Hallelujah! Assemble, Pray, Study – Synagogues Past and Present
The Alfred H. Moses and Family Gallery is the first of the new core galleries to open in the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot.
The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot celebrates the successes and creativity of Jews around the world today, in all fields of modern life, while embracing the diverse ways in which Jews choose to live.
Through this approach, unparalleled in Israel or any other location globally, the Museum serves as a platform for a shared, optimistic Jewish future, connecting modern Israel with global Jewish life, and the voice of each individual with the fate of the collective Jewish People. The Museum just celebrated the the completion of phase I of its full-renewal with the opening of a new wing, at which The Alfred H. Moses and Family Synagogue Hall (Synagogue Hall) sits at its heart.
Nearly four decades after the original museum’s inception, the Synagogue Hall remains one of the iconic features of Beit Hatfutsot. The permanent gallery, which previously housed a collection of 18 scale models of prominent synagogues from around the world, has been re-imagined to explore the diverse expressions of global Jewish Life.
Thanks to the support of Ambassador Alfred Moses and his family, the gallery is now an interactive multimedia zone that focuses on the role of the synagogue as a place of prayer, study and community in Jewish life – past, present and future.
The exhibition now includes 21 models, each revealing the different roles at the heart of the synagogue and showcases synagogue activities including prayer, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, community functions, fundraising events, classes, and more. Walking through the gallery, many visitors will find synagogue models from their parents’, grandparents’ and great-great grandparents’ youth – invoking an emotional connection to our personal and collective history.
The synagogue and its various features are portrayed as a juncture for Jewish religion and culture. The exhibition raises many questions, including: How did creativity develop in synagogues over the years? Why do Jews congregate? Where will future Jewish communities come together?
Original ceremonial objects of each synagogue or a related community are displayed adjacent to each model. These items bring additional context, enhancing the exhibition and the visitor’s understanding of the cultural identity of each unique community.
The main digital component focuses on the three daily prayers – morning, afternoon, evening – and is presented on a large screen in the center of the gallery. A video art installation by the artist Ran Slavin presents synagogues from around the world in a hall encircled by mirrors. Four animated films in period settings illuminate distinctive types of gatherings at synagogues.
A humorous and light-hearted short film further sheds light on the similarities and differences between Sephardi and Ashkenazi prayer. In addition to the gallery films, there are four focal points for interactive sessions – personal prayer where the visitor can choose one from a large repository of prayers and share via email; Jewish music in synagogues – a selection of nine “Piyutim” (Jewish liturgical poems) performed by renowned singers, allowing visitors to traverse the world to the various places where they were sung; Synagogue architecture; and interactive tablets for the entire family, allowing them to design and build their own synagogue.
The new Alfred H. Moses and Family Synagogue Hall is a physical testament to the museum’s transition from a space that chronicled the Jewish Diaspora to a center that celebrates not just its rich history but its diversity, connection to Israel and its promising future for Jews of all backgrounds.
All photos courtesy Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot
Chief Curator: Dr. Orit Shaham Gover
Curator: Amitai Achiman
Designers: Gallagher & Associates, Washington DC