Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Children of the Old Yishuv -- Jerusalem, 80 Years Ago

"Little boy, Moshe & Shlomo go to Wailing Wall with their father" (1934)
The American Colony photographers clearly loved to take pictures of Jewish children as they traveled around the Holy Land 80-100 years ago.  Most of their pictures are group shots of children in the "New Yishuv," the settlements established by the Zionist movement after 1880.   Many of these pictures have appeared in these pages in the past.

But their collection also includes pictures of children of the "Old Yishuv," the Jewish communities of Eretz Yisrael, predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jews, who lived in the holy Jewish cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad and Tiberias.  Some of them are descendants of Jews who lived in Palestine over the centuries.

See previous posting on the children of the Bukharan Jewish community in Jerusalem.  The Sephardi community moved to Jerusalem from the area of Uzbekistan in the 1890s.
Orthodox Jew with 2 youngsters, on
Sabbath walk to Wailing Wall
Jewish boys on Sabbath, trying to avoid
being photographed (1934). See also here

Many of the Library of Congress pictures were taken on the Sabbath as the Orthodox Jews were walking to and from the Western Wall.  The Jews did not want to be photographed and many tried to hide their faces from the photographer.

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Jerusalem children on a balcony
The Library of Congress collection contains this picture (left) of children on a Jerusalem balcony, dated sometime "between 1925 and 1946." 

Blowing Sabbath Shofar

Batei Rand (courtesy)

But wait, elsewhere in the vast Library collection is this picture (above right) of an "Ashkenazi Jew blowing Sabbath shofar" to announce the beginning of the Sabbath.  The picture is dated 1934-1939.  Yes, it is the same balcony, even some of the same children.

Where was the picture taken? The architectural style suggests the Batei Ungarin complex built in 1891 outside of the confines of the Old City for Hassidic Jews from Hungary.  But then as today, the neighborhood was known for its insularity and xenophobia, and not likely to allow photographers to take pictures. 

Another, more likely choice is the Batei Rand complex built in 1910 by a Hassidic Jew from Poland.  Note the lintels, windows and security bars on the windows in the shofar blower's picture and this modern photo.

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