ABOUT PAL-BELL'S FOUNDER: MAURICE ASCALON
- SCULPTOR MAURICE ASCALON
Maurice Ascalon was born Moshe Klein in eastern Hungary in 1913. From
an early age, he was determined to pursue his artistic yearnings,
however in order to do so, he was forced to abandon his ultra-
religious Chasidic Jewish routes for artistic expression was
frowned upon in the eastern Hungarian "Shtetl" in which he was
raised. When he was 15 years old Ascalon left his family and boyhood
home to study art at the Academy des Beaux Arts in Brussels. He took
with him, though, an in-depth understanding for the rituals and
traditions of the Jewish ceremonies, which knowledge he would later
apply to his artistic endeavors.
In 1934, after concluding his formal artistic training in Brussels
and later Milan, Ascalon immigrated to Israel (then Palestine). There
he met his wife-to-be, Ziporah Kartujinsky, a Polish-born Jew,
granddaughter to the distinguished cartographer and scientist of the
same surname. (Ziporah, who died in 1982, became a sculptor in her
own right late in her life, creating magnificent bas reliefs
depicting the Shtetl life of her childhood).
In 1939, Maurice Ascalon designed and created the enormous 14 foot
tall hammered copper relief sculpture of three figures, "The Toiler
of the Soil, the Laborer and the Scholar", which adorned the façade
of the Jewish Palestine Pavilion of the 1939 New York World's Fair.
Ascalon was commissioned to create this work by the noted Israeli
architect, Arie El-Hanani, who designed the historically significant
Pavilion which introduced the world to the concept of a modern Jewish
In the mid-1930's, Maurice (then with the last name "Klein") founded,
with his brother-in-law, the company Klein-Komm, which created a
variety of decorative craft items in wood and metal. Most of the
Klein-Komm items incorporated labor intensive hand-hammered
metalwork, and were thus produced in relatively small numbers.
In the late 1930s, Ascalon founded Pal Bell Co. Ltd., a decorative
arts manufacturing company which produced trademark bronze and brass
menorahs and other liturgical and secular decorative arts items that
were exported in large numbers worldwide. Ascalon's Pal Bell designs,
deco, others more traditional, introduced the use of "green patina"
(verdigris) to Israeli metalwork, which is now a hallmark of Israel's
crafts industry. During Israel's War for Independence in 1948,
Ascalon designed munitions for the Israeli Army and retrofitted the
Pal Bell factory to produce munitions for the war effort. In the 1956
Ascalon immigrated to the United States. It was shortly before he
relocated to the U.S. that he parted with his former surname "Klein",
and adopted the name "Ascalon", after the ancient biblical city.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Ascalon resided in New York and Los
Angeles. He gained a reputation as a master silversmith, creating the
ceremonial objects of Judaica he first learned of in his youth. For a
time, he served as a professor of sculpture on the fine arts faculty
of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.
In the late 1970s, Ascalon co-founded Ascalon Studios. Ascalon
Studios, located in the Philadelphia suburbs of New Jersey, became
(and still is today, under the direction of Maurice's son, David
Ascalon) a multifaceted art studio dedicated to the creation of
monumental sculpture and art for the adornment of worship and public
spaces. In February of 2003, Maurice Ascalon celebrated his 90th
birthday as a resident of Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he resided for
the past several years with his other son Adir Ascalon, an abstract
painter and sculptor known for his collaborations with the Mexican
artist Siqueiros. In May of 2003 Adir died suddenly after suffering a
massive stroke. Two months later, in August of 2003, Maurice passed
away, after a long, fruitful life, from complications related to
Parkinson's Disease, an illness he endured during most of the final
decade of his life. Ascalon was also survived by a daughter, Sarah
Ascalon Benjamin, a painter who resides in New York.
Maurice Ascalon's commissions include permanent installations at
synagogues and public spaces throughout the United States and Mexico.
His works have been exhibited at and are among the collections of
institutions including the Jewish Museum in New York, the Museum of
American Jewish History in Philadelphia, the Spertus Museum in
Chicago, and the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, where Ascalon