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Curator's Corner


 

#1 Haggadot


In time for the observance of Pesach, the book commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, Haggadah, will be read by the Jews around the world. Some of the most beautifully illustrated Hebrew manuscripts are in the British Library, and the 1330s 'Golden Haggadah' is one of them. www.bl.uk/collection-items/golden-haggadah

Click through the images to read more.

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		                                    Haggadah translated by Isaac Levi		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">The Great Synagogue museum collection has two important Haggadot. One of the early English editions, translated by Isaac Levi, is dated 1808. It was published in London for the German and Polish Jews, the Ashkenazi congregation, who prayed in the Duke's Place Synagogue (destroyed in 1941 during the Blitz).</span>
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		                                    Australian Haggadah 1944		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">The second Haggadah is a war-time Australian edition dated 1944. It was issued under Rabbi Danglow's auspices and reprinted from an older English edition with Rabbi Falk's own artwork attached to the title page illustration. Rabbi Falk served as a military chaplain and some of the wartime Sedarim would be conducted by himself.</span>
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		                                    Seder Plate, Vienna		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">Closing our first museum excursion is a detail from the Prague Jewish Museum's beautifully decorated Seder plate, a dish of six compartments for six herbs and food symbolising the Biblical story of Passover. It was made in Vienna before 1900.</span>

 

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#2 Ornamenting the Torah Scrolls


Last year, and every year before, when the curtain of the Ark of The Great Synagogue was drawn back for Passover services, the blue and silver shine and spark was revealed. Not this year. These photos were taken last year and show the nine Torah scrolls enveloped in embroidered velvet mantles and decorated with splendid silver ornaments.

Click through the images to continue reading.

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		                                    The Great's Ark for Pesach 1		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">1 of 3. Two old traditions meet here. It was the practice of the European Ashkenazi communities to ornate Torah scrolls with a large silver crown and a breastplate, while the Sephardi congregations customarily topped the rollers with a pair of silver finials, also known as rimmonim.</span>
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		                                    The Great's Ark for Pesach 2		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">2 of 3. Over the centuries, as the Jews migrated and settled around the world, these traditions merged. By the nineteenth century, it was common for the Ashkenazi synagogues to use the ornaments interchangeably, as was frequent in our synagogue, in London or Prague.</span>
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		                                    Italian Rimmonim		                                </span>
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		                            <span class="slider_description">3 of 3. Italian communities, known for their magnificent silver, developed a unique way of combining the rimmonim and the crown in one large piece, as shown on the
image.

Di Segni silver-gilt rimmonim and crown, Rome, c. 1700. Exhibition Menorah, Vatican Museum, Rome 2017</span>

 

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#3 The Building Over Time


In this series, instead of spending time inside the museum archives, we take a walk to the see the shul, because maybe you are already missing it… and there are some treasured old images showing the splendour of the building.

Click through the images to read more.

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		                                    1879		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">1 of 5. The first one, 1879, is a rare photograph taken by Charles Bayliss (1850-1897) who was commissioned to capture important buildings for a new album to celebrate the colonial progress. The majesty of the synagogue towers dominated the landscape for another three generations.</span>
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		                                    c. 1900		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">2 of 5. The buildings on the north side were cleared soon after 1900 to prepare for the construction of one of the Sydney's first skyscrapers, the former Manchester Unity. The Unity building was finished around 1925.</span>
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		                                    After 1925		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">3 of 5. This is a 'toned' postcard with an amazing display of old cars. Parking was allowed in front of the main entrance then. Trying to date this image, we can only guess by the adjacent Unity building being completed, so it has to be after 1925.</span>
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		                                    c. 1950		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">4 of 5. This in another undated photograph. Maybe someone can recognise the car model and date it more precisely? There is also an old parking-meter in front of the car.  No trees yet on Elizabeth Street. If you know the date, or can suggest another 'identifier', please leave a comment.</span>
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		                                    c. 1965		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">5 of 5. Closing the walk today is a photograph from the collection of the former Historic Houses Trust, called the Sydney Living Museum today. The trees appear here for the first time on Elizabeth Street; and also, there is a parking (?) sign that can be seen also on the previous image. The Great Synagogue is now 142 years old. Designed and built between 1874 and 1878 by architect Thomas Rowe. It is still standing there in all its dignity, waiting patiently, alone but not deserted.</span>

 

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#4 ANZAC Day & Abraham Rothfield


Some objects from the AM Rosenblum Jewish Museum collection document the history of the early Jewish congregation in Sydney, and some tell not so distant stories of brave individuals of the community. These medals pay homage to Abraham Rothfield (1890–1968), an educator, who is still warmly remembered at The Great Synagogue where he was much loved teacher of Bar Mitzvah boys. As a young man, Rothfield was decorated for his outstanding bravery in action on the battlefields of the

World War I.

