Stieglitz Collection

About the Collection
Search the collections
The Torah Scroll and its Ornaments
The Sabbath
The High Holidays and Sukkot
Tu B'Shvat
Life Cycle
The Home
Personal Objects
Painting by Maurycy Gottlieb

The Home


"Inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:9)."

The mezuzah affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes is a parchment scroll written by a Sofer-Stam (authorized scribe of Torah scrolls, phylacteries and mezuzot) with Biblical excerpts from Deuteronomy 6:4-15: "Hear, O Israel (Shma Israel);" and Deuteronomy 11:13-21: "If, then, you obey the commandments." On the reverse side is the divine name Shaddai (The Almighty), usually with additional letters which form a Hebrew cryptogram. The parchment is rolled up and inserted in a case, with the letters that spell Shaddai exposed at an opening.

Mezuzah cases vary in size, material and style. The outsize wooden case from Slovakia (cat. no. 225), was carved in high-relief and apparently fixed to the doorpost of a synagogue or other Jewish public building, while the mezuzah from Poland (cat. no. 226) is kept in a pierced silver lacework plaque.


The mizrah was hung on the eastern wall of the house, facing Jerusalem, in European Jewish communities (cat. no. 227). Made by folk artists, scribes or members of the household, mizrahim often included Biblical verses or benedictions.

Hebrew author Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970) describes a mizrah hanging in the home of a Sofer-Stam: "Near the beam, to the right, on the eastern wall, is the embroidered wall-hanging which Miriam had made in her youth at her father's house. It depicts a garden full of fruit trees, with a palace in the garden, and two lions watching over the garden.

The lions' faces are turned toward each other, lion facing lion, one tongue reaching out toward the other; and stretching from tongue to tongue there is an inscription in large letters of gold, which says, 'The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,' as if it were one mighty roar. In each of the four corners of the embroidery there is a square which contains the words: 'I have set the Lord always before me (Shmuel Y. Agnon, "Twenty-one Stories," edited by N.G. Glatzer, New York, 1970, p. 12)."

Lavers, porcelain wares, and sconce

Ewers and basins for washing the hands bear Hebrew inscriptions, sometimes added at a later stage. One rare vessel in the form of a cup (cat. no. 228), was made especially for the hand washing ritual, and etched and decorated with the Hebrew blessing for washing the hands. An oval pewter basin (cat. no. 236) is apparently part of a set made especially for handwashing. Decorative objects, such as porcelain plates and figurines, were displayed behind glass-doored cabinets or on shelves. Porcelain wares are adorned with Hebrew inscriptions related to the events they commemorate (cat. nos. 229-231), and decorated in the style of the period (cat. no. 237). The term "Judenporzellan (Jewish porcelain)" was so named because Jews were forced to purchase it by the authorities (cat. no. 229). The large copper plate and the silver sconce (cat. no. 238, 239) were used in the synagogue.