News & Events

Latest News

Below you will find the latest news from the front lines of the Szyk renaissance. Check back regularly to stay informed of major announcements.

Sale of The Arthur Szyk Collection and Archives to the Magnes Museum at UC Berkeley

I am very pleased to call to your attention the public announcement made by the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the University of California, Berkeley on April 3 that the largest single monetary gift to acquire art in the history of the University was used to purchase The Arthur Szyk Collection and Archives. The collection—the world’s largest and most important collection of Szyk art—which I personally assembled over more than 25 years will be formally known as the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection. With the acquisition of this collection, made possible through Tad Taube, chairman of Taube Philanthropies, the Magnes will become the institutional custodian of the legacy of Arthur Szyk. In support of this endeavor, the Board of Directors of The Arthur Szyk Society, for which I have had the privilege of serving as its in-kind curator for almost twenty years, has passed the mantle of institutional leadership to Dr. Francesco Spagnolo and his staff at the Magnes—a museum and research center first co-founded over 50 years ago by the late Seymour Fromer, former Vice-President of The Arthur Szyk Society. The Magnes is the third largest Jewish museum in the U.S.

The Magnes plans to welcome future Szyk researchers, students and scholars, into its doors on the UC campus and, and in cooperation with UC Berkeley, one of the most prestigious public universities in the United States, extend Szyk’s art globally for generations to come. Licensing requests for use of Arthur Szyk art should be directed to magnesrights@berkeley.edu. Questions regarding information about the collection should be directed to magnesresearch@berkeley.edu.

The Magnes Collection for Jewish Art and Life is located at 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley CA 94720. www.magnes.org

I will continue to be active in the world of Arthur Szyk and look forward to this coming September, when a major Szyk exhibition will open at the New-York Historical Society, for which I am serving as the guest curator. The exhibition will include a significant loan from the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection.

Irvin Ungar

April 18, 2017

A Personal Tribute to Arthur Szyk’s daughter, Alexandra Szyk Bracie (1922-2016)


Irvin Ungar and Alexandra Szyk Bracie relaxing at a hotel after an event at the US Capitol Rotunda for Yom HaShoah, 2002

Alexandra was born on March 19, 1922 in Lodz, Poland, the second child of Arthur Szyk and Julia Likierman. Her brother George, who fought for the Free French during WW II died in the late 1950s in New York. Alexandra died on August 18, 2016—94 years old—and 94 years young. On Sunday, I officiated at her funeral in New York at the New Montefiore cemetery in Pinelawn Memorial Park, Long Island where she was buried at the foot of her father in the family plot of the Forest Hills Jewish Center section. Alexandra Szyk Bracie was my friend for over 25 years, we loved Arthur Szyk together and we loved each other. Our journey has been an endless conversation of mutual admiration and respect and joy. She was a lady of boundless spirit, filled with youthfulness to the end which exuded from her wide smile, her uplifting voice, her intellectual curiosity, and her contagious enthusiasm. “Irv, tell me dear,” (about your family, about recent events with Arthur Szyk in the world, about the next exhibit, about how I am doing), and with each response came another smile, a laugh, and more questions. This was our routine during each of my visits to her Highland Beach, Florida condominium and then in the last few years at her New York apartment. She moved to Manhattan to be closer to her daughters, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren… and she was so happy about that. She was predeceased by her husband, Joseph Braciejowski (she was married to Joe in November, 1941, one month before Pearl Harbor…she was 19 years old…Rabbi Stephen S. Wise officiated!).


