Friday, March 5, 2010

"Rites of Passage": A New Museum of Family History Exhibition

The life of a Jew is often filled with rituals that mark a significant change in his or her life or social status. These rites of passage may take many forms but each is deeply woven into the Jewish tradition and culture. These rites may be ceremonies that surround seminal events in a Jew's life, such as childbirth, when he or she becomes a bar- or bat-mitzvah, gets married, to the day when he or she inevitably passes away.

In this exhibition, the religious and secular significance of each event is discussed, stories are told, often through the words of those who experienced these events, or perhaps through their progeny.

What is a mohel? What is the significance of becoming a bar mitzvah? In "Rites of Passage" you can read about what a Polish Jewish wedding was like in the very early 1900s and see an early ketubah as well as a wedding invitation. Even though divorce is not a rite of passage, a page is devoted to the description of Jewish divorce in early 20th century Poland.

Then, what of death? Here you can read about how Jews in Poland buried their dead in the early 20th century, read about the Chevra Kadisha, the significance of the Jewish burial, mourning period, unveiling and the family cemetery visit. You will see, for instance, a photo of Solomon and Ester Rabinovitch at Ester's mother's gravesite. Solomon was the builder of the Great Synagogue of Bialystok which was tragically destroyed during the war. Coincidentally, this photo was taken just a day before the Germans marched into Bialystok in September of 1939.

As is the goal of the Museum, a number of personal stories as told by those who lived in Eastern Europe before the Second World War are interspersed within this exhibition, with the occasional story of Jewish life within the United States.

You can visit this informative and interesting exhibition by clicking here.

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