Tag Archive | Jewish culture

Object: Antimen

I-0529e (2)

I-0529e
Antimen
Lebanese
United States
20th Century
Materials: Cloth and Thread

This object is an Antimen or Antimension which translates to “instead of the table” and is used in Orthodox Christian churches. It is an authorizing document printed on cloth that allows the priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Antimens could be issued by a bishop directly to a priest, or to the church itself. If the priest was issued the antimen he would travel with it wherever he went to serve; while an antimen issued to the church would stay with on altar of the church. This particular antimension belonged to Rev. Nicholas Nahas who ministered for 47 years with it throughout North and Central America.

Photo via: Rev. Nickolas Albert Nahas, Identifier 097-0115, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply

Photo via: Rev. Nickolas Albert Nahas, Identifier 097-0115, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply

The altar table is the center of the church and its ceremonies. Because of this, the antimension plays an important role as it covers the altar. The antimension is typically made of either linen or silk. Typically antimensions are decorated with images of the entombment of Christ, the four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and scriptural passages related to the Eucharist. The antimension usually has a relic sewn inside of it as well. Relics are items connected to important religious figures, events, or objects. In this antimension there originally was a bone fragment from a saint. Now there is a shard of gravel from the original St. Michael Church located in Beaumont, Texas.

Although the antimension plays a role in every service, it is especially important when celebrating the Eucharist. In fact, the Eucharist cannot be celebrated without the antimension. The Eucharist is a religious rite that began with the Passover meal which is a holiday in Judaism. Connections are also made to Jesus Christ and his disciples who shared a Passover meal before his death. Christian tradition states that during the meal, Christ symbolically gave his disciples his body and blood in the form of bread and wine. Today, many Christian denominations participate in the ritual of the Eucharist, or the Holy Communion, in which parishioners take a sip of wine and piece of wafer as Christ’s body and blood on Sundays.

Eucharist depiction

Eucharist depiction. Image via Wikipedia.org

The Orthodox Church traces its history back to the disciples of Jesus who appointed bishops to stay and manage the growing number of churches. Eventually this turned into a hierarchy, as bishops soon needed help to manage the churches in their area and they designated deacons and priests. At this point, Christianity was a single entity expanding across Europe and into the East. By around 750 A.D. the Church was facing problems as it grew and the East and West began to differ in the language used as well as customs. It wasn’t until 1058 though that the Western Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church officially split. As of 2010, 260 million people, or 11.9% of the Christian population worldwide, practices Orthodox Christianity. [Briana Miano edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Readings:

Chadwick, Henry. East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church: From Apostolic Times until the Council of Florence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. 

Christy, Vladimir. The Antimension: Its History, Practice and Theology. PhD Diss., M. Div. St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1979. 

Kallistos, Bishop of Diokleia. The Orthodox Church. London, England: Penguin Books, 1993. 

Object: Painting

I-0206bb

I-0206bb
Painting
“Helena Landa Fending off Robbers”
Michael Waters
American
Materials: Paint/Paper/Wood/Glass

This is a watercolor painting by Michael Waters entitled “Helena Landa Fending off Robbers.” It depicts Helena Landa, surrounded by four of her children, fending off robbers with a pistol in her family store in New Braunfels, Texas. Helena Landa was born Helena Friedlander in Kempen, Germany. Her husband, Joseph Landa, was born in Prussia in 1810. Joseph Landa moved to Texas in 1845, they were married in 1851 and had 7 children. When they moved to New Braunfels, they were the only Jewish family in their German community. They held regular services in their home and Helena prepared her own matzoh balls ever year for Passover.

This photograph is titled “A Texas Eden, Landa’s Park, New Braunfels, Texas” ca. 1865-1915

This photograph is titled “A Texas Eden, Landa’s Park, New Braunfels, Texas” ca. 1865-1915

Joseph opened a general store in San Antonio and one in New Braunfels. With the money he earned, they purchased up to thirty thousand acres of land around Texas. In 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation that granted slaves in the Confederate States freedom. Joseph Landa freed his slaves but feared confederates would harm him, so he fled to Matamoros, Mexico and left Helena in charge of their business interests. In his absence, Helena ran their general stores, sawmills, and cotton gin. After the American Civil War ended, Joseph returned home. After Joseph died in 1896, Helena helped her son Harry operate the Landa Roller Mills, the Cotton Oil Factory, the Electric Light and Power Plant, an ice-manufacturing plant, stock farm, and irrigated gardens.