Alexandra with Szyk Society Coordinator, Allison Chang, Berlin, 2008

Here was a lady of keen intellect, of class and charm, of dignity and grace. One would never see Alexandra (some called her Alice or Alicia—her Hebrew name was Miriam) without her lipstick and her hair properly done, and always dressed just right for the occasion…. I will never forget the evening when she wore the most elegant cobalt blue dress for the opening of the Szyk exhibition in Berlin in August 2008…. She was stunning at age 87—greeted by museum directors and curators, diplomats and the press as an international celebrity (her picture appeared on the front page of a leading German newspaper across from Madonna!)… In Berlin she sat at the right side of the Director of the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) while he hosted a Queen’s dinner in her honor… Yes, much of course had to do with the fact she was Arthur Szyk’s daughter, but she became the center of attention on her own… in Lodz and Krakow in 2005 I witnessed her speaking in her native Polish—greeting journalists, filmmakers, and community leaders, while charming the US Ambassador to Poland at a July 4th reception gala in his Warsaw home…in Washington, DC she was honored by The Arthur Szyk Society and The Taube Foundation at a Four Seasons reception in conjunction with the 2002 opening of the exhibition “Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)…at the time, it was Hadassah Lieberman, our honored guest speaker, who was honored to meet Alexandra. And to hear her speak her impeccable French during our travels together was to picture her as a young girl growing up in Paris with her Polish nursemaid Monika in her family home, on the estate of her father’s patron and gallery owner Auguste Decour.


Alexandra (far right), sharing the front of a Berlin newspaper with Madonna

Alexandra loved life, embraced all of it… she referred to the great artist lovingly and formally as “Father”… from his diary accounts he loved her dearly… postponing all activities when she was ill as a child… and cherishing her until his death in 1951. Alexandra preserved his legacy, giving public talks, lending artwork for exhibitions, donating artwork to the permanent collections of the USHMM and the Library of Congress, the DHM and the Society of Illustrators, documents to YIVO and the New York Public Library… all while creating a legacy of her own.


Alexandra with Japanese Szyk collector, Rinjiro Sodei

Alexandra taught me some wonderful life lessons, and her life intertwined so preciously with mine—she, more than anyone, has been my partner in Arthur Szyk’s resurrection during my lifetime… but more than anything else… she taught me a spirit of optimism, of looking ahead, illuminating the past while embracing the future… I shall continue the journey with deep thanks and appreciation for a truly irreplaceable friend…

Irvin Ungar

August 24, 2016

In Memoriam… Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin (1946-2015)


Byron Sherwin

He was my friend, he was a mentor, and he was a collaborator in my work with Arthur Szyk. Byron died on May 22. Words cannot express how dearly I miss him. We talked regularly. Rabbi Sherwin was a profound scholar who made the most complex Hebrew texts and Jewish ideas accessible to the layman. He was clear, precise, and insightful. He was a thinking man’s thinker. He was a theologian, he was an ethicist, and he was an educator. He was the Distinguished Service Professor and Director of Doctoral Studies at Chicago’s Spertus Institute where he was on the faculty since 1970.

Many will recognize Rabbi Sherwin as the translator and commentator of The Szyk Haggadah that I published as a luxury limited edition in 2008, and which was reissued with an additional variant commentary by Byron in the publication created for Abrams Books popular edition in 2011. I first met him in the mid-1970s when, as a young Jewish educator participating in CAJE conferences, I attended his lectures. Years later, after I left the rabbinate (Forest Hills, NY 1974-80; Burlingame, CA 1980-87) I would seek out Byron’s High Holy Day sermons for spiritual insight and take them to the synagogue to read for myself during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. I would re-read many of them year after year (they always seemed so timely), and quite often passed them down the row to anyone sitting near me, anticipating the pleasure and inspiration others would receive from his words and instruction as well.

It was Byron whom I approached in 1996, almost a decade after I entered the rare book world as a dealer, and advocate for Arthur Szyk, and asked if he would host at the Spertus Museum an exhibition of Szyk’s artwork. In August 1998, “Justice Illuminated: The Art of Arthur Szyk” opened in Chicago for which I was the guest curator. A catalogue accompanied the exhibition; it was the first illustrated book about Arthur Szyk ever published. Byron wrote the Introduction to the book that I created. None of this would have ever happened without his invitation and encouragement.

