SECRETS FROM THE CHEST Exploring objects from the Jewish Museum and Archives of Budapest
DEAR READER, Author: Vera Dancz and Robert Zebulon Erdős Editor: Vera Dancz Translation: Robert Zebulon Erdős Consultant: Hannah Daisy Foster Design and prepress: Mimma Nosek Photos of the Trowel, the Judge’s Baton and the Munkácsi Family Legacy: Doron Ritter Cover design: Mimma Nosek Supported by: Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities
Published by the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives, Budapest, 2018 Hungary, 1075 Budapest, Síp u.12. E-mail: email@example.com www.milev.hu
Printed by Gyomai Kner Nyomda Director: Tamás Erdős ISBN 978-963-87083-8-0 All rights reserved Neither the entire work nor any part of it in any form (photo, microfilm or other media) can be reproduced or distributed without the prior written consent of the publisher.
If you would like to get to know an exciting place called the Jewish Museum and Archives of Budapest, then you’re in the right place! It is no surprise if you are interested in learning more about it, since it is full of treasures that you are about to see! You will find 13 objects (or in some cases pairs of objects) in this booklet that we will take a look at together. If you just happen to be in the Museum right now, then we encourage you to actually find the objects that we included in the booklet. Small icons will tell you which objects are on display at the moment. If you do not have the opportunity to walk through the exhibition in the museum, then don’t worry! We included beautiful, color pictures of every single object and document, and we even wrote you short but hopefully fascinating descriptions to go along with them. But the best way to understand these pieces is if we discover them together! You will see short questions and playful tasks to go along with each item. We encourage you to be as creative as you like when answering the questions and don’t hesitate to talk to someone about them because in most cases there aren’t any right or wrong answers. In fact, they’re great topics for discussion with your friends or parents. To help you out, we wrote down the definitions of a few words that we thought you might not have heard of before in the glossary at the end of the booklet. Feel free to always flip ahead to this section, since the words we wrote down will often make questions and descriptions much easier to understand. And now let’s finally get to know the story of our 13 objects! We are about to find out how they are all connected.
ICONS This object is on display! Try to find it in the Museum! This object can be researched in the Archives. Create!
Think about and then discuss these questions!
ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE LIVED TWO SPIDERS AMONGST THE TIGHTLY PACKED SHELVES OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM AND ARCHIVES OF BUDAPEST THAT SPENT ALL OF THEIR DAYS ROAMING THROUGH THE SEEMINGLY ENDLESS SHELVES WITHIN. Every day they visited their favorite objects in the storage. Most could even have been called old friends of theirs. On a Thursday afternoon in the height of winter, when blizzards blew through the city’s streets, and the sun slowly crept behind the dark clouds, they found a box. The box was full of treasure. Days of looking through it simply could not satisfy their curiosity because there was so much to see. Weeks later, however, the mysterious chest disappeared. Manó and Rebi, the two spiders, have visited every corner of the Jewish Museum and Archives in search of the treasures. They have gazed at the storages, walked through the research center, inspected the galleries, looked through the offices, and even surfed the online database and guiding application. By wandering through the Museum, they were lucky enough to find every single object and document they had been looking for from the chest. Let’s now meet the spiders themselves and the objects they found in the chest!
Use your imagination! Hi there! My name is Manó! My sister and I live inside of the Jewish Museum and Archives of Budapest. We spend a lot of our time in the storage space - an area that the museum’s staff makes sure to always keep dry. As you might have known that is exactly the kind of place we like to be in. Hey guys! My name is Rebeka, but all of my friends call me Rebi! We love living here because every day we get to see something very interesting from the past. Sometimes I feel like we are constantly traveling through time. So let us now show you our favorite objects - the ones that we found in a worn box on a shelf one day. Since that special moment, the objects have gone off their own ways, but now you too - just like us - will have a chance to get to know them.
1 PRAYER BOOKS
This was the first object we found when we began searching. You can find it too if you visit the exhibit.
There was a second slightly larger, but certainly not big, prayer book in the box lying next to the tiny prayer book we just talked about. This is a woman’s prayer book that is also handwritten and hand illustrated. There are three tasks that women in the Jewish religion must complete. They have to light the candles on Saturday, they must burn a small piece of dough when baking bread, and they have to go to the ritual Jewish bath that we call the „Mikvah.” In the book, there are drawings of precisely these three responsibilities. This prayer book is also in the exhibition because the curator decided to put both books on display. Can you find the other one (if you happen to be in the Museum)? MUSEUM FACTS The curator is the person who designs the theme, purpose, and message of an exhibit in a museum. They can personally choose which objects to put on display and how to place them in a gallery, so, naturally, some objects from the collection are not included in their plan. However, this does not mean that the artifacts that remain in the storage are not interesting or important. This is why the museum has made most of the collection accessible online. You might want to check out our website and browse its treasures on collections.milev.hu.
THIS IS THE FIRST OBJECT FROM THE CHEST!
