Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Who's the Winner of the Miss Jewish Turkestan Pageant in 1870?

Mulka (circa 1870)
The source of the 140 year old pictures of Jews from Turkestan and Samarkand (posted here and here) has been found.

An incredible collection in "The Turkestan Album" was purchased by the U.S. Library of Congress from a Jewish book dealer in New York City in 1938. Other copies are found in the National Library of Uzbekistan and the National Library of Russia.

According the Library of Congress, the album was assembled after "the Russian imperial government took control of the area in the 1850s and 1860s."  The Album's "Ethnographical Part offers individual portraits and daily life scenes of [tribes] Uzbeks, Tadzhiks, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, [Jews[ and others."

The Library's introduction to the collection explains, "Konstantin Petrovich Von Kaufman (1818-1882), the first governor general of Russian Turkestan, commissioned the albums to acquaint Russians and Westerners with the region."

Among the 1,200 pictures in the albums are pictures of the Jewish life cycle -- marriage, circumcision, and death -- as well a pictures of Jewish synagogues, sukkot, and schools.  The album includes a dozen portraits of Jewish women and girls, presented here.  Many have variations of Jewish names such as Rachel, Malka, Leah, Sarah, Zippora, and Miriam.

Click on pictures to enlarge.  Click on the name in the caption to view original picture.

Banu ai

Sara (and her nose ring)





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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Welcome toTu B'Av, the 15th Day of Av, A Day of Joy in the Hebrew Calendar

The groom Barukh and the bride Khanna, two
separate portraits joined (c 1870)
Barely a week after Tisha B'Av  (the 9th of Av), the day of mourning among Jews for the calamities that befell them on that date throughout history, Jews celebrate Tu B'Av, the 15th day of the month.  It is probably the most popular date in the year for Jewish weddings.

The wedding of Barukh and Khanna, circa 1870. The bride and
groom are beneath a tallit serving as the chuppa (canopy).
Channa is the tiny figure under a "burqua," according to the
original caption. The man in the center is extending a cup of wine
as part of the ceremony -- sheva brachot, according to the
caption. The two mothers, wearing turbansare on the sides
of the bride and groom.
In Israel it's commemorated as a "Love Holiday"  like today's commercial Valentines Day or, for aficionados of Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip, it's sort of like "Sadie Hawkins Day," a propitious day for matchmaking.

To commemorate Tu B'Av on July 22 ...

Last year we uncovered pictures in the Library of Congress files showing Bukhari Jewish life in Samarkand some 140 years ago.  We posted pictures showing Jewish children in school, family life, a sukka, and more.

Today, we re-post photos from another group of pictures, the wedding of Barukh and Khanna around 1870.

Later this week we will present a gallery of young women in the community, and provide the background of the political changes that resulted in this pictures being taken.

Signing the ketuba, the marriage contract. The bride (peaking
out from under her burqua) and the groom are already under the
 tallit, with their mothers on either side

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Click on the caption to view the original. 

A party for the women and girls on the eve of the wedding. Click here
to see Barukh sitting with the men

Bukhari Jews, from what is today the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan, may be one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.  According to some researchers, the community may date back to the days of  the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile.  Over the centuries, the community suffered from forced conversion to Islam and from Genghis Khan's pillage and destruction of the region. 

Earlier, the groom met with Khanna and her parents 

Around the time these pictures were taken the Bukhari Jews began to move to Israel.  They established an early settlement in the Bukharan quarter of Jerusalem. 

The Bukhari Jewish families discuss the dowry prior to a wedding
(circa 1870). The caption identifies the two bundles
behind them as the dowry

Original caption: "A group of people escorting the bride and groom (the couple on the far left) to a house"
Dedicated to M & S on the birth of their son, Ro'i Naveh

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Tisha B'Av Special: Are These the Beams of the Temple?
Is this the Gift from King Hiram of Sidon to King Solomon?

