Our collection of objects for religious use documents Jewish history and culture by way of ritual and everyday items. A central issue here is how these items reflect Jewish life in the past and present.
Scope and Spectrum
To date the collection counts about 1,500 objects. The heart of the collection is the private collection of Zvi Sofer, a cantor from Münster, which the Berlin Museum acquired in 1981. It also contains comparative pieces from other countries as well as a growing number of contemporary ceremonial objects.
The collection holds characteristic objects for religious use made of a wide assortment of materials, including various textiles, paper types, and metals. The breadth of craftsmanship ranges from ornate examples of eighteenth-century German silversmithing to simple folk art of the nineteenth century.
Who was Zvi Sofer?
Zvi Sofer (1911–1980), cantor, and collector, born in Podolia, 1929 Aliyah, academic studies in Vienna, in 1938 re-emigrated to Palestine, from 1959 dedication to the revival of Jewish communities in Germany
Selected Objects: Judaica Collection (9)
Our collection of ceremonial objects ranges widely from a valuable eighteenth-century Torah curtain donated by Fromet and Moses Mendelssohn to contemporary ritual items to small kitchen supplies for following Jewish dietary laws.
Hanukkah Menorah made by Ludwig Wolpert
Simple, elegant forms and functionality – this menorah, created in 1924, is one of the the first pieces of modern Judaica.
Seder Plate by Harriete Estel Berman
What is unusual about this contemporary seder plate is its additional recess for an orange, marking a new custom which has found growing popularity among feminists in recent decades.
Traditionally, the Jewish festival of lights doesn’t involve presents. But like Christmas, Hanukkah too is increasingly commercialized, and there is already color-coded gift wrap in the US.
“No more kitchen confusion!” Three color-coded scrub brushes from the US make it easier to keep track of Jewish dietary rules.
This costume of the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, should have been a top seller for Purim. But then a tragic accident occurred.
Torah Ornaments by Kurt Matzdorf
The artist Kurt J. Matzdorf is known for his modern interpretations. Alongside the classic materials of silver and gold, he used colored acrylic for his Judaica.
Torah Curtain Donated by the Mendelssohns
Moses and Fromet Mendelssohn commissioned a Torah curtain, probably using the fabric from Fromet's wedding dress, and donated it to a synagogue in Berlin in 1774–75.
Havdalah Besamim Set by Paula Newman Pollachek
In our interview, the artist talks about how to create community with spice boxes.
Testimonial to a Family
Torah shield (Tas) and box, Kitzingen, 1711/12, purchased in 2014
Historical and Thematic Emphases
Another focus of the collection is the mass production of Jewish ritual objects from the late nineteenth century into the early twentieth century by largely non-Jewish firms. This silver manufacturing industry was centered in Hanau in the state of Hesse. Judaica was produced there until very recently. We have documented examples of the Hanau production process in a film and over 500 drawings, models, and other design materials.
We also collect objects that reflect change, innovation, or renewal in Jewish life after 1945. These objects raise questions about Jewish identity and ritual practice, from a wedding canopy made for use in a displaced persons camp to our collection of contemporary Hanukkah and Christmas objects.
What were displaced persons?
After the Second World War, “displaced persons” referred to people stranded outside their countries of origin, including around a quarter million Jews in the western occupied zones of postwar Germany
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah (Hebr. for dedication), the Festival of Lights in winter commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees
Michal S. Friedlander
Curator of Judaica and Applied Arts
T +49 (0)30 259 93 511
Jewish Museum Berlin
How can I conduct research using the museum’s archive, collections, and library?
Our Reading Room is open to the public. You can also research using our library’s holdings and some of our collection’s holdings online. To view additional holdings, please contact the responsible curators.
I would like to depict or borrow an object from your collections. Who should I contact?
Your contacts for photo permissions are Valeska Wolfgram and Birgit Maurer-Porat (T +49 (0)30 259 93 433, email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Loan requests must be made at least six months in advance. For questions regarding administrative processes, please contact Katrin Strube (T +49 (0)30 259 93 417, email: email@example.com).
How can I donate objects, photographs, and documents to the museum?
If you would like to support the Jewish Museum Berlin and believe you possess materials that may be of interest to us, contact us!
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Kiddush cups, Torah curtains, Torah pointers, Torah shields, Torah finials and other Judaica objects (in German)
Provenance Research at the Jewish Museum Berlin
Where do the artworks and ceremonial objects in our collection come from?
Our Judaica Curator on a Micky Mouse Menorah
“If I were a rich mouse:” Micky, Minnie, and Hanukkah gelt