In Vienna

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I’m currently in Vienna as part of a delegation of (youngish) Jews from New York. The trip is being organized by the City of Vienna as a sort of diplomatic introduction. Why are they interested in introducing the city to a group of 20 Jewish lawyers, businessfolks, and educators?

I’m still a little unclear about this, but hopefully I’ll know more in the next day or two, and in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this beautiful city.

Yesterday, after a bus tour of the city, lunch, and a meeting with the director of the Museums Quartier, we were taken on a tour of the Jewish museum. Since I don’t have much time right now, I’ll share some info about just one interesting room there: a storeroom of Jewish ritual objects that had been used in synagogues throughout Vienna before the Holocaust.

One object was of particular interest: a silver lulav and etrog holder, which had three trays for three etrogim and three spaces for three lulavim. Why three?

Because back in the good old days, individuals didn’t (or didn’t usually) buy their own set of the four species. The synagogue would have a few communal sets, which they would place in these nice silver holders.

The point, of course, is that seeing the artifacts of pre-Holocaust Europe doesn’t only remind us of the Jewish life that is absent here, it reminds us of the ways Jewish life was different and has changed in the last 70 years, as well.

Posted on June 28, 2007

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