Pioneer women in the 1800’s were able to support their families by working. They produced cheese, preserved food, and made soap and candles. Some women found jobs as seamstresses or washerwomen. Others became teachers or operated hotels. The Congress of the Republic of Texas adopted laws in 1840 that prevented married women from making contracts. However, some women were able to find loopholes around the law to allow them to engage in business ventures. In the 1900 U.S. Census the number of women in Texas who reported to be merchants or dealers totaled 531.

Landa Rock mill in 1972. The masonry building was built by Joseph Landa in 1875

Landa Rock mill in 1972. The masonry building was built by Joseph Landa in 1875

Texas was home to some notable women who found success as business owners. Sarah Horton Cockrell in Dallas, Texas helped her husband Alexander operate a sawmill, gristmill, and construction business. After her husband died in 1858, she took over their businesses and eventually opened the St. Nicholas Hotel in 1859. After that burned down, she built the Dallas Hotel in 1860. In 1872 she opened a suspension bridge that united Dallas with major roadways. In 1868 she was one of only 4 women who were members of the Dallas County Agricultural and Mechanical Association.

Another woman, Maria Gertrudis De La Garza Falcon, and her husband Jose Salvador de la Garza owned up to 284,416 acres of land, west of Brownsville. After her husband’s death, Maria became the owner of the land and all the livestock on it. Elizabeth Ellen Johnson Williams started out as a schoolteacher, but in 1871 she began to raise cattle and eventually became known as the “cattle queen”. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Myres, Sandra L. Westering Women and the Frontier Experience, 1800-1915. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.

Ornish, Natalie. Pioneer Jewish Texans. 1st Texas A&M University Press ed. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2011

Stone, Bryan Edward. The Chosen Folks: Jews on the Frontiers of Texas. 1st ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

Weiner, Hollace Ava, Kenneth Roseman, and Texas Jewish Historical Society. Lone Stars of David: The Jews of Texas. Hanover;Waltham, Mass;: Brandeis University Press, 2007.

Object: Passport

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2014.3.9
Passport
Russian
1923
Materials: Paper/ Ink

This object is a passport that once belonged to Louis and Mary Finkel. This document helped allow the Finkel family to move from Russian controlled Lithuania to the United Kingdom in the early 1900s. They lived there for 16 years before finally immigrating to the United States and settling in Luling, Texas. Passports have been around for hundreds of years, and are important documents required for international travel. In the United States the first passports were issued around the time of the American Revolution. The passports were used to the people going to France with Benjamin Franklin.

U.S. Passport Cover

U.S. Passport Cover

In order to travel abroad United States citizens, are required to have a passport. Passports are needed for international travel by air, sea, or land. Today there are two different kinds of passports. Today there is the traditional passport book and a passport card. However, there have been many different types of passports over the years. While a passport book can be used for all types of international travel by air and by sea. The passport card is used for travel between the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. This card is not valid for international travel by air. A passport card is a good alternative for people living on the border and don’t want to spend the money on a passport book. A passport’s main objective is to identify a traveler as a citizen with a right to protection while abroad and a right to return to the country of his citizenship.

Max and Goldye Finkel

Max and Goldye Finkel

Louis Finkel, immigrated to the United States to join his brother Max in Luling, TX where he opened a dry goods store. Louis ran the store with his sons Harry and Larry Finkel, who later took over the business on their own, operating it through the 1960s. Lulling held a large Jewish population, but slowly the families moved away. The Finkels were one of the last remaining Jewish families in Luling. Today the dry goods store building is no longer exists, after being destroyed in a fire in the year 2000. The lot however, is now used as the location for the watermelon seed spitting contest in the annual Watermelon Thump Festival.

For information about attaining a U.S. passport, the Finkel family and Luling, Texas visit the links below. [Rebecca Gonzales, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Bridges, Anne C. Huff. Do You Remember?: Early Days in Luling Texas. [Luling? Tex.]: [publisher not identified], 1967.

http://www.cityofluling.net

http://www.isjl.org/texas-luling-encyclopedia.html

Parsons, Chuck. Luling. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub, 2009.

Robertson, Craig. The Passport in America The History of a Document. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html?

