Painting among the finalists in state-wide competition for Virginia’s most endangered artifact

by | Jan 20, 2022 | Trending News

A late 19th century oil painting of Lewis Nusbaum, an early member of both Ohef Sholom Temple and Beth El, is a finalist in the Virginia Association of Museum’s annual competition for Virginia’s most endangered artifact. The oil painting is one of many invaluable artifacts, photographs, and documents in Ohef Sholom Temple’s Mollie and George Radin Archive. The competition winner will be decided by public voting on the Association’s website.

Nusbaum was born in Germany in 1830, immigrated to the U.S. in 1849, and settled in Norfolk in 1850. He married Bettie Goldsmith, the daughter of Aaron and Caroline Goldsmith, in 1860, and the couple had four sons and a daughter.

Nusbaum founded the Nusbaum Book and Art Company, which was continued by his sons, Moses and Sidney Leon Nusbaum. A purveyor of the finest paintings and stationery, in addition to books and picture frames, the store was a landmark on Norfolk’s Main Street in the late 1800s and early 1900s. An early issue of The Norfolk Virginian Illustrated Edition “cheerfully recommend[ed]” the store, noting its “subscription and retail department [was] probably the most up-to-date in the State.”

A leading member of Norfolk’s growing business community, Nusbaum was also active in Tidewater’s Jewish community. He served in leadership roles in two historic local congregations. At Ohef Sholom Temple, he was elected vice president of the congregation and later served as president. He later was elected vice president of Beth El, briefly assuming leadership of the congregation after the death of its first president, Samuel Seldner. An early member of B’nai B’rith, he was instrumental in shaping and defining the Tidewater Jewish community, a distinction carried on by several of his descendants.

The painting sustained serious damage, probably through having been removed from its frame, rolled, and then flattened, which resulted in tears to the canvas. However, according to the Chrysler Museum’s art conservator Mark Lewis, if conserved, “the results would be dramatic.”

Competition is formidable in this year’s contest, so don’t miss this opportunity to cast a vote for this representative symbol of Tidewater’s rich Jewish history. Voting will be available on Virginia Association of Museums’ website, through Thursday, January 27. For more information, contact

Alice Titus