This collection was initiated in 1958 and it originated from other exhibits related to Jewish religion, traditions and folklore used in synagogues and houses during the social, private and family celebrations. According to the importance, the second part of the collection contains paintings, graphics, photographs and post cards. Still marginal are history relics, valuable printings, manuscripts and archives.
The most valuable and stunning exhibits of our collection are tools from synagogues: curtains of the Torah ark, adornments of the Torah and synagogues' candelabrums. The curtain (Torah Ark curtain) ended with the Torah Ark valance (kaporet) used to be inseparable elements of ritual decoration of the ark.
One of the best fabrics in the collection is the lambrequin made from maroon velvet with the ornament of attacking lions Torah's crown and vases with flowers embroidered. Very important element of this fabric is the Hebrew inscription about the subject and and its donors. From the inscription, we know that Pesach and his wife Bajla (Belle) gave it to one of the synagogues in Germany in 1770. The Pesach was the Josef's Elias son, the main rabbi of the Jewish commune in Gingen, and a grandson of Josef Samuel - main rabbi of the huge Jewish commune in Frankfurt am Main.
In this collection, we must not forget about ritual synagogue garb of the Torah scroll: embroidered dress (meil) to shield the scroll, the corona (keter), pairs of caps (rimmonim), shield (tas) and the pointer (jad) used by the reader. The symbol of the Torah scroll is the corona that decorates it. It originates from the Talmudic Allegories of Fathers. Turret tops of bars are called "bells" because of the attached bells that ring when the scroll is being carried from the ark to rostrum to be read. In Hebrew, it is called rimmonim, it means a pomegranate fruit, probably because of the fact that pomegranate fruits were used as rattles in ancient temples' cults.
The shield (tas) attached to the scroll is a kind of label that informs about the ceremony the scroll has been created to read the proper fragment of the text. It can be equipped with the set of exchangeable plates with names of the holidays and ceremonies or the ceremony name can be permanently engraved. The characteristic ornaments of the shields are Decalogue stones, the corona of the Torah, the idea of the Torah ark with the Torah scroll inside and two columns that represent the entrance to the temple in Jerusalem on the both sides of the shield. From time to time, there is also a figure of Moses and Arron like on this one, dated on year 1800, made by Wroclaw goldsmith Gottfried Wilhelm Hoensch.
In the collection you can also find other, not so artistic but very valuable from the historic and ethic point of view shields. These are usually modest plates in shape of square, with arch on the top and cartouche in the middle with the Hebrew inscription which is the travesty of pronounced during the circumcision's ceremony prayer. In the inscription there is the name of boy and his father mentioned. (In case of Rabbinic's' background - the name of his mother). It is supposed that these plates were gifts for the synagogue for the first anniversary of the ceremony.
Besides the shield, on the kept in the arts scroll the special pointer was attached. It used to make easier reading of the Torah's text. Touching the holy scroll is forbidden. Usually pointer was in shape of real hand with straight index finger, which is why it is called a jag (hand) in Hebrew.
Light is very important in the Jewish tradition, that is why a lot of various candelabrums were used. In the collection there are a few nine arm Chanukah's candelabrums. One of them was made in the 17th century, and was located in Krakow's Wysoka synagogue until the outbreak of the World War II. The other, made in the first half of the 19th century, originates from one of the southern Poland's synagogues. Before it became a part of the museum's collection the Kossaks - the famous family of painters had owned it.
Very famous kind of the Chanukah's candelabrum is a small olive lamp (Chanukah) which used to give a little bit of illumination during the Chanukah holiday. It is a symbol of Jerusalem Temple Cult's renewal in year 165 B.C. Chanukah has eight containers for the olive in shape of small gutters, small jugs or animals. It has one or two additional containers for secondary light on the back or side walls. The Chanukah lamp used to be in every Jewish house.
It was made from various materials: wood, ceramics and metal. Many of them are being kept in museums' collections. In the Krakow's Historical Museum we have brazen lamps from the 18th and 19th centuries. Moreover we have silver and plated lamps, mainly made in Warsaw, in Pogorzelski's, Riedl's, Szkarlat's, Fraget's factories in the second half of 19th century.
As famous as the Chanukah lamps are also Sabbath containers for flavours. Classic container for flavours has shape of round or polygonal turret which stands on smaller or bigger foot. It has firing pin on the top, usually with the flag. It was usually made from silver using the dainty technique. In the second half of the 19th century the containers in other shapes was propagated. These usually based on the newest technique inventions like the engine or car.
A very interesting parts of the collection are tools used during the Seder Supper which begins the spring holiday called the Passover. The most characteristic elements of the Seder tableware are plates with 6 separated holes for traditional dishes of this supper and embroidered bags for three pieces of matzoth deeply connected to the holiday. In Poland before World War II the Seder tableware's was made in many factories of ceramics i.e. Lubycza Królewska, Wloclawek and Cmielow. Very popular were manufactures of porcelain from Carlsbad too. Seder trays made from silver are the most precious exhibits of our collection. One of them, produced in Lvov about year 1806 is ornamented by scene of Deliverance of Israel from Egypt which based on picture called Amsterdam Haggadic from 1695
A tray with ornament that presents theme of the Passover holiday, a figure of Moses and Deliverance of Israel from Egypt almost for surly comes from factory of famous goldsmith - Baruch Dornhelm.
Very valuable are all exhibits related to family ceremonies and private life such as traditional male and female clothes (traditional male clothes is the same as ritual one), jewellery, talismans, household's equipment, manuscripts and handouts related to various family celebrations. For example, documents related to marriage: engagement agreements, marital contracts and divorce letters. Few have been saved in Poland. These are for sure very important social and historic documents.
The collectors became interested with the Jewish clothes quite late. That is why it is very purely represented in the Jewish collections in Poland. That is also why in the Museum's collections we have only some parts of the male and female clothes. One of the elements of the prayer's clothes was cotton prayer scarf (tallit) with black stripes on the sides and tassels (cycyes) in each corner. The ornament of the tallit is the attar. Atara is a shpanier arbet with geometrical shapes that is 1 m long and 10 cm wide decorative collar.
The collection contains male head-dresses: Every-day and holiday skullcap and Saturday's sew around with fur caps (streimel). In the female clothes it is good to mention about the embroidered woman's bodice ornament fixed by tapes on the neck and put on with the bottom, undecorated side under the skirt.
Very valuable part of the collection is metal and paper talismans from the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the metal talismans, we have examples with the Hebrew letter "H" which represents the name of God and the prayer that protects from curses and diseases (mainly diphtheritic). In the museum's collection, we also have the special talisman that protects the woman and her newborn baby from the female demon called Lilith. This one was made in 1832 by Markus Donath from Nitra.
Very important part of the collection is an iconography of the Jewish district in the Krakow's Kazimierz. There you can find scenes and portraits of Jews in painting, graphics and photography. Paintings of Samuel Hirszenberg, Artur Markowicz, Leon Lewkowicz, Marcin E. Gottlieb, Waclaw Koniuszko and Josef Mehoffer, graphics of Wilhelm Wachtel, Lazar Krestin and Ilia Schor are the most interesting in this collection. We have very valuable collection of photographs about 70 Jewish types from Krakow and neighbourhood, taken in the 19th century by Ignacy Krieger (1817-1889).