We can see this small prayer book (a book containing the prayers that a Jew has to say during various occasions) on display in the museum just as we step into the permanent exhibition. This is an exhibit in the museum called “Tamid” – the Hebrew word for “always”. Let’s take a closer look! Scribes wrote this tiny little prayer book in the 19th century. Handwritten prayer books were still very popular even though the printing presses had already begun rolling across Europe by that time. People thought these handcrafted books were special. On the wrinkled pages of this book, there are small drawings illustrating the various prayers alongside the beautiful cursive letters. Jewish prayers books can address many different themes in life.This one includes the words to be recited during a new moon. In the Jewish calendar, each month lasts from one new moon to the next. Consequently, there is a distinct prayer and a few sketches to go along with this lunar event in our small book.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS PRETTIER, A HANDWRITTEN OR A PRINTED BOOK? WHAT KIND OF WRITING WOULD YOU BE HAPPY TO READ FROM A HANDWRITTEN PRODUCT, AND WHAT WOULD YOU PREFER TO BE PRINTED OUT WITH A MACHINE? IF YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE A FAVORITE STORY THEN TRY TO DRAW A FEW ILLUSTRATIONS FOR IT! CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE TALE WITH THE HELP OF YOUR DRAWINGS?
Look at how much we’ve learned about the Jewish religion and its traditions by simply looking at these prayer books. Come, let’s meet the other objects, and I think we’ll find answers to many of the questions we have right now.
ASIDE FROM THE CHANGING PHASES OF THE MOON, HOW ELSE CAN WE FOLLOW THE PASSING OF TIME IN NATURE?
TRY TO FIND OUT WHAT DAY TODAY IS ACCORDING TO THE JEWISH CALENDAR (HINT: LOOK UP “JEWISH CALENDAR” ON THE INTERNET)! 6
2 DONATION RECORDS FROM THE VILLAGE OF IRSA
THERE WAS A NICELY DECORATED RECORD BOOK IN THE CHEST AS WELL. A HEART-SHAPED DESIGN LIES ON ITS COVER. If we open the book, we’ll find ornate shapes on its pages, so be sure to look at the picture very closely. This is a book that recorded donations. Believe it or not (even if you’ve never heard of it before) the town of Albetirsa in Hungary was once two separate villages: Alberti and Irsa. This book recording various donations came to our museum from the Jewish Congregation of Irsa. In Jewish communities, charity is a fundamental value that we call Tzedakah. Congregations formed associations in Hungary to serve this purpose by handling and recording donations. They collected the donations and then distributed them amongst those in need. This is how the wealthier members of a community contributed to the wellbeing of the less fortunate. MUSEUM FACTS At our Archives, we preserve the documents of many Jewish communities that are usually no longer active. The collection is accessible to anyone who wishes to research or get to know the past and the stories of these various communities. It is always open for people interested in learning about what the everyday lives of their inhabitants were like. The job of the archivists or the people who work there is to help out all the visitors who come to the Archives. This document was not included in the exhibition, but you can research it and inspect it in the Archives.
WHAT DOES CHARITY MEAN? WHAT KIND OF CHARITY DO YOU KNOW OF OTHER THAN DONATIONS? WHAT'S THE ROLE OF CHARITY IN YOUR LIFE? THE RECORD-BOOK FROM IRSA BELONGS TO THE COLLECTIONS OF THE ARCHIVES. WHAT ELSE DO YOU THINK IS KEPT THERE? WHAT KINDS OF SHAPES AND PATTERNS DO YOU SEE ON THE BOOK’S PAGES? WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY COULD SYMBOLIZE?
When Manó gets a little tired of spinning a web, I always help him out.
This box (with the trowel, keys, etc.) was in the chest, and it is a very exciting object. Read about it here, so you can understand why!
LOOK AT THIS OBJECT CLOSELY. YES, YES, IT IS INDEED A TROWEL. All around the world, masons use it for construction, yet this one is somehow even more special. Believe it or not, the tool is made out of pure silver!
When parts of Budapest underwent reconstruction in the early 20th century, the Congregation acquired the land next to and behind the Synagogue and erected a cultural center there for the community. This eventually became the Jewish Museum and Archives. For the first time, the Museum received its own property that they did not have to share with anybody. The keys you might be able to see on the picture are the first keys to the most important gathering place for the Jews of Budapest, the Dohány Street Synagogue. These objects were placed in the museum’s collection in 1931 and have been kept here since, so that future generations can see this remnant of a triumphant memory. These are not the keys of isolation, quite on the contrary, the doors to this beautiful synagogue were always open to all who were interested.
WHAT DOOR DO YOU THINK THE LARGE KEY OPENED? HOW ABOUT THE SMALL ONE? DESIGN A KEY FOR YOUR ROOM OR APARTMENT!
