Barr Foundation’s yad collection on display at Temple Emanu-El

by | May 25, 2019 | What’s Happening

Through August 11
Temple Emanu-El, 1 East 65th Street, New York City
Museum hours: Sunday–Thursday, 10 am–4 pm

Traveling to New York City during the next couple of months? If so, try to include a visit to Temple Emanu-El’s Bernard Museum of Judaica to view the Barr Foundation’s yad—pointer—collection.

Twenty-five years ago, Clay H. Barr began collecting yads. “I was inspired by Jay’s gift of two yads to Congregation Beth El just six months before he died,” she says of her husband, Jay D. A. Barr, of blessed memory.

“I wanted to inspire artists and craftsmen to create new Judaica,” says Barr. And, she has done so with her vast collection.

For thousands of years, Jews used simple tapered wooden sticks to point the way through the text of the Torah without touching the fragile parchment. Over the millennia, the yad has developed into a unique art form. Some are still carved out of wood, but others are now shaped from silver or graphite, from porcelain or glass, and even ornamented with gold, ivory, and jewels.

The yad has become an artistic chronicle of how Jews read and relate to the Torah, a story that may be explored in a wide-ranging exhibition of more than 200 pointers of all styles and national origins, some up to 400 years old.

“This exhibit is splendidly displayed,” says Barr.

The display draws from the Barr Foundation, as well as Torah ornaments belonging to the Bernard Museum of Judaica at Temple Emanu-El. The exhibit opened in February and has been so well received that it is now extended through August. For information, go to