“Artifacts and places recount history better than books.” This sentence welcomes you as you arrive at the Jewish Alsatian Museum, a museum unlike any other. It displays the culture of the Jews of Alsace, evoking day to day life along with their Christian neighbours. As soon as you enter, a Jewish candlestick is lit at the window of a half-timbered house. A narrow-vaulted passage gives access to a “rue des Juifs”. It is along an ascending gallery that one can follow and discover the slow progress “from slavery to freedom” of these Jews, serfs of the Crown until the French Revolution. Elsewhere, a sloping street lined with stores informs the visitor about the social progress of the last century. A turning point, a dark rotunda: the Shoah… The path is lined with mannequins, ceramic models meticulously showing, in three dimensions, scenes of daily life inspired by engravings, costumed dolls, and architectural models. And here, as the rooms go by, these miserable rural people, peddlers or wholesale butchers, living among poor peasants, appear as rich in tradition, in quiet faith, in conviviality, in biblical knowledge, and in hope.
Image credit: Musée judeo alsacien de Bouxwiller © Association des musées d’Alsace