Object: Torah

2014_4_1
2014.4.1
Torah
Jewish
Texas
Mid-19th Century
Materials: Parchment, Ink, Cloth, Thread, Metal, Silk, Plastic, Wood

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Mantle of the Law

This object is a Torah (Sefer Torah), which is a sacred text for Judaism. The Torah is a scroll that is made of parchment and the pieces of parchment are sewn together with thread. The spindles of the scroll are wood and when stored the scroll is held together by a piece of cloth, traditionally silk, that goes around it and latches to itself. The Torah has a cloth bag (Mantle of the Law) that it is “dressed” in, which is decorated. Typically the cloth used to make these types of covers high quality and is decorated with elaborate embroidered images and other decorations. The bag as two holes at the top for the wooden spindles of the scroll to go through, so that the parchment is completely covered by the bag. This particular Torah was used by the Congregation B’nai Abraham of Brenham, TX and the Jewish congregation of Navasota, TX.

The Torah is written in the Hebrew language and contains the Five Books of Moses (Chumash or Pentateuch) which are: Genesis (Bereishis), Exodus (Shemos), Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers (Bamidbar) and Deuteronomy (Devarim). The five books that make up the Torah are also the first five books of the Christian Bible. The Torah and the Old Testament contain the same books, but they are presented in a different order. The Torah is one of three parts of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh), the other sections are the Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings) The Torah is referred to as the Written Law while the Talmud and Mishna make up the Oral Law. The Oral Law books help to explain the laws of the Torah and how they should be carried out in Jewish daily life. They deals with many topics, including: agriculture, sacred times, women and personal status, damages, holy things, and purity laws.

Due to the religious importance of the Torah, scrolls used for religious services are made from only kosher materials. The animal hide that is used to make the parchment must come from a kosher animal, generally calf hide is used. However, the animal can not be killed specifically for its hide but must either die of natural causes or be slaughtered for food. The sinew of the animal is typically used to sew the parchment pieces together to form the scroll. The needle used to sew the pieces together must be either a silver or gold-plated kosher needle, though gold-plated is the preferred choice. No other metal may be used in the production of a kosher Torah since metal is also used for the production of weapons for war and violence. The feather for the quill that is used to write the text comes from either a turkey or a goose. The ink must be black and again there is a special formula that is used to make the ink kosher.

Torah Scribe

Torah scribe Rabbi Reuven Yaacobov writes a paragraph of a Torah as part of the exhibition ‘The Creation of the World’ on July 10, 2014 at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Photo by: JOHN MACDOUGALL,JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

The materials used to create a Torah are only one part of creating a kosher Torah. The scribe who writes the Torah must be a specially trained individual who is devout and knowledgeable in the laws governing the proper writing and assembling of a Torah scroll. This person is referred to as a sofer or soferet (title of a female scribe), which translates from Hebrew as “to count.” For a Torah to be used in a religious context it must be written by a sofer. Part of the scribe’s job while writing a Torah is to count the letters and lines while writing to ensure that nothing has been added or omitted. This counting ensures the accuracy of the Torah text. The sofer/soferet must copy directly from a completed kosher Torah. The scribe may not write one letter from memory, they must have a text in front of them at all times when they are writing. There are several other guidelines that must be followed when writing a Torah to ensure that it is kosher. It takes one year to complete a kosher Torah, following this method. Traditionally women were not allowed to become sofers, but in modern times women have become rabbis, which has led to a push for women to become scribes. This is still not a common practice and the most traditional Jewish communities still do not allow women to become rabbis or scribes.

Once the scribe has finished writing, they review and double check their work to ensure the text has no mistakes. A person who is trained in Hebrew may also assist in proofreading the text, this helps to ensure the accuracy of the Torah but also fulfills a Jewish person’s obligation to write a Torah in their life, which is the final commandment of the 613 Mitzvot. Due to the lengthy process and difficulty in writing a Torah, there are other ways for people to fulfill this obligation. A person can proofread a Torah, or fill in a single letter, or help to pay for the writing of a new Torah. These are not universal practices, each Jewish congregation decides what is the best way for a person to fulfill this commandment. Even though women traditionally are not able to write a kosher Torah, they could still copy a Torah for personal use, but there are some who believe that women are exempt from this commandment.

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Inscription at the end of the Torah.