These very tools laid the last bricks on September 6th of 1859: the day that an excited crowd of Hungarian Jews waited for Europe’s largest synagogue to open on the Dohány Street in Budapest. The renowned Austrian architect Ludwig Förster dreamed of and designed this wonderful building that for a long time was the world’s largest synagogue. To help finance such a momentous project, members of the Jewish community of Budapest could donate money for the construction by buying the future seats within the synagogue.
When we inaugurated my first web all of my friends were there, and we had a good time eating some cake. Have you ever been to any opening or inauguration ceremony?
WHY DO YOU THINK THE INAUGURATION OF THE DOHÁNY
! STREET SYNAGOGUE WAS A SPECIAL EVENT FOR THE JEWS OF BUDAPEST?
4 EMBROIDERED AND HANDWRITTEN HEBREW ALPHABET
Take a look at this other document. You can probably see that it not only contains some Hebrew letters but the entire alphabet. A student learning Hebrew hand wrote the document in 1835. In the 19th century, it was typical for students to supplement their textbooks with handwritten notes. This alphabet was at one point just a paper in somebody’s notes that they took out countless times to help read Hebrew texts.
Ahhh, the Hebrew letters! We've already learned all of them. Are you familiar with the Hebrew letters and language?
COLOR IN THESE HEBREW LETTERS, OR DESIGN A PATTERN ON THEM JUST AS YOU CAN SEE ON THE EMBROIDERIES.
DO YOU LIKE DOING EMBROIDERY? PERHAPS YOU’VE TRIED IT BEFORE, BUT TODAY IT ISN’T NEARLY AS POPULAR AS IT ONCE WAS. In the 18th century embroidery was a common pastime for young women and teenage girls. They often sewed letters, numbers, or patterns and decorations. Most of the embroidered patterns we have left today have Latin letters on them. You know -- the kind of letters we use in English. But these embroideries on our picture don’t have any trace of Latin letters. Can you recognize the letters? Yes, you’re right, they’re Hebrew letters. So, as you can see, we can find embroideries with Hebrew letters as well, which shows that this practice was popular in Jewish communities too. At the moment this object is in the storage, but take a walk through the exhibit and look around carefully because I think you will find some alphabets there as well. If you do not happen to be in Budapest or at the Museum right now, then look through our app to find the embroidered alphabet (the app is called MILEV). 12
LOOK AT THIS ALPHABET AND TRY TO WRITE DOWN YOUR NAME USING HEBREW LETTERS. BE CAREFUL BECAUSE IN HEBREW WE WRITE FROM RIGHT TO LEFT!
I’ve written Hebrew letters by hand before, but never ever have I embroidered any.
COMPARE THE TWO ALPHABETS WE TALKED ABOUT.
! WHAT ARE THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES?
5 THE JUDGE’S BATON
THE JUDGE’S BATON WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT SYMBOL OF HUNGARIAN JUDGES IN THE PAST. Just as the gavel is significant in American courts, the baton was crucial to Hungarian trials back in the days. But why did this baton become an artifact on display at the Jewish Museum?
A JUDGE MUST SETTLE CONFLICTS BETWEEN TWO PARTIES. WHAT KINDS OF ISSUES ! DO YOU THINK WERE RAISED IN FRONT OF THE JUDGE IN KISMARTON?
IF YOU COULD INVENT THE SYMBOL OR BADGE OF A JUDGE IN AN IMAGINARY WORLD WHAT KIND OF OBJECT WOULD IT BE? WHY? DRAW IT!
Aww I think I would need a smaller baton because this one’s too big for me!
When a large number of Jews emigrated to Hungary in the 18th century, they could not settle wherever they pleased. At the time the law required Jews to gain a permit to start a home somewhere in the country. The squire or landowner’s permission was even necessary for the construction of a family house on the owner’s land. Large amounts of land in Hungary during that era belonged to the estate of various squires who farmed or rented out their territory. A contract had to be created between the owner of the land and the Jews to form a Jewish community that described its rights and fundamental laws. This is the kind of document that enabled the Jews in Kismarton (or Eisenstadt as it is now know) to construct a synagogue, open stores, and have a court. In 1732 the squire gave this ornately carved baton to the Jewish judge. It symbolized that the Jews of Kismarton could live independently with their own regulations and own court. They could bring their own decisions on issues concerning the members of the community.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT A COURT OF LAW IS? WHAT DO YOU THINK PEOPLE DO THERE?
6 MICROGRAPHY CODEX PAGE WITH MICROGRAPHIC DECORATION THIS IS A VERY VERY OLD DOCUMENT. Look at it as closely as possible; take out a magnifying glass to catch every detail. You can probably see that its corners have either fallen off with time or are crudely folded under it and that in the center there are fold lines. You can see that this is a part of a larger document since the patterns and the writing on it do not end - they’re just cut off. This is the oldest document in our Archives. How old do you think it is?
We can assume that someone over the past few centuries tore the original document into several pieces and used it for strengthening the inner covers of books. Luckily, this one segment remained as a remnant of its brighter past.
