Friday, September 3, 2010

A Blessing to One Another….

A blog by Program Director Ilene Dackman-Alon.

An outdoor sign welcomes our visitors.
Photo by Will Kirk

The activity level at the JMM this week has been a whirlwind due to the opening of the new exhibition, A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People. As Program Director my job is to deal with all of the details. RSVP lists, catering, programs, speakers, sound system, time limits, ice, tablecloths and name tags………the list of details could go on and on… But after two successful events in connection with our newest exhibition, I am finally able to take a break from the details and relax for a moment and reflect on the week.

Photo by Will Kirk

I think one of the most special moments for me was not the actual events relating to the opening, but rather a quick conversation afterwards that I had inside the museum shop. Esther, the museum shop manager, was having a conversation with two nuns dressed in habits, and she was trying to explain to them the significance of a Jewish ritual object, the mezuzah ( She asked me for my help in translating the Hebrew text written on the klaf, the insert inside the container.

Example of a klaf.

Some mezuzahs from our collection:

(left) 1986.120.001 Purchased from the Frank Meisler Gallery in Jaffa, c.1985
(right) 1991.007.056 Mezuzah in the form of a stylized pitcher

The mezuzah is not, contrary to popular belief, the outer container. The mezuzah is actually the parchment scroll within, on which the "Shema" -- a biblical passage declaring the oneness of G d -- is handwritten by an expert scribe. A mezuzah mounted on the doorpost designates the home as Jewish, reminding us of our connection to G d and to our heritage.

An example of writing a mezuzah scroll.

I think that the reason that the conversation was so significant for me was that I had never had a conversation with a nun before and the fact that I was having a conversation with these women about scripture from the Bible was WAY COOL! I was able to explain to another person outside of my own faith about the significance of this Hebrew text that is so very familiar to so many people. I realized that we all believe in one God (whichever that might be); and the scriptures point out ways we should embrace and love our neighbors. In other words, we are all “A Blessing to One Another.”

Here are some photographs from the opening festivities!
All of the following photographs were taken by Will Kirk.

Karen Falk leads a "curator's tour" through the exhibit.

A visitor from the Polish Embassy!

Original exhibition curator James Buchanon gives a VIP tour.

Visitors enjoying "A Blessing to One Another."

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