Traces Of Personal Journeys At Jewish Museum

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 34 months ago
Traces Of Personal Journeys At Jewish Museum
"When my stepfather, the American artist Alfred Cohen, wasn’t painting, drawing or print-making, he loved working in three dimensions: especially sanding, staining, and finishing wood. It reminded him of his father, who had made the journey aged about 10 from Riga in Latvia to Britain. He had been apprenticed to a cabinet maker in Aberystwyth, but later came to London, settling in the East End, and acquiring a semi-Cockney accent that got him known as ‘the Englishman’ when he went to live in Chicago." Max Saunders
"When my stepfather, the American artist Alfred Cohen, wasn’t painting, drawing or print-making, he loved working in three dimensions: especially sanding, staining, and finishing wood. It reminded him of his father, who had made the journey aged about 10 from Riga in Latvia to Britain. He had been apprenticed to a cabinet maker in Aberystwyth, but later came to London, settling in the East End, and acquiring a semi-Cockney accent that got him known as ‘the Englishman’ when he went to live in Chicago." Max Saunders
"Two leaves that have travelled from a tree to the ground.
Yet if I was to say the small leaf is from the grounds of Auschwitz and you connect how the soil contains
the ash of the crematorium that operated there -- its journey is poignantly different.
And if the larger leaf has the words ‘will you marry me’ written on the reverse -- part of a marriage
proposal in Hackney Downs Park -- again its journey changes.
So now we have four journeys, two of them testaments to human lives, two of them a tree shedding its
leaves." Sam Winston
"Two leaves that have travelled from a tree to the ground. Yet if I was to say the small leaf is from the grounds of Auschwitz and you connect how the soil contains the ash of the crematorium that operated there -- its journey is poignantly different. And if the larger leaf has the words ‘will you marry me’ written on the reverse -- part of a marriage proposal in Hackney Downs Park -- again its journey changes. So now we have four journeys, two of them testaments to human lives, two of them a tree shedding its leaves." Sam Winston
"Our late mother, Ilona Grunberger, made more journeys than most due to the effects of war,
displacement, and revolution, searching for personal peace, freedom and security. Rescued in a skeletal
state from Bergen Belsen by British troops and the Swedish Red Cross, she subsequently recovered in
Sweden, before returning to her home country, Hungary. There she found love and started a family
again in a village called Mezocsat. In 1957, after the trauma of the 1956 Revolution, she and her family
travelled to London to make their home in the 'free world'. This object accompanied her on her various journeys." Anne Cowan
"Our late mother, Ilona Grunberger, made more journeys than most due to the effects of war, displacement, and revolution, searching for personal peace, freedom and security. Rescued in a skeletal state from Bergen Belsen by British troops and the Swedish Red Cross, she subsequently recovered in Sweden, before returning to her home country, Hungary. There she found love and started a family again in a village called Mezocsat. In 1957, after the trauma of the 1956 Revolution, she and her family travelled to London to make their home in the 'free world'. This object accompanied her on her various journeys." Anne Cowan
"These signposts, on a corner with Clapham Road, show a journey into my past as a young child living in
a Clapham street just after World War II -- a war in which my father was killed. The arrows direct me
to different memory stops on a voyage to places that now exist only in my mind, though Waterloo
Station, where I always caught the train to visit my grandmother, still remains." Tony Rickaby
"These signposts, on a corner with Clapham Road, show a journey into my past as a young child living in a Clapham street just after World War II -- a war in which my father was killed. The arrows direct me to different memory stops on a voyage to places that now exist only in my mind, though Waterloo Station, where I always caught the train to visit my grandmother, still remains." Tony Rickaby
"This is a photo of me and my mum meeting my uncle for the first time when he was 101. We both
have the same name (my lay name) even though my name was taken from my grandfather on my dad’s side.
My great-grandfather was born in Palestine. He was a reader at
Willesden and Brondesbury Synagogue in the mid-1930s. I ran a Jewish/Buddhist retreat in the same
street nearly 80 years later. So I have returned to what my great-grandfather did as a wandering
Buddhist monk." Amaranatho, Shabbat Teshuva
"This is a photo of me and my mum meeting my uncle for the first time when he was 101. We both have the same name (my lay name) even though my name was taken from my grandfather on my dad’s side. My great-grandfather was born in Palestine. He was a reader at Willesden and Brondesbury Synagogue in the mid-1930s. I ran a Jewish/Buddhist retreat in the same street nearly 80 years later. So I have returned to what my great-grandfather did as a wandering Buddhist monk." Amaranatho, Shabbat Teshuva
"I belong to the tribe of Litvaks who immigrated to South Africa over 100 years ago from cold,
impoverished European shtetls.
In my mind, I can see my grandparents on the boat as they land in Cape Town. They are clutching
leather suitcases containing all their essentials: vests, socks, passports, photographs, prayer shawls, warm
clothes and recipes for the food of their mothers.
The tefillin are all that remains.
My son used these for his bar mitzvah in London.
They were a gift from my mother and I use them on my Seder table.
It’s been a long journey." Janine Stein
"I belong to the tribe of Litvaks who immigrated to South Africa over 100 years ago from cold, impoverished European shtetls. In my mind, I can see my grandparents on the boat as they land in Cape Town. They are clutching leather suitcases containing all their essentials: vests, socks, passports, photographs, prayer shawls, warm clothes and recipes for the food of their mothers. The tefillin are all that remains. My son used these for his bar mitzvah in London. They were a gift from my mother and I use them on my Seder table. It’s been a long journey." Janine Stein

A crowdsourced exhibition is open at the Jewish Museum in Camden, showcasing objects that represent journeys and how we trace and interpret them.

Members of the public donated objects to be displayed alongside items from the museum's Judaica collection — but the thing that sets this exhibition apart is that the donors have also submitted explanations and testimony about the significance of the pieces. You can see the kit of the first black barber to set up in Reading, an inkwell from Yemen and a Talmud tractate from Tsarist Russia that entered America via Ellis Island. Above, we've selected six objects with London connections and shared the words of the donors.

Journeys runs at the Jewish Museum, Raymond Burton House, 129-131 Albert Street NW1, until 4 September. Entry to the exhibition is free with entry to the museum, £7.50 / concessions available.

Last Updated 15 June 2015