Das Wochen - oder Pfingst - Fest, Pentacost- Shavuot
This painting features on the back of a postcard used by the Kosher margarine manufacturer, the Sana company, as a page of the Tomor Calendar. The portrait focuses on two men, each holding Torah scrolls which they have just taken from the Holy Ark, the Aron Hakodesh. Men and children stand at the bottom of the steps, watching on. The men are wearing prayer shawls, Tallitot, and skull caps, Kippot, or other hats that were fashionable at the time. The children in the picture look on excitedly and put their hands out to touch the torah.
The Synagogue is decorated with greenery in honour of the festival of Shavuot. There are trees on either side of the Ark and a garland of flowers hangs above. There is a Menorah and a pile of books on a shelf next to the Ark. The Ten Commandments stand above the Ark, and there are windows on either side. The Torah scrolls are bound into a round shapeand decorated by a Crown, breastplate and a Mantel- a fabric cover possibly made out of silk.
Would You Like to Know More?
Decorating the Synagogue on Shavuot - Shavuot falls exactly seven weeks after Passover. It celebrates the date that the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai. It also signifies the Harvest time which is why it is customary for some Synagogues to be decorated with greenery.The earliest known source for the custom of decorating synagogues with plants for Shavuot was the Maharil in the fourteenth century: “It is our custom to spread the floor of the synagogue with fragrant spices and roses in order to enhance the joy of the holiday.” Other commentators have suggested that the tradition is based on the midrash (Talmudic story) that plants miraculously sprouted on Mount Sinai just before the Torah was given in order to beautify the area. This custom, which began in Germany, spread across the Ashkenazi world and is common nowadays in many synagogues and communities.
Moritz Daniel Oppenheim - Moritz Daniel Oppenheim was born in Hanau, Germany in 1800. He was famous for being the first Jewish artist to work in the German world without having to compromise his Jewishness. He took an interest in the life of the Jewish Ghetto and painted 20 works titled ‘Scenes from Traditional Jewish life’, which included Jewish holidays and lifecycle events at home or at the Synagogue. His paintings of the ghetto overlooked the overcrowded unsanitary conditions as Oppenheim wanted his non Jewish audience to see Jewish life positively.
Jewish Studies teachers could use the picture as an introduction to the festival of Shavuot. It could also be used to study the commandments and the different customs of the holiday.
Jewish History teachers could use the picture to teach about the Emancipation and Jewish life in nineteenth-century Germany and the influence of Haskala on German Jewry.
In Art lessons the decorations, clothing, spaces, and people’s expressions could be analysed and students asked to think about how they would represent Shavuot. Students could also compare Oppenheim's art with the art of his contemporaries, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
Describe what you see in the picture.
Who are the people and what are they doing?
Describe the objects in the photograph (for example, the clothing, decorations, etc.).
Describe the people’s facial expressions.
Reading Between the Lines
What time of year does this picture represent?
Is this picture representative of German Jewry at the time? If so, in what way?
Why is the Synagogue decorated?
What does your community do to celebrate Shavuot?
What message do you think the artist wanted to convey in this painting?
Create a slogan for this painting, describing what is going on.
Write the facebook status of one of the people in the painting. Include what he is doing and how you think he would be feeling.