Explore Jewish Life

Explore Jewish life with the help of objects from our Mira and Gustav Berger Judaica Collection, which totals 119 objects, and photos from our archives.

Rituals and practices define Jewish observance. These customs mark the milestones of lifecycle events and the celebrations of holidays, and they set the Sabbath apart from the rest of the week. From ancient times, rabbis have enjoined Jews to "adorn our commandments".

Performing a ritual with a beautiful ceremonial object honors God's commandments. The life cycle events are birth, b'nai mitzvah, marriage and death. Each has its own rituals and its own ceremonial objects.


The Hanukkah menorah is a nine-branched candelabrum recalling the candelabra which stood in the Temple in Jerusalem. Each night of Hanukkah a new candle is added to the menorah and lit with the helper candle (shamash) until, on the eighth night, all of the candles are lit.


Sukkot, a spiritual harvest festival commemorating the historic journey of the ancient Hebrews across the desert, begins five days after Yom Kippur. The name of the holiday comes from the temporary shelter (sukkah) Jews build each year to mark the week-long holiday.

The Synagogue

The synagogue forms the center of Jewish communal life. Jews gather in the Synagogue for prayer, holiday observance, life cycle events, and study. The Torah is treated with a special reverence in the synagogue.

The Sabbath

The seventh day of the Jewish week, the Sabbath (Shabbat), marks a day of rest and abstention from work. 

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