If there is a mistake found when proofreading a Torah, then it must be corrected before the Torah may be used. There are complicated rules that govern corrections to certain words, the name of God being the most critical. To correct a mistake, the scribe painstakingly scrapes dried ink off the parchment, and then removes the rest of the ink residue with an architectural eraser. Finally, the scribe applies chalk to the spot to restore the color and then makes the correction. The Sefer Torah donated to the Institute of Texan Cultures has an inscription added at the end which states that the Torah was corrected in 1897. A translation of the inscription, provided by the donor, reads, “I corrected this Sefer [Torah] for the Navasoto congregation in the month of Menachem Av, 5657 [1897]. Chaim Schwartz, watchman of the House of Israel in Texas.” We do not know what the correction was, but it is interesting to see this inscription in the scroll. [Jennifer McPhail]

Click here to view a short presentation from Rabbi Yehuda Clapman on writing a Sefer Torah.

Additional Resources:
Gribetz, Judah, Edward L. Greenstein, and Regina Stein. 1993. The timetables of Jewish history: a chronology of the most important people and events in Jewish history. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hertzberg, Arthur. 1961. Judaism. New York: G. Braziller.

Kessler, Rainer. 2008. The social history of ancient Israel: an introduction. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Winston, Pinchas, and Mordecai Plaut. 1986. The unbroken chain of Jewish tradition: a visual overview of the history of the Jewish people. Jerusalem: Aish ha-Torah.

Object: Blanket

I-0570c scan

I-0570c
Baby Blanket
Fort Worth, Texas
1927
Material: fabric

In the Jewish tradition, baby boys are circumcised on the eighth day after their birth, where the foreskin of the penis is cut. This baby blanket was used for the donor’s circumcision. It was donated as part of a set of clothing made for his circumcision ceremony, or Bris service. His Bris service was performed on September 10, 1927, in Fort Worth, Texas, followed by a celebration held at his maternal grandparent’s home.

Photo via jewishjournal.com

Photo via jewishjournal.com

In the Jewish faith, circumcision is considered to be an active way for male Jews to participate in worshiping God. Typically this ritual is performed eight days after the birth of the child. Though in modern days, if circumcision is considered too dangerous for health reasons, the circumcision ritual will be postponed until a doctor gives their consent, with the ritual performed 7 days later.

Jewish immigrants have lived in Texas since Spanish colonial times, though these groups did not openly practice their Jewish faith. Jews were discriminated against by Spanish Catholic colonials, so most Jews who came to Texas before the 19th century had converted to Catholicism beforehand in order to be allowed to settle in the region. After the American Civil War, mass groups of Jewish immigrants came to the United States and Texas from Germany and other countries in Eastern Europe. Most Jewish groups who came to Texas though did not settle in one large community with each other, unlike many other European immigrant groups. Other European immigrants were farmers and created settlements together, however the majority of early Jewish-immigrants were merchants. As a result they scattered throughout the state,  selling products in their own shops in towns and cities around the state. As these businesses grew chain stores were created, such as the Zales Jewelry Corporation. Founded by Russian-Jew immigrant Morris B. Zale, this now thriving business was established as a single store in Wichita Falls in 1924.

By the 1850s, organized communities were formed for Jews in cities, with their religion bringing their communities together. These new communities centered around a local synagogue, the Jewish house of worship and prayer. The first synagogue built in Texas was Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, Texas in 1859. [Caitlin VanWie, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

The following video clip shows a Jewish Shabbat Service, a day for Jews to spend the day worshiping and praying to God, and will do no form of labor or work in order to focus on prayer this holy day.

Additional Sources:

Goldberg, Harvey E. 2003. Jewish passages: cycles of Jewish life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jacobs, Louis. 1999. A Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion. [Oxford]: Oxford University Press.

Ornish, Natalie. 1989. Pioneer Jewish Texans: their impact on Texas and American history for four hundred years, 1590-1990. Dallas, Tex: Texas Heritage Press.

Margalit, Ohr, and Chariklia Tziraki-Segal. 2006. “CIRCUMCISION: MAN’S OBLIGATION AND WOMAN’S PRAXIS”. Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues. 12 (2): 10-38.

