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Hugo Ballin's Los Angeles

Caroline Luce, Author

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Wilshire Boulevard Temple - Spandrels over West Arches

  • In Magnin's Words
  • Cinematic Influences
  • Source/Citations

Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin described Ballin's murals in a book published in 1974:
"Jewish Ceremonials and Customs -

Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement: Worshippers garbed in gowns and talethim beating their breasts in penitence.

Rosh Hashana or New Year typified by the blowing of the Shofar or Ram's Horn. Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. The hand of the angel outstretched bidding him to desist and the ram caught by his horns in the thicket. (Cf. Genesis Chapter XXII). The notes of the Shofar blasts.

The Passover typified by the Seder held on the first two evenings of the Passover. The empty chair and cup for Elijah the Prophet.

The Bar Mitzvah. The rabbi standing over the lad who is reading from the Torah.

The blessing over the Sabbath Lights."

In this portion of the mural, Ballin draws on familiar, realistic depictions of Jewish life to create a collage of scenes of "Jewish ceremonials and customs." Although the costumes suggest the scenes are occurring in days gone by, the modern viewer attending services at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in the 1930s would recognize these scenes as part of their own lives, Ballin thereby conveying the universal and transcendent nature of Jewish traditions. He presents the scene on multiple planes, using trees and walls to delineate them, but they are composed on the same scale and in the same style, thereby drawing the viewer's eye across. As a result, this portion of the mural feels like a montage in a movie capturing what Ballin regards as the essence of Jewish life and tradition. 

Caption from Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin's book, The Warner Murals in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles, California, published by the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 1974.

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