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Museum of Jewish Antiquities Opens in Chicago’s Institute

January 7, 1934
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

First of its kind in the Middle West, a museum of Jewish antiquities, ceremonial objects and rare manuscripts was opened to the general public this week end in the Jewish People’s Institute here.

The museum, according to Dr. Philip L. Seman, general director of the Institute, comprises more than 310 rare items of ancient Jewish life-manuscripts, books, ceremonial objects, woodcuts, steel engravings, bronzes, pewter, etc. Many of the objects, priceless in value, were loaned to the museum by Chicago collectors.

The collection is augmented by exhibits from the Jewish section of the Hall of Religion at last summer’s Century of Progress. These world’s fair exhibits were brought to the museum through the aid of Dr. Louis L. Mann and Dr. Gerson B. Levi.

The largest exhibits from the Hall of Religion are the murals depicting ten phases of Jewish life and thought-the law, providence, social justice, peace and security, religious freedom, faith, the Sabbath, the dignity of labor, democracy and the Messianic hope. These murals are the work of A. Raymond Katz.

In addition, the museum received from the Hall of Religion exhibit two valopticans, which are operated automatically by electricity. By means of a series of slides thrown on an opaque glass screen, they show the achievements of the Jew in art, literature, science, philanthropy, social service, music, architecture, law and medicine.

“The main object that the Institute has in fostering this museum,” stated Dr. Seman, “is to offer the younger generation of Jews in this community, numbering some 325,000, an object lesson that the people these youngsters are a part of are not made up of the ordinary rank and file of small merchants, captains of industry, men and women of the shop and factory, but that the Jew has a rich and cultural past.

“The museum has a very distinct educational value, not only to the Jew alone but to all those who will take the time to study it. Just a few illustrations from the hundreds of pieces exhibited will give some idea of its wealth and its cultural value. Here is a series of scrolls on parchment written by hand centuries ago. There are seventeen of these in the museum. One of them dates back 1,000 years; a number of them are illuminated which indicates that they are at least six hundred years old, for there were no illuminated Hebraic manuscripts of this type after that period.”

The museum contains two pewter candlesticks some two hundred years old, made by a small Jewish tribe still in existence in Asia. There are many types of Haggadahs, the prayer book used on Passover; pewter plates made and used during the time of Maria Theresa; zinc peasant dishes which did daily service around the year 1750, and manuscripts that in one instance go back to 1386. The latter is lettered on stout parchment and contains an introduction to the evening prayer ceremonial for Saturdays and holidays, as well as a list of men and women members of the congregation who had died.

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