Jewish History and Culture in The Russian Ethnographical Museum

On December 25 a new temporary exposition is opened in The Russian Ethnographical Museum. It is not even an exposition but a museum of “Jewish History and Culture on a territory of Russia”. There was a private museum dedicated to Jewish culture in St. Petersburg but in 1929 it was closed. The idea of a new museum devoted to the world of Jewish people came four years ago. Now it is realized in two halls of The Russian Ethnographical Museum.

Here one can know about culture, religious traditions, life of Jewish people. Ethnographical Museum cooperated with other cultural Institutions to cover all the points. The Russian National Library, Museum of History of Religion and Atheism, The State Hermitage Museum contributed to the exposition enormously.

The exposition is divided into two parts. The first one is about the culture heritage. The main displays here are books and rolls of scripts. Curators say: “Word is the first principal of the Jewish culture.” Sometimes text was the only way to keep and render one’s culture. Language of sacral books was a language for literature and science for Jewish people. Many elements of life right up to everyday trifles were subjected to it.

That is why there are stained-glass windows in the hall decorated with words of ten commandment from the Old Testament. Presented books and scripts many of which were made in a period of Middle Ages are not only an important source of information but also great works of art. One can not help admiring while looking at the ornaments embellishing their pages. Cases for rolls are also impressive. They are called Torahs (the five books of Moses in an orthodox tradition).

The second part of the exposition is a trip to everyday life of Jewish communities which were on a territory of the Russian Empire. The main part of the represented collection was collected at the end of the 19th–20th centuries.

History and traditions of Chanukah and Purim celebrations are displayed in the exposition. Ceremonies are given in all their diversity including the wedding one. Wedding ceremony is represented by one of the most interesting exhibits, a treaty of marriage called kttuba drown up in 1716 which is the evidence of a woman’s position in a Jewish society. Articles related to Jewish communities at the Caucasus also attract attention. Jewish woman was to shave her head after a wedding. Then she wore a wig or a hat. This tradition was transformed in a habit of hair decoration with false curls and was adopted by Eastern pretty girls. Jewish traditions existed for thousands years. The organizers of the exhibition succeeded in expression of this important feature of national culture, in revelation of a tender attitude to memory. This is what in which to all appearances an enigma of Jewish culture and history consists.

The exhibition is opened till February 19.

The Russian Ethnographical Museum.
St. Petersburg, Ingenernaya str.,4/1
Tel.: +7 (812) 313 4421

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Published in: on February 13, 2008 at 1:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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