That means it isn’t even a drawing! It is writing, which happens to form a recognizable shape. This is what we call micrography. Eve is handing an apple to Adam, and between them, you can see a snake wrapping around a tree. In Judaism, it is strictly prohibited to draw or paint humans (2nd commandment), so micrography was the way Jews could get around these rules. Jewish religious texts can only be written with a special kosher ink that makes long-lasting marks on the parchment because once the smallest detail of any letter fades, the text is no longer holy. Unfortunately, this ink usually degrades the parchment over time leaving behind holes. This is called ink corrosion and sadly it affects many documents including this one. MUSEUM FACTS There are even documents in the archives that were written on paper instead of parchment with this specific kosher ink. The strong ink ate away at these papers much earlier, so many of these writings and books had to undergo restoration. The restorers do not strive to magically turn these artifacts back to their original condition. They aim to stop the process that could potentially destroy the paper or parchment. In the case of ink corrosion, they stop the paper from deteriorating further.
This document is not made out of paper, it is parchment, or leather as it might be more familiar to you. It is a material sturdier than paper. The piece of parchment in the picture contains the 7th to 39th verses of the first volume of the Book of Chronicles the last part of the Hebrew Bible - and micrographic drawing. If you closely observe the shapes on the page, you will actually see that every single part of the drawing is made out of Hebrew letters.
HOW DOES MICROGRAPHY RELATE TO THE 2ND COMMANDMENT?
WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE USE MICROGRAPHY?
! WHAT WOULD YOU USE IT FOR IN YOUR LIFE?
WRITE A MESSAGE USING MICROGRAPHY!
7 SPICE BOX
Guess what, we've even seen the inside of the tower-shaped spice box!
WHAT COULD THIS INTRICATE AND BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED, DELICATE, NARROW, SILVER OBJECT POSSIBLY BE? Did you think it’s a tower or castle that holds the princess from a fairy tale you heard countless times as a young child? Nice try. If you’re wondering - which I’m sure you are this is a spice box. In Judaism, it has an important role in a special tradition that Jews celebrate every Saturday - the so-called Havdalah. After Jews say a blessing for the wine and for the lights during this ritual, they smell the scent of a few strong spices that are kept in this special spice box. The pleasant scent of the spices reminds one of the joys of the Saturday holiday in the evening just as the celebrations come to a close.
Manó and Rebi found this spice box in the chest. They were very happy to encounter it again amongst many other similar but also different spice boxes in the exhibition. When they are all together, you can compare the different boxes to observe their similarities and differences. Now if you take a step back from the glass case to look at all the boxes at once, does it remind you of a city with many towers? Well, in any case, that was the goal of the curators when they placed these objects next to each other. Together they create a very different atmosphere in the case than if they were alone.
Ever since it became popular in the 16th century, the tower has been the most common shape for spice boxes in Hungary. In Jewish texts towers often symbolize the power and help that God gives us. Their design usually reflects the architectural practices of the area where the smith made them. The tower can be inspired by any kind of building you might find in a town from temples or synagogues to just regular mansions or government palaces. It is important to remember, though, that these spice boxes can have any shape whatsoever. As long as the box has several openings on it for the smell of the spices to travel through, it can take shapes ranging from animals such as fish and turkey to boats, pomegranates, and anything you can imagine.
WHAT IS THE MOST PLEASANT SMELL YOU HAVE EVER SENSED? WHAT SCENT WOULD
! YOU BE HAPPY TO SMELL RIGHT NOW?
DRAW A BUILDING TO GO ALONG WITH THE TOWER FORMED BY THE SPICE BOX. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ORIGINAL STRUCTURE THAT INSPIRED THIS BOX LOOKED LIKE? WHAT OTHER SHAPES DO THE SPICE BOXES IN OUR COLLECTION HAVE? GO INTO THE EXHIBIT ITSELF, OR DOWNLOAD THE MILEV APPLICATION AND CHECK OUT THE OBJECTS WITH YOUR PHONE.
Have you ever tried smelling any spices? Let me tell you the last time I tried, I sneezed so hard you can't even imagine.
SENDING POSTCARDS IS ALWAYS A GREAT THING TO DO. PERHAPS RECEIVING THEM IS EVEN BETTER! Do you ever send postcards? Have you ever received one? Today it might not be as popular as it once was. There are specific occasions in our lives to send these kind messages; for example, when we travel we sometimes write to those who were unable to come with us. Other times we send postcards to forward our good wishes to those who live far away from us. This is why postcards became popular in the Jewish culture. Good wishes and felicitations have important roles in Judaism.
Today postcards are not the only way to send somebody kind wishes: the internet and phones have also worked to bridge the gap between friends and family living far from us and they help in communicating with them.
So in the past, when these modern technologies had not been invented yet, postcards were much more popular. They had a wide range of illustrations on them including paintings, graphic designs, and sometimes even photographs. The few cards the spiders found in the chest are only a fraction of the enormous collection of postcards that the museum has. There are so many in fact, that the curators of the exhibit did not have enough space to put all of them on display. The museum uses these postcards for many different purposes. We even have a small book that teaches you about Jewish holidays through a variety of cards. If you observe them closely, you will once again enhance your knowledge of the past. Let’s try it together!
