ROKHL VISHNITSER-BERNSHTEYN (RACHEL WISCHNITZER-BERNSTEIN) (April 14, 1885-November 20, 1989)
She was born in Minsk, Byelorussia. Her family surname was Bernshteyn, and she acquired Vishnitser from her husband, the historian Dr. Mark Vishnitser. She graduated from high school in Warsaw, went on to study at the Universities of Heidelberg, Munich, and Berlin, and received her diploma from the school of architecture in Paris in 1907. When she was later living in the United States, she received her master’s degree from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She began writing in 1909-1910 for the Kiev Russian journal V mire iskustv (In the world of the arts). She later published articles on art and architecture in Evreiskaia entsiklopedia (Jewish encyclopedia) 3-16 (1910-1912). In 1914 she published (in Russian) in Istoriia evreiskago naroda (History of the Jewish people) (Moscow: Mir), vol. 1, pp. 390-404, a work on the art of Jews in Poland and Lithuania. Over the years 1922-1924, she published with her husband in Berlin the splendid art journal Milgroym (Pomegranate) in Yiddish and Rimon (Pomegranate) in Hebrew, and led the publisher Rimon in the area of major art publications in both languages. She was art editor for the journal and published in it a series of works on Jewish art. She was editor of the architecture and art division, 1925-1933, of the German Jewish Encyclopaedia Judaica (in German) in Berlin. She worked as curator of the Jewish Museum, 1934-1938, in Berlin. In those years she published (in Yiddish): “A shir hamayles in berliner yidishn muzey” (An amulet in the Berlin Jewish Museum), Heftn far yidisher kunst (Notebooks for Jewish art), published by the art museum at YIVO, 1 (1936); an article on Ribak in Y. ribak-bukh (Volume for Y. Ribak) (Paris, 1937), pp. 40-42. She immigrated to the United States in January 1940. She placed her work—in English—in the publications of the Jewish Publications Society in Philadelphia. In Yiddish: Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO) (New York) 17 (1946), pp. 174-77, book reviews; 18 (1946), pp. 206-7, “Perets in a krayzl varshever gimnazistkes” (Perets in a circle of Warsaw female high school students); 19 (1947), pp. 3-50, “Mizrekh-mayrevdike bindungen in der shul-arkhitektur fun 12 bizn 18 yorhundert” (East-West connections in school architecture from the twelfth through the 18th centuries), published separately as an offprint; the same essay appeared in English in YIVO Annual (New York) 2-3 (1947-1948); 33 (1949), pp. 220-24, review of a book on Chagall. She was art editor, 1941-1943, of the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia. Her books include: Symbole und Gestalten der jüdischen Kunst (Symbols and figures in Jewish art) (Berlin, 1935), 160 pp., with illustrations; The Messianic Theme in the Paintings of the Dura Synagogue (Chicago, 1948), 135 pp.; Synagogue Architecture in the United States (New York, 1955), 204 pp., with illustrations; and in Yiddish, a monograph entitled A moler fun 15tn yorhundert (A painter from the fifteenth century), in press in 1924 but possibly never published. She was assistant professor of art at Stern College in Yeshiva University (New York). She was a member of the administrative committee in the art division of the World Jewish Culture Congress and of its art jury. She died in New York [at the age of 104].
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1, cols. 998-99 (under the biography of Mark Vishnitser); Jüdisches Lexikon (Jewish handbook), vol. 2-4 (Berlin, 1930), p. 1458; Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 10 (New York, 1943), p. 532; Journal of Biblical Literature (New York) (June 1949); Gazette des Beaux Arts (Paris (March 1949); Revue biblique (Paris) (January 1950); A. Werner, in Jewish Spectator (May 1956).
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