Birth, marriage, death – each of these important stages in life is marked by ceremonies that create a time-honored framework. Their familiar patterns strengthen one’s sense of belonging to a community, just as they recognize a new personal identity and a new standing in society.
This gallery contains a wide range of objects used in Jewish life-cycle ceremonies. Some of them served more than one purpose over the course of time: for example, items of clothing made for a wedding later played a role in rituals surrounding the birth of a child and, eventually, in honoring the dead. This shifting use, from one stage to another, reminds us of the fragility of life even during our moments of greatest joy.
Every community infused the standard ceremonies with its own spirit. The display here presents colorful rituals that evolved over the centuries – some of them no longer practiced, others still part of Jewish custom – along with a few more recent ceremonies that reinterpret the tradition. Thus past and present are woven together in the constantly changing rhythm of life.