WHAT KIND OF SYMBOLS OR ACTIONS CAN YOU SEE ON THE POSTCARDS THAT REMIND YOU OF JUDAISM? TO HELP YOU RECOGNIZE THEM, TAKE A LOOK AT THE GLOSSARY AT THE END OF THIS BOOK.
DO YOU EVER SEND GOOD WISHES TO YOUR FRIENDS OR CONGRATULATE THEM ON THEIR BIRTHDAYS? WHAT MEDIUM DO YOU USE TO DO IT? PHONES? EMAIL? SKYPE? MAYBE EVEN POSTCARDS? WRITE A POSTCARD TO A CLOSE FRIEND OF YOURS!
I love postcards! I like writing them, sending them, and it makes me extremely happy to receive one. But here in the museum, I spend hours just looking at them because they are so exciting! You can find postcards in the exhibition!
9 SELF-PORTRAIT OF IZSÁK PERLMUTTER
DRAW YOUR OWN SELF-PORTRAIT! CONSIDER WHERE YOU WOULD PAINT YOURSELF. THINK ABOUT THE PLACES THAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU.
THIS PAINTING WAS THE LARGEST AND MOST COLORFUL OBJECT IN THE CHEST THAT THE SPIDERS FOUND. Manó and Rebi loved looking at it. Let your eyes drift over the painting. Notice the warm red colors, the shadows of the declining sun, and stare into the eyes of the gentleman before you. His name is Izsák Perlmutter - the artist who created this piece. Therefore, this is a self-portrait. If you observe the objects in the room from the seemingly comfortable chairs, to the clock on the wall, and the elegant attire of Perlmutter you will not notice any signs of his religion - Judaism. Many Jews in Hungary in the 19th and early 20th century underwent something called assimilation. They changed many of their habits and traditions to become more accepted members of the non-Jewish community of Hungary. The Jews wanted to modernize their practices to fit the expectations of the time. Upon Perlmutter’s death in 1932 he left the majority of his wealth including his villa in the suburbs and his large apartment building in the heart of Budapest to the Jewish Museum and congregation. This once again reminds us of the importance of charity in Judaism. His last hope was to help his community flourish.
DOES THIS PAINTING REMIND YOU IN ANY WAY OF A PIECE OF ARTWORK YOU SAW IN THE PAST? IF SO, WRITE A FEW WORDS ABOUT IT EXPLAINING THE CONNECTION. MAYBE THE SUBJECT, SHAPES, OR COLORS ARE FAMILIAR.
MUSEUM FACTS The collections of most museums, including that of the Jewish Museum and Archives of Budapest, grow in size as a result of donations and purchases. The objects and papers that you see in an exhibition are there more often than not because someone at some point gave them to the museum. They wanted them to be preserved and put on display for others in the present and future to see.
Think about the items and symbols we’ve already talked about today!
HAVE YOU SEEN ANY OBJECTS IN YOUR HOUSE
! OR SOMEONE ELSE’S HOME THAT REMIND YOU OF JUDAISM?
10 CHILDBED PLAQUE
LOOK AT ALL THOSE COLORS AND DESIGNS ON THIS PAPER. WHAT COULD IT POSSIBLY BE? There are colorful flowers running along the margins and lines, and inside the patterns, you will see Hebrew letters again. This document is actually an amulet or childbed plaque that protects newborn babies. According to an old Jewish legend, Lilith, the first wife of Adam, married the devil after leaving him, and since then has been robbing infants with demons by her side. The childbed plaques were placed in the rooms of babies to keep Lilith away. The amulet helps keep homes peaceful, which We love being in the Transparent Storage is a fundamental Jewish value. MUSEUM FACTS
because just like old documents, we also enjoy dry air the most.
This plaque on the picture can be found in the Transparent Storage. Aside from maintaining the proper conditions for storing old documents, this is a special storage area that you can visit with one of the archivists. The archivists regulate the temperature and humidity in this room to create the perfect environment for the documents and objects that are stored there. My advice for you is to contact the Archives and schedule a time when you can spend some time there.
DO YOU HAVE AN AMULET THAT BRINGS YOU LUCK OR PROTECTS YOU? WHAT IS IT?
! WHAT IS ITS STORY?
WHAT KINDS OF OTHER AMULETS HAVE YOU HEARD OF BEFORE? WHAT DO THEY
! PROTECT PEOPLE FROM?
A DIFFERENT CHILDBED PLAQUE IS ON DISPLAY IN THE EXHIBIT RIGHT NOW. TRY TO FIND IT! THERE IS ALSO A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF AMULET IN ONE OF THE GLASS CASES. GO LOOK FOR THIS ONE TOO! IF YOU CAN’T GO TO THE MUSEUM RIGHT NOT, THEN USE THE “MILEV” APPLICATION ON YOUR PHONE.
