Monday, February 22, 2016

Tucson's Jewish History Museum

Scarlet and I went to the Grand Opening Celebration of Tucson's Jewish History Museum on Sunday.
 The building started life as the first Jewish synagogue in the city.
It went through several other uses, including a squatters' hovel, 
before being refurbished with beauty, outside
 and in.

We skipped the speechifying, 
opting to stroll the neighborhood of small, older, refurbished stuccoed homes. 

We did wait in line as small groups were admitted to the small sanctuary, 
once the home to Tucson's only congregation.
As anyone who has ever belonged to a modern synagogue will not be surprised to hear, 
it was soon joined by another congregation, made up of those disaffected with the first.
Time passes, but nothing changes.

The open room contains the bare trappings of its religious heritage,
pews and a small bimah (podium) which seemed inappropriate to photograph, 
and artifacts from the time of its creation.

The photographs and medals and letters were explained with modern technology,
but some items spoke for themselves.

This goat cart belonged to the family which spearheaded the synagogue's creation.
I'm not sure how it's relevant to being Jewish in Tucson, 
but I've never seen a goat cart and it made me smile.

 This manicure set journeyed from the Warsaw Ghetto to the desert Southwest.
In itself, it's not that much different from the tools used today.
The fact that they were important enough to be carried to freedom gave us cause for pause.

 These are the ladle and cup of a Jewish prospector.
Nicknamed The Wandering Jew, he established several mines in the area.
No, I didn't think about Jewish miners before this afternoon.
Their presence shouldn't be a surprise, but it's never been part of my narrative.

History is catching up with me.
Artifacts from 1976 made the curatorial cut. 

So did this picture drawn by another founding family member.
I'm not sure of its historical significance, 
but it fit right in with the rest of the afternoon.

It was a slice of Tucson, where the personal is lovingly shared,
an event filled with people of a certain age greeting even older friends, 
of multi-generational Hispanic families and of hipsters on bicycles 
and of children who wanted to be anywhere but there.
Parking was easy, admission was free, and there was a small but lovely gift shop.
We finished the tour in under an hour, and left with smiles on our faces.
It was totally Tucson.

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