Yona Verwer  Temple Talismans

  Protection Amulets for Synagogues


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Copyright Yona Verwer, 2009-2020. All rights reserved.

Stanton St Shul Amulet 1

40” diameter, 2009.

Acrylic & gold leaf on canvas.

Manhattan’s downtown synagogue's Star of David is featured. The Statue of Liberty image is an homage to the immigrants who built this community; the statue symbolizes the freedom of religion in the U.S. Animals and candelabra are inspired by typically Galician Jewish motifs.

This image was exhibited at the the art exhibit "Tzelem" at the Stanton Street Synagogue in Manhattan. It has also been featured in Bar-Ilan University journal Ars Judaica: “Social Concern and Tikkun Olam in Jewish American Art” - by Professor Matthew Baigell (page 23,24).

Orchard Hamsa

16" x 20”, 2009


For the Orchard Street Shul in New Haven, CT, as part of the Cultural Heritage Artists Project, I made the Orchard Hamsa Amulets, prints of amulet-shaped objects with images which I assembled only for the duration of the photo session. These contain in their center the top half of the synagogue's tabernacle: lions, tablets, crown, and bible; the hamsa shape is echoed in the hands bestowing the priestly blessing.

Some of the line decorations on my hamsas are inspired by henna designs. In the Jewish Sephardic tradition henna was regarded as blessings, and brides typically had complex patterns, to support their joy, and wishes for luck.

Orchard Fish Red

16" x 20”, 2009


Orchard Fish Blue

16" x 20”, 2009


O. C. Blue Amulet

16” x 20", 2009


O.C. Blue was created for an Upper East Side synagogue in NYC. It features the building's stained glass window inside of a protective hamsa.

The hamsa was an ancient talismanic method of averting the Evil Eye, or more generally, of providing a "protecting hand" known to draw positive energy, happiness, riches and health. The hamsa (from the Semite root meaning five) includes five digits and symbolizes God's protective hand. It has been interpreted by scholars as a Jewish, Christian, or Islamic amulet. It has been called the hand of Fatima, and the hand of Miriam. In the Jewish tradition we know it as a kabbalistic amulet and as an important symbol in Jewish art.

My recent work features amulet shaped objects. My "Kabbala of Bling" series commented on the appropriation of Kabbalah by pop icons. The “City Charms” amulet photographs invoke protection from acts of destruction on buildings, particularly terror-watch-list targets.

For centuries amulets have been used as appeals for safety, health, and power. In the Jewish tradition  amulets often carried prayers and names to call upon for assistance. They gave the bearer "personal magic" to invoke a higher power to intercede. I was inspired by the Kabbalists who used amulets for intervening in the natural course of events.

Since the 9/11 attack I have become interested in issues of safety. In “City Charms”, amulet photographs invoke protection from the Evil Eye: acts of destruction on buildings, particularly terror-watch-list targets. I continue this theme in "Temple Talismans", the series shown here; these apotropaic images aim to invoke protection for synagogues against attacks.