Pictures of Jewish life


In the Regenstein Library's exhibit on modern European Jewish life, the images on display grow more colorful and more intricate as visitors progress into the Special Collections Research Center. Beginning with small illustrated prayer books and ending with bright paintings and decorated prayer books for Purim and Passover, the exhibit presents the Harry, AB'54, JD'57, and Branka Sondheim Jewish Heritage Collection, which Harry Sondheim has been transferring to the University in a series of gifts since 2005.

Organized around the Jewish life-cycle customs—birth, circumcision, naming, marriage, and death—and the Jewish calendar—the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Simchat Torah, Sukkot, and Passover—the Sondheim exhibit includes books and artwork from 16th- through 20th-century Europe; viewers can see three-dimensional German New Years cards from the 20th century along with a 1730s colored engraving of London worshipers holding the Torah aloft.

"These materials will provide students with a much richer source base for traditional topics and open new areas for research," noted history and Jewish studies professor Leora Auslander, who organized the exhibition with graduate student Sara Hume and who is teaching a spring-quarter course on modern European Jewish history and culture, where she'll use items from the collection. "The numerous and diverse representations of the celebrations of major Jewish holidays will add substance to the arguments for innovation and creativity in the diaspora."


Photos: Bernard Picart (1673–1733), The Jewish Manner of Holding up the Law in the Sight of the People at Duke's Place, London; These German Jewish New Years cards are chromolithographs showing Jewish men preparing for worship (left) and a Sabbath blessing over a child.

April 4, 2008