L’shana Tova

Posted on September 29th, 2016 by

At our Board meeting last week, we had our quarterly approval of new accessions to the JMM collection.  Just about every item we collect has a fascinating story behind it – but there was one set of items neatly tucked in a folder that really grabbed my attention.  It was a collection of “chromolithographs” donated by Myrna Siegel.  Joanna explained that these decorative die cut prints were fairly common in the late 19th and early 20th century… but it was the first set she had seen that was exclusively Jewish themed.  The collection included die cut “scraps” – typically used for early scrap books and home decorations and three rather elaborate Rosh Hashanah cards.

A beautiful Rosh Hashanah card.

A beautiful chromolithograph Rosh Hashanah card.

This got me thinking how traditional are Rosh Hashanah cards.  Regular readers of this blog post may remember my shock at learning that Dreidels are derived from a 16th century German Christmas toy.  Well it turns out that greeting cards/letters for Rosh Hashanah are also of German Jewish origin but have much deeper roots.  According to the Jewish Encyclopedia card giving for the High Holidays is documented in the Book of Customs of Rabbi Jacob in the 14th century.  That’s at least 500 years before the first secular New Year’s card is mailed. Though, truth be told, New Year’s rituals were explicitly discouraged by Christian churches until the late 1500s… so the secular New Year’s holiday itself is a relatively modern celebration.

The new cards are additions to some fascinating Rosh Hashanah greetings we already hold in our collection.

Some have classic themes:

1983.19.16d

1983.19.16d

But others stand out for their novelty, take for example this Jazz Age New Year’s greeting:

1991.141.2

1991.141.2

Among the most extraordinary items is this elaborate holiday greeting from 1917:

1991.9.5

1991.9.5

It is filled with symbols of the immigrant experience and filled with blessings in Hebrew and Yiddish, among these are:  May you live to be 120 years old”, ”May you be blessed on your coming, and on your going out”, ”May we have a life of life and peace and joy and happiness and pleasantness”, ”May you have peace, substantial earned income, good business success, enjoyment, happiness, salvation, pleasantness and everything good.”, ”Happy New Year, may your be inscribed in the book of life”, ”May you be delivered from all your enemies and plagues on your path… and may blessing issue from all your doings.”

99 Rosh Hashanah’s later – I wish you and your family all of the above.

~Marvin

MarvinBlog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

 

 

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Hanukkat in the Lloyd Street Synagogue

Posted on September 28th, 2016 by

Last week I observed a beautiful moment for the Jewish Museum of Maryland and we are not ready for the Festival of Lights yet!  For the past 10 years there was no mezuzah affixed to the doorpost of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. When the building went under renovations roughly 10 years ago, the mezuzah that had been on the building had been misplaced.  The beautiful moment I witnessed was the mezuzah being affixed once again to the building- or a Hanukkat (Dedication) of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The mezuzah is of biblical origin and there is reference to it in the Torah or Five Books of Moses. “And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts (mezuzot) of our house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:20). What is to be inscribed?  The passage reads, “The words that I shall tell you this day”: that you shall love your God, believe only in Him, keep His commandments, and pass all of this on to your children.

An important part of the mezuzah refers to the parchment inside, or klaf, on which the verses of the Torah are inscribed. The klaf must be hand-lettered by a kosher scribe — one who is observant of halakha (Jewish law) and who qualifies for the task.  The scroll is rolled up from left to right so that when it is unrolled the first words appear first. The scroll is inserted into the container but should not be permanently sealed because twice in seven years the parchment should be opened and inspected to see if any of the letters have faded or become damaged.

A mezuzah serves two functions: Every time you enter or leave, the mezuzah reminds you that you have a covenant with God; second, the mezuzah serves as a symbol to everyone else that this particular dwelling is constituted as a Jewish household, operating by a special set of rules, rituals, and beliefs.

Rabbi Mintz speaks about the scroll inside the mezuzah.

Rabbi Mintz speaks about the scroll inside the mezuzah.

Rabbi Eitan Mintz helped us with the dedication ceremony and shared with us some interesting facts about the placement of a mezuzah.  Many Jews tilt the mezuzah so that the top slants toward the room into which the door opens. This is done to accommodate the variant opinions of the great Jewish thinkers Rashi and of his grandson, Rabbeinu Tam, as to whether the mezuzah should be placed vertically (Rashi) or horizontally (Rabbeinu Tam). The compromise solution (top slant) was suggested by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher.

Rabbi Mintz and Marvin shake on a job well done!

Rabbi Mintz and Marvin shake on a job well done!

JMM Executive Director, Marvin Pinkert held the mezuzah against the spot upon which it is now affixed, and we all recited the blessing in Hebrew…

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשַׁנוּ בְּמִצְו‌ֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לִקְבּוֹעַ מְזוּזָה                                                              

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‘olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu liqboa‘ mezuzah.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue's new Jerusalem Stone mezuzah.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue’s new Jerusalem Stone mezuzah.

We hope that you will come down to the JMM to see our new mezuzah in the Lloyd Street Synagogue and other recent additions to the space.

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

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Once Upon a Time…01.15.2016

Posted on September 27th, 2016 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

2011029112Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  January 15, 2016

PastPerfect Accession #:  2011.029.112

Status: Unidentified! A Levindale resident participates in occupational therapy, 1963

 

 

 

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