 

Names of the NSW Jewish soldiers who fought and lost lives during the WWI and WWII are commemorated in The Great Synagogue Roll of Honour Book, usually on display for the ANZAC Day.

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		                                    Rothfield Medals		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">1 of 4: These medals pay homage to Abraham Rothfield (1890–1968), an educator, who is still warmly remembered at The Great Synagogue where he was a much loved Bar Mitzvah teacher.</span>
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		                                    Abraham Rothfield		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">2 of 4: As a young man, Rothfield was decorated for his outstanding bravery in action on the battlefields of World War I.</span>
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		                                    TGS Roll Book WWI		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">3 of 4: Names of the NSW Jewish soldiers who fought and lost lives during WWI and WWII are commemorated in The Great Synagogue Roll of Honour Book, usually on display for ANZAC Day.</span>
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		                                    TGS Roll Book WWII		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">4 of 4: The Great Synagogue Roll of Honour Book, Second World War.</span>

 

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#5 Illuminated Addresses


The AM Rosenblum Jewish Museum was opened in the early 1980s when then Great Synagogue leader and soon President Rodney Rosenblum and his wife Sylvia, a talented Museum Studies graduate, recognised the importance of items which till then had been stored in less than ideal conditions around The Great.

Through the work of the Rosenblums, curators and volunteers, a professional approach has seen the objects in the collection properly stored and recorded and grants for aspects of the museum’s work from the State and Federal Governments.

Here are some of the Illuminated Addresses from the Collection, presented to leading community members on special occasions.

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		                                    1 of 5. To Coleman Cantor Esq., November 1883		                                </span>
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		                                    2 of 5. To Louis Phillips Esq. J.P., March 1896		                                </span>
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		                                    3 of 5. To George J Cohen Esq., February 1903		                                </span>
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		                                    4 of 5. To The Reverend P. Philippstein, January 1906		                                </span>
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		                                    5 of 5. To Louis Phillips Esq. J.P., May 1909		                                </span>

 

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#6 The Great's Women


The Great Synagogue in Sydney opened 142 years ago and women have always contributed to its success and development. Not a single week on religious or social and community calendar would be possible without the Great Women's talents and dedication. Their attire and fashion may have changed over the years but their love and enthusiasm remain ageless.

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		                                    Council of Jewish Women		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">1 of 5. The Council of Jewish Women was founded in Sydney in 1923.  This photo, taken in front of The Great Synagogue on Elizabeth Street in Sydney, is from the Council's first National Conference which was held in 1929. Photo courtesy of the State Library of NSW.</span>
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		                                    Bat Mitzvah Classes		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">2 of 5. A 1960s Bat Mitzvah class of The Great Synagogue in Sydney with Rabbi Israel Porush (1907–1991).</span>
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		                                    Woman President		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">3 of 5. Ros Fischl OAM succeeded Herman Eisenberg AM and became The Great's first female President, and the first female President of an Orthodox Synagogue in Australia. Pictured here with Dame Marie Bashir AD, CVO.</span>
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		                                    Carrying the Torah		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">4 of 5. Women have carried the Sefer Torah at The Great for many years, here carried by Gloria Goldstein.</span>
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		                                    Bnot Mitzvah Today		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">5 of 5. Since Rabbi Apple’s time, Bat Mitzvah girls have addressed the congregation from the pulpit on Shabbat morning. (Picture not taken on Shabbat)</span>

 

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#7 Drawn to The Great Synagogue


Artists have always been drawn to the sandstone beauty of The Great Synagogue and some of these treasured artworks are over 100 years old. They depict the view that has been long gone and one we can only imagine: in clear line of sight, the pair of domed synagogue's towers dominating Elizabeth Street and visible from afar across the Hyde Park.

