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Old Synagogue Essen

Permanent Exhibitions in the "House of Jewish Culture"

Five new exhibitions have been prepared for the Old Synagogue as “House of Jewish Culture” in July 2010:

  • Sources of Jewish traditions
  • Jewish festival
  • Jewish way of life
  • History of the Old Synagogue
  • History of Essen’s Jewish community
Board with Jewish personalities

Sources of Jewish Traditions

What ‘nourishes’ Jewish traditions right up to the present day? Various aspects of Jewish life and religion give insight: the long history of Judaism, the Jewish calendar, the Torah and other texts, the synagogue as a place of assembly and worship.

Jewish Festivals

The synagogue’s original six large stained glass windows above the gallery depicted the main Jewish festivals. These windows have not been replaced in that form. Instead, six glass show-cases situated on the gallery present eight Jewish holidays: Shabbat, Purim, Pesach and Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Hanukkah. Ritual objects document vividly yet cautious the festive proceedings.

Jewish Way of Life

Contrary to common opinion and innumerable clichés, Judaism is not just a religion: it is a culture covering every field of life. Jews, then, are much more than a religious community, and this section shows visitors some unusual aspects of the Jewish world, and some of the many ways in which the old traditions live on today. In this respect nothing has ever been uniform: as the saying goes, three Jews have four opinions.
Here you will find many questions and many surprising (as well as some humorous) answers.

History of the Old Synagogue

Built between 1911 and 1913, the synagogue was burnt out in the Pogrom Night of November 1938. It remained a ruin until 1959, and was then used (1961-1979) as an exhibition hall for industrial design. Renamed the “Old Synagogue” in 1980 and restored between 1986 and 1988, it served for many years as a place of remembrance and historical documentation. In 2008 the new concept of a fully fledged House of Jewish Culture was launched – opening 2010. Photo-projections and a number of exhibits tell this manifold story, and computer stations are available for in-depth study.

History of Essen’s Jewish Community

Based on the archives of the Old Synagogue, the exhibition records the history of Essen’s Jewish community above all in the late 19th and early to mid 20th century. Personal objects – photos, refugee diaries, poetry albums, certificates and medals – bring the life of the city’s Jews, at home and in the countries of their exile, vividly and emotionally close to the visitor. A reading corner contains publications from the early decades of the 20th century, and a computer station provides access to further documentation.