Object: Etrog holder

I-0512b scan

I-0512b
Etrog Holder
Jewish
Date: Unknown (likely 20th century)
Materials: metal

Texas, being so large and home to such a large population, is one of the most diverse states in the United States. One of its most beautiful attributes is the variety of different faiths openly practiced and celebrated. Judaism has been prevalent here since the birth of our country; many immigrants heralding from Europe and Asia decided to make Texas their home. Today, more than 45 Texas cities have at least one (if not several) Jewish synagogue for worship. In the surrounding area alone, San Antonio has five, Austin has eight, and the Houston-Galveston area boasts eighteen. Several Jewish traditions have become prevalent in Texas, including the celebration of the eight-day fall harvest Sukkoth. This particular etrog holder was donated to the museum by the L’Chayim Gift Shop in San Antonio.

800px-Sukkah_Roofs

Photo via: Yoninah, Wikimedia Commons

The etrog (also spelled ethrog or esrog and is sometimes referred to as a cintron in non-religious contexts) is a type of fruit used to symbolize this harvest festival Although not specifically mentioned in the bible, it has been widely accepted as the fruit mentioned in Leviticus 23:40, “And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.” It grows on a thorny tree and is almost inedible in its raw form. To transform it into a sweeter food, its peels must be soaked in brine for a significant amount of time. Once that is completed, in accordance with strict Jewish law, these fruits may be sold on the market today for anywhere between thirty to hundreds of dollars. During this festival (also referred to as The Feast of Tabernacles or The Feast of Booths), Jewish people may set up ceremonial huts with the symbolic fruit hanging from the ceiling. This is a kind of thanksgiving to God for the bountiful land. The hut is meant to symbolize the pious lifestyle of the Israelites after they left Egypt. While being used in the actual ceremony, the etrog is traditionally held in the left hand, accompanied by a palm branch, myrtle, and willow entwined together in the right; this bundle is called a lulav. Ceremonial etrog holders can come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo via: CCPP, Citrus Pages

Once Sukkot is over, however, the fruit is much less desirable. Many do, however, find other culinary uses for it. It is one of the earliest citrus fruits first introduced to the Mediterranean region; interestingly, religion may be responsible for this migration. Scholars have discussed the undeniable existence of trade routes between parts of Asia and the Fertile Crescent. Aspects of these regions’ cultures—such as textiles and spices—migrated along these routes. Predictably, ideas of religion must have as well. Not only does Judaism hold the etrog to be a holy fruit, but also Asian religions like the worship of Kuerva (Indian god) and Buddha are also commonly depicted to be holding it.

Today the only wide scale etrog farm in the United States is located in California, but Dallas does have a pickup site called Zaide Reuven’s Esrog Farm, LLC. [Jordan Kinnally, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

The following video discusses the Sukkoth festival in modern Israel.

Additional Resources:

Faierstein, Morris M. “The Lulav and Etrog in Kabbalistic Tradition.” Conservative Judaism 64.1 (2012): 56-60.

Gaster, Theodore H. “What the Feast of Booth Celebrates.” Commentary 14.4 (1952): 308.

Isaac, E. “Influence of Religion on the Spread of Citrus: The Religious Practices of the Jews Helped Effect the Introduction of Citrus to Mediterranean Lands.” Science 129.3343 (1959): 179-86.

Object: Menorah

I-0545g scan

I- 0545g
Menorah
Jewish
Texas
Date: unknown (likely 20th century)
Materials: Metal

tumblr_inline_mi4f52FYqV1qhr0c6

Photo via: Collection of Wendy Wells, and Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society

Judaism’s history in Texas (as well as in other parts of the world) has been a long and difficult battle. From the time that European explorers began their journey in the 1500s to the New World, Jews have been able to call Texas home. As Ellis Island in New York became increasingly crowded with immigrants from all over Europe and Russia, Jewish families began to make the trip further south to Galveston. They left religious persecution for the prospect of political rights and economic success. These families and their descendents have helped build Texas into what it is today through achievements such as completing railroads critical to the state economy and their service to Texas during the Texas War for Independence, and our nation during the Civil War.

Although discrimination still existed, Jewish families were able to practice their religion and customs much more freely in the New World. Their fundamental holiday, Hanukkah, is symbolized with a menorah like the one shown here. This particular menorah was donated to the museum by the L’Chayim Gift Shop in San Antonio, Texas.

Hanukkah can correctly be spelled in a variety of ways (e.g., Chanukah) and is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Lights or the Feast of the Maccabees. It is a festival that is celebrated on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. This generally lines up with the Gregorian month of December. It is an eight-day celebration that signifies the oil Judas Maccabeus recovered from the Second Temple that was defiled by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. As the history goes, Antiochus was a Seleucid king that had invaded a region of the world known as Judea (part of present day Israel) and ravaged the holy Second Temple as well as most of the city. Because of the three-year war, Jews were unable to celebrate their yearly, eight-day festival Sukkoth.