11 SATURDAY CANDLEHOLDERS
LOOK AT THESE OBJECTS! I THINK YOU WILL REALIZE THAT THESE ARE INDEED CANDLEHOLDERS. Perhaps you’ve seen something similar before. These objects went from the storage to our museum’s permanent exhibition, from our chest to a glass case full of similar candleholders. All the candleholders placed together are beautiful, but I suggest we also look at them one by one.
How many Jewish symbols or motifs do we know about so far? Which ones did you choose to draw?
Jews use the candleholder with two branches when celebrating Shabbat - the Saturday holiday. Shabbat begins on Friday night according to Jewish tradition. The mother in a family always lights two candles to greet the incoming Saturday. Whenever we see a candleholder with two branches in the Jewish Museum, we can immediately think of Saturday. Now let’s take another look at these items. How would we know that these are candleholders meant to be used for celebrating Saturday if they were not in the Museum? Are there any signs on them to suggest their special purpose? What kinds of rules do they have to meet in order to qualify for use in the celebratory ritual? Let me tell you that there are no regulations on what they must look like. So if you think you might have seen a very similar candleholder under completely different circumstances before, then you’re probably not mistaken. These objects only become Judaica (Jewish ceremonial items/art), if we actually use them in Jewish rituals. On the outside, they do not have to have any details that would suggest they are Jewish. Any candleholder can be used to celebrate Saturday as long as it has two branches.
EVEN THOUGH A SHABBAT CANDLEHOLDER WOULD STILL BE A JEWISH CEREMONIAL ITEM IF THERE IS NOTHING TO DISTINGUISH IT FROM AN EVERYDAY VERSION, DRAW A FEW SYMBOLS/DESIGNS ON IT TO SHOW ITS JEWISH BACKGROUND.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE
! TOGETHER WITH THE FAMILY WHEN LIGHTING CANDLES ON FRIDAY NIGHT? FOR WHICH HOLIDAYS DOES YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY GATHER TOGETHER? 27
12 SHIVITI PLAQUE
Many decades ago this plaque marked the direction of east in a synagogue in a Hungarian town called Gyöngyös. Since it was in a synagogue, it is a Shiviti plaque. Can you see the animals on it? And the Hebrew text? This ornate document contains numerous important texts. Most of the lace patterns around the animals consist of Hebrew letters. MUSEUM FACTS The Museum’s staff believes that it is crucial to have the entire collection accessible from anywhere in the world for anybody who is interested. This is why the collection’s online database is constantly expanding. The database is sort of like an online museum where you can see photos and information on most objects in our collection. You can actually find this plaque on our website too. However, only a small part of the collection is displayed in exhibitions and most objects are in the storage. After looking at the objects from the chest, you’ve probably realized that there are many fascinating items in the museums beyond the ones in glass cases. I am sure that there are one or two things from the Museum that you would want to examine from home. So if you’re interested, then you can always look up the Museum’s website or download the Museum’s guiding application (MILEV). We hope you will have fun learning more about our treasures through the Internet!
WHAT KIND OF ANIMALS CAN YOU SEE ON THE PAPER? WHAT VALUES DO YOU THINK THESE ANIMALS REPRESENT OR SYMBOLIZE?
WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS BEAUTIFUL PLAQUE IS MADE OF? Perhaps it reminds you of the dusty old lace tablecloths that your grandmother has on her table. This is quite similar. However, this plaque is actually made out of paper, and it is usually called a Mizrah or a Shiviti plaque. Now we’ll tell you what these two new words mean. The so-called Mizrah plaques show us which direction east is in. Mizrah literally means “east” in Hebrew. Every time someone prays, they must be facing east because that is the direction of Jerusalem. We can often find Mizrah plaques in Jewish homes to show the direction of prayer. Mizrah plaques can also be seen on the walls of synagogues, but these ones have a special name: they are called Shiviti plaques. The name comes from a biblical quote that’s written on the plaque itself: “Shiviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid” meaning “I place God before me always.” (Psalms 16:8)
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHICH WOULD YOU BE? WHY? WHICH CHARACTERISTIC OF IT APPEALS TO YOU?
Too bad there aren't any spiders cut out on the paper!
IS THERE A PLACE THAT IS REALLY ! IMPORTANT TO YOU, BUT IS FAR AWAY FROM WHERE YOU LIVE?
13 THE MUNKÁCSI FAMILY LEGACY DO YOU HEAR THE NOTES DANCING OFF THE STRINGS OF VIOLINS AND THE CHIMES OF TRIANGLES?
WRITE A STORY ABOUT THE FORMER OWNERS OF THESE OBJECTS BASED ON WHAT YOU SEE IN THE PICTURE. WHAT CAN WE LEARN ABOUT THE MUNKÁCSI FAMILY THROUGH THIS BOX OF ITEMS? WHAT WOULD YOU IMAGINE THIS FAMILY LOOKED LIKE (WAS IT LARGE OR SMALL, HAPPY OR SAD, ETC.)?
