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What an Assortment!

The lid of the tin which dates back to 1950

Vintage chocolate tins show Israeli scenes and traditions

Stephen Klein, a very successful Jewish Austrian chocolatier, fled Vienna in 1938 and eventually made it to New York. He was later joined there by his wife and young children, plus his seven brothers and sisters, who all managed to escape the Nazis.

Working out of a small New York abode Klein began to create chocolates again. Apart from his wife and children, a number of other members of his extended family also lived in the same apartment. They sold Klein's mouth-watering homemade confectionary from carts and stalls in the local neighborhoods.

Eventually, the business moved into larger premises in Brooklyn. It was here that Barton's Bonbonniere was born, fast becoming famous for its very special continental chocolates and sweets among Jewish as well as non-Jewish Americans. Klein's company produced special edition decorative tins full of sweetness for the Jewish holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah and Pesach (all of which were kosher). The chocolates in the tin often also contained a surprise holiday themed game or story placed among the edible goodies, much to the delight of the ever- growing Barton customers. The company also produced tinned special editions for other faiths, general holidays and special and historical occasions.

Klein cared deeply about his fellow refugees, whatever their ethnic or religious background, and as the business expanded, he employed hundreds of those newcomers. He also became heavily involved in Jewish organizations assisting those Jews who had remained in Europe.

Although, the special treats packed in those tins of long gone days would have appreciatively been consumed by the buyer or gift recipient, nowadays any of those vintage tins that have survived decades of wear and tear are highly sought-after collector's items. Two of these very special—mouthwatering in more ways than one—tins can be found in the Judaica collection of Israeli collector Aviram Paz.

Aviram, a member of a Lower Galilee kibbutz, gingerly placed the two tins alongside each other on the low coffee table, his pride brimming over as does the curiosity and wonderment level of this non-collector beholder! Both tins are pure works of art … literally. Manufactured in the 1950's the largerof the tins, both in circumference and height, is a pure celebration of the State of Israel, the second concentrates on the Rosh Hashanah and Succot holidays.

Some 25 cm in circumference and rather shallow, the smaller tin's art work is in glossy and vivid colors, and unlike the larger tin, all centered on the tin's lid. On the side, however, Barton's Continental Chocolates is written clearly and dated 1953.

The artist is Ilya Schor, a renowned painter, craftsman, metal worker, silversmith, and sculptor (1904-1961), who specialized in religious art in many different forms. On this Barton's chocolate tin, the Galicia born émigré to America depicts, in a circle within the outer rim of the circular lid, a moving, colorful synagogue scene in full of detail. An ornate chandelier hangs to the side of a decorative Ark, one of the men standing between the Bimah and the Ark is blowing a Shofar as other worshippers, some their Tallit draped around their shoulders and others their prayer shawl over their heads, stand praying in front and behind the shofar blower.

Two young boys in the foreground seem to be in a playful mood but at the same time in awe of the scene around them.

In another of the three round, elongated outer windows, so to speak, there is a small group of men, boys and a woman, carrying out Tashlich near a stream while another 'window' shows a family busy building their Succah. In the third window, three men carry Torah scrolls as young yeshiva bochers dance with flags on long poles as the Simchat Torah procession passes by.

Between the three panels around the central synagogue scene appears "L'Shana Tova Tikateivu," in decorative Hebrew letters. Whilst reading that greeting, one can almost hear Schor's characters, in unison, crying out "Chag sameach" to all those gathered around a festive table or in their Succah as the box of goodies is passed around.

"Only a limited number of these tins have managed to survive the ravages of time, and as far as I know, there is only one other the exact same as this particular Barton tin here in Israel and that is with a fellow Judaica collector," explains Aviram. "The 1950's was a time when painting on tin, known as the litho-tin method, was a popular medium, particularly in the world of modern Judaica art."

The second tin on the table is not only much deeper than the other, but also oval shaped, has long tin handles attached and therefore looks more like a basket than a regular confectionary or biscuit tin. The colors are more pastel shades and less vivid than those on the 1953 Barton tin. The date 1950 is clearly marked on the tin, place of manufacture and artist are unknown but Aviram is working on solving that mystery!

Scenes on the tin . . . working in a foundry and an Israeli Navy officer with a sexton

 The lid and deep sides of the tin take its viewer on an emotional roller-coaster ride through scenes of agricultural workers turning the soil in the fields of Kibbutz Kfar Blum and others hard at backbreaking work picking fruit. Also, a Kibbutz Ein Hashofet metal worker can be seen in the kibbutz foundry, other Israelis hard at work picking fruit. Amongst many small but descriptive scenes, a portrait of a uniformed Israeli Navy officer handling a sexton.

The Western Wall is also featured in another of the side panels as is a scene from a yeshiva and a synagogue. The Haifa Technion building, the Hadassah hospital and a new housing project in that city are all included with so much more on the round-the-Israeli-world on an oval tin on the table.

On the outer fold of the tin lid one can clearly see the date 1950 engraved, but the name of the artist is unfortunately lost in the fold around the lid where the tin material has been fashioned so as to fit tightly over the bottom section.

The oval shaped lid is awash with more paintings, in the most amazing detail. Here we see Israeli male and female soldiers, a Jewish National Fund map of Israel, a scene from the first Israeli Knesset and the United Nations, May, 11, 1949 vote of acceptance of the State of Israel.

"Life is like a box of chocolates," said Forrest Gump, but these litho-tin containers of deluxe chocolates and other confectionaries actually map out an incredible pictorial history lesson of a country, its people and their early achievements. They share a certain incredibility at the States bitter-sweet foundation but also almost as if in awe of the ongoing ingathering of the Jewish people in a country they called home from afar.

Looking again at the Barton's 1953 special Rosh Hashanah tin, one cannot but think of how tasty those contents would have been and the wonderful, lively and infectious art on the lid, definitely leaving them with a taste for more … of both chocolates and Judaic artistry.



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Thursday, 25 July 2024

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