remain sincerely
Yours Ismar…

Letter from Erich Mendelsohn
Erich Mendelsohn’s response to a letter from Ismar David, 1953. Ismar David papers, box 1, folder 3, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT.

Dear Mr. David:

Thank you very much for your letter. I shall be happy to see you again, here or in New York.

In the meantime, could you send me photographs of some of your graphic work and especially of your ritual implements.

With kind regards,
Sincerely,
ERIC MENDELSOHN

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About Abysinnian House

Abyssinian House, later the Ethiopian Consulate Building, built between 1925 and 1928, one of a number of structures in the northwest of Jerusalem that are associated with the Ethiopian community.

Abysinnian House
Front of Abyssinian House on Ha-Neviim Street, Jerusalem. The Renaissance-style Italian Hospital building can be seen just beyond it, on the right. G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, Library of Congress

The devoutly religious Empress Zauditu of Ethiopia (1876–1930), first woman to head an internationally recognized nation in Africa, had Abyssinian House built not far from the Kidane Mehret Church. Brilliantly colored mosaics on the façade depict the symbol of the royal family, a crowned lion carrying a cross-topped flagstaff. The panel includes the motto , “The Lion of Judah is victorious,” written in Ge’ez. The building had been intended to serve as her residence when visiting Jerusalem, but she did not live to use it. Instead, the ground floor became the Ethiopian consulate and the two upper floors were rented out as apartments with the proceeds to benefit the Ethiopian monastery that had long been present in the city. An Ethiopian monarch did finally occupy the premises in 1936, after Italy seized Ethiopia and the Haile Selassie spent six months Jerusalem on his way to exile in London. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Ethiopia severed ties with Israel and the building’s a diplomatic function ceased.

At some point between his arrival in Jerusalem and moving into 8 KKL Street in Rehavia, Ismar David lived in Abyssinian House. His landlord or host was a Mr. Domowitz.1Summary of a meeting between Nahum Tishbi, Director of the Department of Trade and Industry with the Wolpert family, March 17, 1938. Central Zionist Archives S8\2292\1.

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