Can you see the lady in her long gown swirling through the room? Well, I guess you probably can’t, but if you take a close look at the box right over here you just might be able to imagine all the elegant balls and carnivals that the shoes in it lived through. This collection of objects contains the heritage of the family of the renowned academic Bernát Munkácsi. Bernát organized all of the education for the Jewish Congregation of Budapest. His son - Ernő Munkácsi - went on to inherit this chest of his ancestors’ personal items. Ernő’s name is important to us because he led our Museum from 1931 to 1945. Meanwhile, these treasures only reached their home at the museum many years later when Ernő’s daughter Maya donated them in 2013. Sadly, time gradually sweeps away the memories of the people who lived amongst us decades or centuries earlier. However, objects like these ones preserve the faces and stories of our ancestors for all of us to see many years later.
WHY DO YOU THINK MAYA DONATED THESE OBJECTS TO THE MUSEUM?
I still have the wing of the first fly my grandparents caught at home. Do you have anything you cherish that belonged to your ancestors?
CAN YOU NOW SEE HOW MUCH THESE OBJECTS TELL US ABOUT THE PAST? Look at the objects one by one. Look at their size and what material they’re made out of. When and for what purpose could they have been made? Who did they belong to and who created them? When and why did they get entered into the Museum’s collection? What has been the fate of these objects since then? They have been in the storage, on display, and now in this book. If you ever find yourself in a museum (which will definitely happen to you many times), pay close attention to what objects are next to and across from the items you’re interested in. The surroundings will often add more meaning to your understanding of that one artifact in an exhibit that caught your attention. As you’ve probably realized, by observing the objects from different perspectives, you can learn more about the past, various Jewish traditions, the concept of family, and the story of the Museum.
THE SPIDERS FOUND THESE OBJECTS HIDDEN DEEP IN A BOX DEEP INSIDE OF THE MUSEUM’S STORAGE AND JUST THINK HOW MUCH THEY TELL US ABOUT THE PAST. They each have distinct stories and fates - every single one gives us an exciting view into the distant times behind us. Now it’s your turn to make a treasure chest for the future to see. What would you place in it that would show your descendants what your life is like today? Consider the things you do in your free time and during your average day.
These are the perspectives that the curators consider while designing a new exhibition. Choose an object, look at it as closely as you can, then observe the items around and across from it. How many different stories can you learn from that one single object? We’ve also packed a chest of objects from our lives that we thought might be interesting for the citizens of the future. Come back in 100 years and take a look!
Now you’ve seen our favorite objects from the chest we found. It was such a pleasure to show them to you! We hope you enjoyed getting to know the objects! See you soon!
GLOSSARY Amulet: an object that brings miracles and protects its owner. Tradition tells us that Jewish amulets only work if God and the names of the protective angels are present on them. Ark: an ornate shelf covered by a curtain on the east wall of a synagogue where the Torah scrolls are kept. Book of Chronicles: one of the books in the Jewish Bible. Hebrew language: the Hebrew language is related to the ancient languages of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Punic, as well as the still-spoken Arabic. Hebrew was the original language of the Israelites, it was what the kings and prophets spoke in the Promised Land, and it is the language the Jewish Bible was written in. Today it is the official language of the State of Israel. Jerusalem Temple: the Jerusalem Temple was the hub for Jewish religious and cultural life in biblical times. A special room within the Temple known as the Holy of Holies housed the Ark of the Covenant containing the two stone tablets that Moses had brought down from Mt. Sinai. The direct descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses, known as priests or “Kohen” performed all of the necessary duties within the temple. According to the Jewish religion, God’s presence dwelled in the Holy of Holies, which could only be entered by the High Priest once a year. The first Jerusalem Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed when the Babylonians laid siege on Jerusalem, and the Second Temple built by Herod the Great was demolished by the Romans in 70 CE. All that was (and is) left of the Second Temple is its Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, which has ever since then been the holiest place for Jews. It is believed that the Temple will be rebuilt again with the arrival of the Messiah. Kippah (Yarmulka): a small, round cap worn by Jewish men so that their heads are not uncovered. Today in Hungary the kippah is only worn in religious institutions. Luach: the Jewish calendar, the order of the holidays. Menorah: the seven-branched candleholder that once stood in the now long destroyed temple in Jerusalem has become a symbol of Judaism and is even a part of the coat of arms of the State of Israel.
