On Sunday I met my sister, who was visiting me in London for the day, at the Jewish Museum, in Camden. As her train was somewhat delayed and she had had to leave the train at Stratford instead of Liverpool Street we had only a limited amount of time to look round. We chose to visit the current temporary exhibition on the third floor :
and then quickly work our way through the History: A British Story section on the second floor. While I was waiting I spent time on the ground floor looking at the crowd-sourced Sacrifice displays.
“What have you sacrificed?
Jewish Museum London’s third crowd-sourced exhibition will explore the theme of Sacrifice through personal mementoes, historic artefacts and fine art.
Members of the public have submitted objects alongside stories of sacrifices made, which will be displayed alongside treasures from the museum’s collection.
Objects on display represent sacrifices from the momentous to the more mundane, across many times and cultures. They include representations of Greek mythology and Biblical tales, and personal stories from two World Wars. ”
Mikveh Bath on Display
And, also on the ground floor, the Mikveh Bath unearthed in Milk Street, in the City, in 2001. This is a Jewish ritual bath dating from the 13th century and the oldest object in the Museum. It links the long history of Jews in Britain to a religious practice still shared by Jews throughout the world. It was built in the home of the Crespin family and may have been used by the family in private worship or in preparation for public worship.
Mikvehs are most commonly used by observant married women and by men before the Sabbath or religious festivals. It is also used in the preparation for marriage and in the final stage of converting to Judaism. Those using Mikveh achieve spiritual purity by immersing themselves in its waters.
Today the Mikveh is still used and rain water is still a constituent. [Adapted from Information Boards]
Judith Kerr is the author of one of my best-loved books “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit”. She is also the author and illustrator of many children’s picture books including the Mog stories and the Tiger came to Tea which I remember reading to my sons when they were small.
Judith Kerr is now 92 but in 1933 she and her parents and brother left Berlin and Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power. After travelling through Switzerland and living in Paris they finally settled in London.
“Judith Kerr was born on 14 June 1923 in Berlin but escaped from Hitler’s Germany with her parents and brother in 1933 when she was nine years old. Her father was a drama critic and a distinguished writer whose books were burned by the Nazis. The family passed through Switzerland and France before arriving finally in England in 1936. Judith went to eleven different schools, worked in the Red Cross during the war, and won a scholarship to the Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1945. Since then she has worked as an artist, a BBC television scriptwriter and, for the past thirty years, as author and illustrator of children’s books.
Her three autobiographical novels are based on her early wandering years (which against all the odds she greatly enjoyed), her adolescence in London during the war, and finally on a brief return to Berlin as a young married woman. The stories have been internationally acclaimed and, to the author’s considerable satisfaction, have done particularly well in Germany where they are sometimes used as an easy introduction to a difficult period of Germany history.
Judith has a daughter who is a designer and a son who is a novelist. She lives in London.”
The exhibition displays original art work done by the very young Judith and treasured by her mother as they made their escape across Europe. There are video displays featuring interviews with her and the stories behind her creations. Children, of course, are well catered for including the opportunity to take tea with a life-sized tiger. I was delighted to find out so much more about this intelligent and talented gentle woman the events of whose early years could have scarred her for life.
On the floor below are the Museum’s main collections.
Judaism: A Living Faith
A collection of rare and beautiful ceremonial art objects.
History: A British Story
An insight into British Jewish history from 1066 to today featuring interactive and thought provoking exhibits.
The Holocaust Gallery
Told through the story of one British-born survivor of Auschwitz.
As I said earlier we only had time to work our way quickly through one of the sections and I chose the history of Jews in Britain. The first Jews arrived with the Norman Conquest in 1066 and they were entirely banished in the 12th century. A changing map shows the incidence of Jews in Britain over the centuries. They have had a huge influence on our culture and fought and gave their lives for Britain in both World Wars. Here are a few items that I particularly picked out from the highlights of this fascinating overview.
One day I hope to revisit The Jewish Museum and see the rest of the collection.
The Jewish Museum offers free entry to Art Fund card holders.