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		                                    1930s		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">1 of 5. Great Synagogue by Harold Byrne (1899–1966), aquatint, c.1935</span>
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		                                    1878		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">2 of 5. The New Synagogue, Sydney, The Australiasian Sketcher, engraving, 13 April, 1878</span>
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		                                    1880s		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">3 of 5. Detail of The Great Synagogue, Hyde Park by Julian R. Ashton (1851–1942), engraving, c. 1886</span>
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		                                    c. 1930		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">The Great Synagogue by Cedric Emanuel (1906–1995), pencil drawing, c. 1930</span>
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		                                    1912		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">Detail of The Great Synagogue, Illuminated Testimonial, unknown artist, 1912.</span>

 

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#8 Offertory Books


Tzedakah - Jewish charity - is one of the most important religious and social obligations. Whether supporting the poor and elderly, orphans' education, or a Jewish hospital and refuge, by the 1870s several Jewish charitable institutions were established in Sydney and Melbourne. In the past as today, donations are customarily pledged when being called up to the Torah on Shabbat and Jewish festivals. But have you ever wondered how the offerings were recorded on Shabbats in the past? The inventiveness knew no boundaries: the Jews in England came up with an Offertory Book, also known as Shabbat or Gabbai Book. A hefty parchment-bound register with the congregants' names listed on the left and columns with various amounts, and a list of charities on the right or along the top, was common in the colony as well. Each page was provided with a lace that could be inserted in the hole indicating the purpose and the specified amount. The marked names and amounts and other details were later transferred to an account book during the week.

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		                                    Shabbat Book, c. 1825		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">1 of 5. From the collection of the Jewish Museum in London.</span>
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		                                    Sydney Synagogue Offerings, c. 1850s-60s		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">2 of 5. This rare register would have been used in the first synagogue in the Australian colony, the York Street Synagogue. A simple system of holes and strings recorded donations on Shabbat when writing is forbidden. Names of some well-known Sydney Jews, Moses Joseph (next image) and Simon Hoffnung, can be seen. Courtesy of the State Library of NSW: Mitchell Library Microfilms.</span>
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		                                    Sydney Synagogue Offerings, c. 1850s-60s		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">3 of 5. Another page from the York Street Synagogue register showing the name of Joseph Moses.</span>
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		                                    Gabbai Book, London, prior to 1850		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">4 of 5. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain produced a video of a Gabbai Book of a London synagogue, in use prior 1850. www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YYrH07FLEc</span>
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		                                    Alms Box, Prague 1834		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">5 of 5. Maintenance and running of the synagogue required regular donations from the congregation. This alms box was used to collect money for a Prague synagogue winter heating, 1834. www.jewishmuseum.cz</span>

 

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#9 Etrog Boxes


Celebrated by Jews around the world and over the centuries, the festival of Sukkot inspired the creation of Etrog containers of many sizes and shapes. Silver remains the popular material, and it is rather common to find a lovely collection of Etrog boxes in any Jewish museum.

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		                                    1800s image of the citron, Wellcome Collection, London		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">1 of 7. A fragrant citrus fruit, the Etrog grows in a warm climate and transporting it around the world naturally required special care. Once at home, the fragile fruit had to be stored and protected: an Etrog case was born.</span>
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		                                    c. 1870 silver gilded, collection of The Great Synagogue, Sydney		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">2 of 7. An etrog box in size (15 – 20 cm) and shape of the citrus fruit is one of the most common designs of the nineteenth century, ranging from elegant clear forms to more elaborate renditions.</span>
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		                                    Poland around 1850, Jewish Museum Prague		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">3 of 7. This lifelike silver Etrog box on a stand was probably made in Poland around 1850 and is from the collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague.</span>
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		                                    Collection of The Great Synagogue		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">4 of 7. From The Great Synagogue is also this more recent example of a silver Etrog box, decorated with geometrical engraving and chased image of the citrus.</span>
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		                                    Germany, c. 1890, The Jewish Museum, New York		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">5 of 7. This truthful representation of an Etrog in gilded silver highlights the significance of the holy fruit.</span>
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		                                    Repurposed Sugar Box c. 1840, Jewish Museum Prague		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">6 of 7. Sometimes, a dedicated Etrog container was not at hand, and other domestic silver dishes were used instead. This Etrog case from the Jewish Museum in Prague shows reusing a lidded and lockable sugar box for the purpose of this Sukkot festival tradition.</span>
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		                                    Repurposed silver dish c. 1670, Jewish Museum Prague		                                </span>
		                                		                                
		                                		                            	                            	
		                            <span class="slider_description">7 of 7. A two-handle oval silver dish, commonly known in English as a sweetmeat dish, was made in the 1670s in Augsburg and brought later to the Jewish community near Prague. It is a rare and early example of repurposing secular silver into an object of ritual Judaica. Collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague.</span>

 

Sun, 25 October 2020 7 Cheshvan 5781