After defeating Atiochus, Judas was able to salvage what was left of the Temple. The only object left unscathed was a small vile with enough oil to burn for the night. Instead, the oil burned for eight nights, just enough time to find new consecrated oil. To commemorate this miracle, Jews today celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting one branch of the menorah each night. The ninth branch (usually in the middle) always stays lit and represents the original oil found in the Temple. This menorah, from the Institute of Texan Cultures as a unique bicycle base.

latkes

Photo via: Metro Parent

Other Hanukkah tributes include latkes (potato pancakes), donuts, and other foods fried in oil. Many children play with a four-sided top-like toy called a Dreidel and small gifts are exchanged between friends and family on each of the eight nights. [Jordan Kinnally, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

The following video shows how to light a Hanukkah menorah

Additional Resources:

Cheatham, Goldman Marilyn Kay. Jewish Fringes Texas Fabric: Nineteenth Century Jewish Merchants Living Texas Reality and Myth. Diss. Texas A & M University, 2003.

Ely, Stanley E. In Jewish Texas: A Family Memoir. Fort Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1998.

Forshey, C. G. “Manufactures, Mining, and Internal Improvements: Railroads.” Debow’s Review, Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial Progress and Resources 18.5 (1855): 671-76.

Ginsburgh, Harav Y. “The Month of Kislev According to the Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah).” The Jewish Month of Kislev According to Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation). Gal Einai Institute, Inc., 2011.

Momigliano, Arnaldo. “The Second Book of Maccabees”. Classical Philology. 70, no. 2 (1975): 81-88.

Object: Shofar

I-0545h scan

I-0545h
Shofar
Jewish
Israel
Date: ca. 1998
Materials: Horn

This object is a black shofar made from a ram’s horn. According to the sticker attached to it, this shofar was likely made by the Bar Sheshet family in Israel. The shofar is a Jewish musical instrument that makes a trumpet-like sound. It was traditionally used to announce the start of a holiday, and today is most commonly used on Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. Because the shofar is such an important part of the Rosh HaShanah tradition it is sometimes referred to as Yom Teruah, or “day of the shofar blast” in Hebrew. Rosh HaShanah lasts two days and the shofar is blown one hundred times each day!

AlphonseLévy_Shofar

Photo via: Alphonse Lévy, Wikipedia.org

There are four specific blasts associated with Rosh HaShanah:

1. Teki’ah– a long blast that lasts about three seconds
2. Shva’rim– three medium blasts
3. Teruah– nine rapid fire blasts
4. Tekiah Gedolah– one extra-long blast that lasts about nine seconds

However, the shofar is not sounded if Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbat, known as the Sabbath in Christianity.

A Baal Tokea is a person who blows the shofar. “Baal Tokea” literally translates from Hebrew to “master of the blast.” The Baal Tokea often wear a prayer shawl, or tallit, while blowing the shofar. Tallit are worn by men during morning prayer services and all services during Yom Kippur.

During Rosh HaShanah, Jewish people spend the majority of their time in the Synagogue, or Temple. A special expanded prayer book called the ‘machzor’ is used during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur because of the liturgical changes for these holidays. When Jewish people are not in the Synagogue during Rosh HaShanah, they practice other customs and traditions for the holiday, which include: eating apples dipped in honey as a symbol of their desire for a sweet new year and Tashlikh, or casting off, when they empty their pockets into flowing water to symbolize casting off their sins.

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Map via: 2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study

The first Jewish people moved to Texas in the 1500s. However, until 1821 people who openly practiced Judaism could not be residents of Texas because Spanish authorities required residents of Texas to be Catholic. Today, there are about 110,000 people practicing Judaism in Texas and there are many more people of Jewish heritage. [Amber Beck, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

The following video discribes the history and use of the shofar.

Additional Resources:

Finkle, Arthur L. 1993. The shofar sounders’ reference manual. Los Angeles: Torah Aura Productions.

Adler, Cyrus. 1894. The shofar [its use and origin]. Washington: Govt. Print. Off.

Wulstan, David. “The Sounding of the Shofar.” The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 26, (May, 1973), pp. 29-46.

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