Are these carved beams from the Jewish Temple?
 (Israel Antiquities Authority)
King Solomon requested from King Hiram of Sidon: 'Hew me cedar-trees out of Lebanon for thou knowest that there is not among us any that hath skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.'  And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying: 'I have heard that which thou hast sent unto me; I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of cypress. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon...' (I Kings 5)

To commemorate Tisha B'Av today, the day Jews around the world mourn the destruction of the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, The Times of Israel republished an article Did Ancient Beams Discarded in the Old City Come from the First and Second Temples? by Matti Friedman.

Friedman reveals: "Under a tarp in one little-visited corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem lies a pile of rotting timber that would hardly catch a visitor’s eye."  He reports that some of the beams date back 2,000 and even 3,000 years. 

More beams are in storage in the Jewish community of Ofra and in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.  Friedman suggests that they were removed during renovations on the Temple Mount after the 1927 earthquake destroyed parts of the al Aqsa Mosque.

We publish here, perhaps for the first time, 85-year-old pictures of the beams recently digitalized and posted online by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Chamber, column and staircase under
the al Aqsa mosque. "Ancient entrance
to the Temple," according to the Library
of Congress caption (1927)
At least two photographers gained access to the excavation site -- one from the American Colony Photography and Robert Hamilton from the British Mandate Archeological Authority.  This publication presented their photos in Eureka! Pictures Beneath the Temple Mount Now Online earlier this year.  The feature included pictures of mosaics, chambers, and staircases that could date back to the Temple.

 Hamilton "photographed, sketched, excavated and analyzed" what he saw, according to  Nadav Shragai, a scholar on Jerusalem sites, writing in  Yisrael HaYom last year.  But Hamilton promised the Islamic Authorities, the Waqf, that he would make "no mention of any findings that the Muslims would have found inconvenient" such as findings from the time of the Jewish Temples.

When the British left Palestine in 1948 the British Archeological Authority became the Israel Archeological Authority. The Rockefeller Museum and its archeological treasures came under Israeli control when the IDF reunited Jerusalem.

Could these pictures from the Israel Archeological Authority show the beams of the Jewish Temples?

"Principal beams" (IAA)
"Principal beams"
Click on pictures to enlarge.

Click on caption to view the original.

Carved wood panels

Panels and other timbers

Re-Posting --
On Tisha B'Av, for These I also Weep

The destruction of the Avraham Avinu Synagogue in Hebron in 1929  
Among the tragedies that befell the Jewish people during the month of Av was the 1929 massacre in Hebron.  Never before seen photographs of the destruction were found in the Library of Congress archives' American Colony collection.
On Tisha B’Av, the day of calamities in Jewish history, we present the pictures.

Today’s leaders of the Hebron Jewish community reported that they had never seen the photos before. 

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Click on the captions to see the originals.

Background to the Hebron massacre.  After the British army captured Palestine from the Turks in late 1917, the relationship between the British and the local Arab population was characterized by tension that sporadically erupted into insurrection over the next 30 years. 

Enlargement of scroll showing
Deuteronomy 1: 17
Hebron synagogue and "jumbled
Torah scrolls" on the floor
The Arabs of Palestine were led by the powerful Husseini clan who controlled the office of the Mufti as well as the Mayor of Jerusalem.  For decades the clan had opposed European colonialism, the growing power of foreign consulates in Jerusalem, Christian and Jewish immigration and land purchases.  After the 1917 Balfour Declaration expressed support for “a national home for the Jewish people,” the Mufti, Haj Amin el Husseini, added “Zionists” to his enemies list.  The clan leveraged its power and threats of violence to win over Turkish and British overlords, to challenge the Hashemite King Abdullah, and to hold off competing clans such as the Nashashibi, Abu Ghosh, and Khalidi clans.

Jewish home plundered.
Blood-stained floor
[Haj Amin el Husseini fled Palestine to escape British jail and eventually found his way to Berlin where he assisted the Nazi war effort.  He died of natural causes in Beirut in 1974.]
On Yom Kippur 1928, Jews brought chairs and screens to prayers at the Western Wall. This purported change of the status quo was exploited by the Mufti to launch a jihad against the Jews.  Husseini’s campaign continued and escalated after a Jewish demonstration at the Kotel on Tisha B’Av in August 1929.  Rumors spread that Jews had attacked Jerusalem mosques and massacred Muslims.  The fuse was lit for a major explosion. 