Mezuzah: a scroll containing biblical texts that is nailed onto the right side of door frames. Its presence reminds us of the story of the Jews’ escape from Egypt. The scroll is kept in a special case. Religious regulations only dictate what should be written on the scrolls and do not speak of the containers. As a result, the casing can take any shape as long as it protects the scroll within from fading, and thus from becoming unusable. Micrography: religious texts that are usually written with very small letters to form the shape of plants, animals, or humans. Jews used micrography to avoid breaking the rule found in the 2nd commandment prohibiting the drawing/painting of humans. Mikvah: The Jewish ritual baths that contain living (i.e. river) water. It is mandatory to completely submerge oneself in the water for women following menstruation or giving birth, for those who had just converted to Judaism, and for men before certain holidays. Mizrah: east or the direction of Jerusalem according to European tradition. Parchment: writing material made of animal skin. Payot: sidelocks. Religious Jewish men do not cut the hair growing by their temples, which eventually grows quite long to form sidelocks. Rabbi: Jewish teacher. A rabbi is a respectable person who decides whether something is kosher, can dissolve unfulfilled promises, and is the only one who can settle disputes between two Jews. The rabbi gives speeches during Jewish holidays and holds a yeshiva (school) for students seeking to learn about Jewish religious laws and traditions. Synagogue: the word synagogue originates back from Greece and means the house of gathering. The synagogue became the most important center of religious life for Jews after the destruction of the Jewish holy temple. The synagogue was not only the place where Jews prayed and studied, but was also the center of their social life, and was a building where the community could gather to discuss their major issues. Official decisions amongst Jews were always read aloud in the synagogue, where teachers and students alike spent their entire day studying the Torah. Jews pray three times together in the synagogue every single day. Tallit: a garment with four corners that Jews wear while praying. Black or dark blue lines run along its length as decoration. In ancient times Jew wore the tallit naturally throughout the entire day, however, today it is only used during prayer. 35
LIST OF OBJECTS THAT APPEARED IN THIS PUBLICATION
Tefillin: Two leather cases with belts coming out of them containing parchment scrolls with biblical texts on them. One of the cases is twisted around one’s left arm, while the other is put on the head during the morning prayers on weekdays. Torah: the five books of Moses. According to the Jewish tradition, Moses received the written Torah and the oral Torah - which was later recorded in what is known as the Talmud - on Mt. Sinai. Every Saturday Jews read one chapter, the weekly passage, from the five books that make up the Torah, and it takes them a year to read the entire text. Torah Crown: the object that decorates the textile covering the rolled up Torah scroll. Torah Shield: a Torah decoration made out of metal or silver that is hung around the rolled up Torah. Tzedakah: Charity, donation
1. Prayer Books Prayerbook for Special Blessings 1739 Museum purchase, 1912 64.618 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/27291 Grace after Meals prayer book Creator: Meshullam Ziml Polna (today: Czech Republik) 1750-1751 Museum purchase, 1953. 64.626 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/28541 2. Donation record from the village of Irsa Donation record Irsa (today: Albertirsa) 1823 71.172 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/27307 3. Trowel Set of trowel and synagogue keys 6th of September 1859. Donated by Lajos Stöckler, 1948 64.37 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/31376
Photograph of the Dohany street synagogue Creator: Zoltán Seidner 00.178 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/31273 4. Embroidered and handwritten Hebrew alphabet Embroidered Sampler Creator: Frumet, wife of Josef BS 1813 Donated by Vilmos Paskusz,1935. 64.1277 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/34283
Handwritten Hebrew Alphabet Creator: Károly László Debrecen 1835 Unknown donation, 1960. XIX-100-3. (80.2) http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/27446 5. The judge’s baton Judge’s baton Kismarton (Eisenstadt) 1732 Donated by Aladar Fürst, 1935. 64.1361 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/29031
6. Micrography - Codex page with micrographic decoration Book of Chronicles 13th century Museum purchase, 1950 64.633 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/139
Grace after meals book (restoration) Creator: Henich Léb Hellschein Óbuda (Altofen) 1844 64.1058 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/140 7. Spice box Spice box Creator: E.E. 77.4 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/31454 8. Postcards New Year’s greeting card: Confession of sins on Yom Kippur K756 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/32275
Children congratulate their parents Creator: Herman Junker K89 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/31626 New Year’s Greeting card: Blessing during putting on the Tfillin K871 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/32440 38
New Year’s Greeting card: Ma tovuh K862 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/32434 9. Self-Portrait of Izsák Perlmutter Self-Portrait Creator: Izsák Perlmutter Budapest 1910 Donation according the last will of Izsák Perlmutter, 1931. 64.2307 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/28928
13. The Munkacsy Family Legacy Objects from the Munkácsi family Nagyvárad (Ordea), Budapest 1880-1920 Donated from Mária Munkácsi, 2012 XIX-69 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/29558
10. Childbed Plaque Amulett Mid 19th Century Museum purchase, 1914. 64.1274 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/141 11. Saturday Candleholders Candleholder 19th Century Deposite of the Chevra Kadisha of Pest, 1931. 64.25 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/31443 12. Shiviti Plaque Shiviti papercut Gyöngyös Early 19th century Donated by the Jewish Community in Gyöngyös, 1914 64.1222 http://collections.milev.hu/items/show/28545
Interactive exercise booklet about the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives