Thursday, January 5, 2012

We Remember Manfred Anson

Shari Segel, our Manager of Special Events, worked in Collections and Exhibitions for many years before joining the Development Department. It is in this capacity that she had the privilege of getting to know artist and Judaica collector Manfred Anson, who passed away January 4. We asked her to share some of her memories with us.

Manfred was a “larger than life” personality. He was sent from Germany to Australia with other young men to escape the Holocaust, and his passion for Jewish history was conveyed in his marvelous Australian accent, a result of his many years spent there. His sister was in Terezin during the war.

After my initial visit to his home in 1989 with Peter (my husband), who was persuaded to drive me to Bergenfield, NJ, Manfred would be in touch by phone or with long typewritten letters with offers of material. In Australia he became involved in the jewelry and opal business, which he continued once he came to the U.S. in 1963. We bonded over opals, as my father was an artist who designed one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, using unusually cut opals in his work.

Manfred was renowned as a major Judaica collector and the day-long visit I made to his home was amazing; fascinating things everywhere you looked. Aside from a huge Statue of Liberty collection, which was the inspiration for his Statue of Liberty Menorah (pictured), he assembled the largest private collection in the world of Theodor Herzl memorabilia (which was later acquired by the Jewish Agency in a special ceremony in Israel in 2007).

As a collector of many eclectic things, he made it possible for us to acquire more than 200 Jewish New Year’s cards and 500 historic political buttons featuring Jewish candidates or aimed at the Jewish vote. His diverse interests are reflected in the wide range of materials from him in our collection: Hebrew language study books, a Nazi banner, Confederate $2 Bill, a ribbon from the 1st Wachnovker Aid Association, pre-war and Holocaust documents from several German-Jewish families, and my personal favorite, a book for new immigrants to America, “English for Coming Citizens” published in 1918 that is a primer to help adults learning English with text, exercises, and photographs on how to become a productive and good citizen in their new home.

We remained in touch over the years, having just spoken to him recently about items for the Emma Lazarus exhibition. I was just about to write to tell him about his silver Liberty Menorah being in the NYT review of Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles when I heard of his death. He will be missed.

The Liberty Menorah in bronze is in our Core Exhibition, and was a gift of Dr. Aaron J. Feingold in honor of Esther and Saul Feingold. Photo by Peter Goldberg (Shari's husband). Explore it in 3D!

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