Synagogue desecrated

Starting on Friday, August 23, 1929 and lasting for a week, enraged Arab mobs attacked Jews in the Old City in Jerusalem, in Jerusalem suburbs Sanhedria, Motza, Bayit Vegan, Ramat Rachel, in outlying Jewish communities, and in the Galilee town of Tzfat.  Small Jewish communities in Gaza, Ramla, Jenin, and Nablus were abandoned.

The attack in Hebron became a frenzied pogrom with the Arab mob stabbing, axing, decapitating and disemboweling 67 men, women and children.  At least 133 Jews were killed across Palestine. In 1931, there was a short-lived attempt to reestablish the Jewish community in Hebron, but within a few years it was abandoned until the IDF recaptured Hebron in 1967. 

The British indulged the Arabs and responded by limiting Jewish immigration and land purchases.

Large common grave of Jewish victims. Later the grave
was destroyed

Jewish home plundered

Today in Hebron: A recent service in the rebuilt
Avraham Avinu Synagogue

Re-posting --
Tisha B'Av -- Mourning at the Western Wall 90 Years Ago

Jewish men sitting on the ground at the "Wailing Wall" (circa
 1935). From the Library of Congress collection.
A version of this article appeared in the Jerusalem Post Magazine, July 27, 2012

The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av -- Tisha B'Av -- is the day in the Hebrew calendar when great calamities befell the Jewish people, including the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, the fall of the fortress Beitar in the Jewish rebellion against Rome in 136 CE, and the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.  The day is commemorated with fasting, prayers and the reading of Lamentations.  In Jerusalem, thousands pray at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

"Devout Jewish women" at the Wall (circa
1900). View another photo of devout
women here

The American Colony photographers frequently focused their cameras on the worshipers at the "Wailing Place of the Jews."  The Colony founders who came to Jerusalem in 1881 were devout Christians who saw the return of the Jews to the Holy Land as a sign of messianic times. 

Of the dozens of pictures at the Kotel there are several of elderly men and women sitting on the ground or on low stools, customs of mourning practiced on Tisha B'Av.

"A Jewish beggar reading at the Wailing Wall" (circa 1920).
Note others sitting on the ground. The day is almost
certainly Tisha B'Av and he is probably reading the
book of Lamentations.

Jews straining to see the Western Wall (circa 1929)

"Jews' wailing place without mourners.
Deserted during 1929 riots."
See another view here
Other pictures presented here show the very narrow and confined area of the Kotel over the ages until Israel's army captured the Old City in 1967 and enlarged the Kotel plaza. 

The tragedies that occurred to the Jewish nation are also evident in the pictures of the deserted plaza after Arab pogroms in 1929.  The area was deserted, of course, during the 19 years of Jordanian rule of the Old City when Jews were forbidden to pray at the site.

A story is told of Napoleon passing a synagogue and hearing congregants inside mourning.  To his question who they are mourning, he was told they were weeping over the destruction of the Jewish Temple 1,800 years earlier.  Napoleon responded, according to the legend, "If the Jews are still crying after so many hundreds of years, then I am certain the Temple will one day be rebuilt."  

Dedicated in memory of Chaim Menachem ben Levi

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Re-posting: Celebrating July 4th in the Holy Land 100 Years Ago.
A Comic Troupe of Troops?

4th of July commemoration in Jerusalem with flags and toy guns
(circa 1905).  Note the Swedish flag; some of the American
Colony members were originally Swedish. Hand-colored picture
A version of this posting appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine on June 29, 2012

The founders of the American Colony in Jerusalem in 1881 were proud of their American roots. The group of utopian, millennialist Christians were later joined by Swedish-American and Swedish believers. 

The American Colony set up clinics, orphanages, cottage industries and soup kitchens for the poor of Jerusalem, earning favor with the Turkish rulers of Palestine.  Their concern for all citizens of Jerusalem was evident in the shelter and assistance they provided to destitute Yemenite Jews who arrived in Jerusalem in 1882.