Byron first met Arthur Szyk as a young boy in 1952 (Szyk died in 1951) when as he described it “my family had migrated from The Bronx to Queens. It was Rosh Hashanah. With my parents, I entered the main sanctuary of The Forest Hills Jewish Center, and there, towering above me, was the imposing Holy Ark, two stories tall….who created such imposing magnificence? Years later, I learned his name—Arthur Szyk.”

Bryon has written more than two dozen books and more than 150 articles and monographs. He was a protégé of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. In 2011, I visited the gravesite monument of the Hasidic luminary, the Seer of Lublin, in Poland—near it I put a note, calling upon this mystic of Jewish tradition to heal my friend who had been stricken with cancer a few months before. On the train ride from Warsaw to Lublin I carried with me Bryon’s book: Sparks Amidst the Ashes, The Spiritual Legacy of Polish Jewry (1997), heightening the meaning of the journey I was taking. Anyone who wishes to understand the history and richness of Jewish life in Poland over the centuries preceding the Holocaust in Eastern Europe should seek out this book.

Some titles of Byron’s other books are: How to be a Jew (1992), Why Be Good? (1998), Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-First Century (2000), Golems Among Us: How a Jewish Legend Can Help Us Navigate the Biotech Century (2004), Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism (2006), The Cubs and the Kabbalist: How a Kabbalah-Master Helped the Chicago Cubs Win Their First World Series since 1908 (2006), and Faith Finding Meaning: A Theology of Judaism (2009).

In 2002, The Arthur Szyk Society launched its traveling exhibition program, which has traversed the United States many times with venues at universities, museums, and community, cultural, and Holocaust centers. In 2005 it opened in Poland—in Krakow and Warsaw. Again, I called upon Byron—this time to write a Study Guide to accompany the exhibition “Justice Illuminated.” It is an indispensable educational guide to decoding and understanding Szyk’s artwork—it focuses on three themes: WWII and Holocaust, America, and Jewish Response.

In 2006 I set out to publish the new edition of The Szyk Haggadah which required a new translation and commentary, as historian and Oxford scholar Cecil Roth’s language and explanations for the 1940 edition proved to be too Victorian and antiquated, and often disconnected from Szyk’s artwork. I needed to find the one individual who was steeped in scholarship, and who could capture and interpret Szyk’s visual commentary for the modern age. There was only one such individual who was an expert in Bible, Talmud, Jewish History, Polish Jewry, Mysticism, who was a Master Educator, and who knew Arthur Szyk: Rabbi Byron Sherwin. His translation and commentary on the Passover Haggadah are unparalleled.

I am eternally grateful to Byron Sherwin for all his kindnesses, his guidance, his friendship, and for unlocking the door to let Arthur Szyk once again enter our world. It was he who provided the key that granted me the privilege and opportunity to journey with Szyk in his revival.

In my personal library are numerous copies of Byron’s books, he inscribed many of them: “To Irv, Szyk’s friend and mine.”

It is Byron who allowed me to fulfill that special relationship echoed by the Talmudic tradition: “Find yourself a teacher and you found yourself a friend.”

Irvin Ungar
CEO, Historicana
Burlingame, California

June 3, 2015

Steven Heller Crafts New Szyk Essay for The Atlantic

21st-century efforts return Szyk's political art to public consciousness

Anti-Christ. New York, 1942.

NEW YORK—Steve Heller, design expert and author, recently interviewed Irvin Ungar and on May 29, 2014 published a widely-shared essay on the political and social significance of Arthur Szyk’s art.

Referencing Szyk works such as “Anti-Christ” (right), the portrait of Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto which appeared on the cover of Time magazine (December 1941), and “Modern Moses” (1944), Heller discusses the messages of justice and freedom Szyk represented, and Irvin Ungar’s tireless campaign to raise Szyk awareness through presentations, exhibitions, and film.

Next: Check out the Szyk Events Calendar.