Archivist Files: Rain, Rain, Go Away

Maybe something can be done about the weather…

As the Museum’s archivist, it has been a treat to be able to look at each item in our collection.  What are my favorites?  It’s so hard to say, but this sign, from the Museum’s sizable collection of Hebrew and Yiddish signs collected from around our Lower East Side neighborhood, is on my list.

It’s small, about the size of a standard sheet of paper.  Its frame is nicked and worn, and the sign itself is stained.  Why do I like this so much?  I like how it looks, its authentic patina of age.  But the deal was sealed when I found out what it says.

The Hebrew writing is the beginning of the Blessing for Dew:  “V’ten Tal u’Matar“; in English, “And give rain and dew.”  This sign signals that this blessing should be added to daily prayers, and it would be hung on the synagogue’s bimah during the dry season in Israel, roughly from fall through early spring.

I was curious about why the sign had clearly gotten wet — its letters are blurred and its hanger is rusted.  I wanted to think that it had hung outside and that its instructions had produced results — that it had worked and brought rain.  But probably, like so much else at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, it fell victim to the elements when the main sanctuary was shut in the 1950s.  Still, I love that the cycles of nature are part of prayer and faith, and that asking for rain would be a community aspiration.

As this brutal winter drags on, maybe we should organize a collective prayer for an early Spring!

Written by Nancy Johnson, Museum Archivist

Categories: Archive & Collection, History

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