Founders of the American Colony
circa 1905. The founders' adopted son
Jacob, born a Jew, is on the top left

When World War I broke out, the American Colony's photographers were able to work on both sides of the conflict.  

At the start of World War I and before the United States joined in the war effort, American aid to the Jews of Palestine was crucial for their survival.  In October 1914, the U.S. Navy's North Carolina delivered $50,000 for the Jews' relief.  In some cases the funds were administered through the American consul general in Jerusalem so that the money would not be confiscated by Turkish authorities.

4th of July pageant, with man and woman dressed as Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty (circa 1905). Hand-colored picture

The British army, under General Edmund Allenby, captured Jerusalem in December 1917.  Seven months later, in 1918, Allenby was the guest of honor at the American Colony's July 4th celebrations. 
Allenby at July 4, 1918 pageant

Allenby (in uniform) at the American Colony reception

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Click on the captions to see the original.

A British army troupe performing at the July 4 festivities
Does R.E. stand for Royal Engineers?

Who Are These Actors?

The battle for Palestine in World War I was a long and bloody campaign pitting Turkish, German, and Austrian troops against the forces of Britain, India, Australia and New Zealand.  The war, fought with infantry, cavalry, artillery, planes and tanks, was waged from the Suez Canal to Damascus.  A special effort was made by the British commander, Gen. Edmund Allenby, to capture Jerusalem by Christmas 1917.

This curious photograph appears in a photo album assembled by the American Colony photographers, apparently taken at a Jerusalem party hosted by the Colony on July 4, 1918.  Allenby was in attendance.  The caption, "R.E. Concert Party" almost certainly identifies the characters as soldiers of the Royal Engineers of the British army.

The actors are part of the British army's theater and concert group, known as a "concert party" or a "Pierrot troupe" that entertained the troops during the war.  The woman is a female impersonator, and the figure second from the left appears to be an actor portraying a Faginesque Jew with a long beard and sidecurls, black hat, bottle of wine and candlesticks.

For more history on the "concert party" during World War I see the Australian War Memorial Research Centre.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Amazing Portraits of Shlomo and Sonia Narinsky --
Jewish Photographers Exiled by the Turks, Swept Up by the Nazis

"A Spanish Jew [Sephardi] of Jerusalem"
(Library of Congress, circa 1921)
Turn a virtual corner in the Library of Congress' digitalized photo archives and you never know what you'll find.  It happened many times since the launch of this site two years ago, and it just happened again.

Within the vast collection of the American Colony Photographic Department Collection (roughly 1890 - 1946) we discovered amazing picture and postcard portraits taken by Shlomo and Sonia Narinsky. The photographs were sold by the American Colony's souvenir store located inside Jerusalem's Old City near Jaffa Gate.  
"A Vernomito (sic) [Yemenite] Jew
in Jerusalem" (circa 1921)

Born in the Ukraine in 1885, Shlomo Narinsky studied art in Moscow, Paris and Berlin before moving to Palestine where he set up a studio. 

In 1916, Shlomo and his wife were exiled to Egypt by the Turkish rulers. 

They returned to the Land of Israel after the British captured the territory in 1918.

"An Orthodox Jew of Jerusalem"
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, father of
modern Hebrew (Wikiversity,
circa 1912)
In 1932, the Narinskys opened a studio in Paris, but Shlomo was arrested when the Nazis captured France. He was later exchanged for a German spy caught in Palestine after the intercession of David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi.

A rabbi and his grandson (Ynet News)

They returned to Israel, eventually moving to Haifa where Shlomo taught as a photography teacher.  He died in 1960, relatively unknown.

Shlomo Narinsky was also trained as a painter, and some of his photographs almost reflect the post-impressionist Vincent Van Gogh's wheat field series.

Arab "sorting his wheat."  Note the farmer's stance, angle
of his tool and the sky, and compare to Van Gogh's
painting. See also Narinsky's "Fishermen at Jaffa"
Van Gogh -- Harvesting wheat in the Alpilles
Valley (1888) 
Click on the picture to enlarge.

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