The traditional way that hassidic men wear their coat is with the right side closed over the left side. This is because the right symbolizes mercy and the left symbolizes judgment, and they want their clothing to be an expression of the wish that God’s mercy will triumph over all.
This is just one of the tidbits from the Israel Museum’s exhibit on hassidic Judaism called “A World Apart Next Door: Glimpses into the Life of Hassidic Jews.” Surprisingly, though, the most enthusiastic visitors to the exhibit are not the secular public but haredim (ultra-Orthodox).
Despite the fact that the museum is open on Shabbat, haredim from all sects, both hassidic and non-hassidic, have come to the museum in record numbers since the exhibit opened on June 19. It runs until December 1.
Exhibit curator Ester Muschawsky-Schnapper, a 30- year veteran of the museum, believes haredim are drawn to the exhibit for two reasons. First, because their communities are fairly isolated even within haredi neighborhoods, and there’s the natural curiosity to see how other ultra- Orthodox sects celebrate their traditions.
Muschawsky-Schnapper said that in her five years of research one of the biggest concerns was not modesty or how she would portray something, but whether she would give enough space in the exhibit to a specific stream of Hassidism.
The second reason haredim are drawn to the exhibit is to understand how the outside world views their community.
“In an organized, concentrated way, [the exhibit allows them] to see how somebody from outside sees them, and this puzzles them a lot,” said Muschawsky-Schnapper.
“You don’t see your own culture organized in rational categories,” she explained. “This is the researcher who does that, or the ethnographer who does it. To see it in such categories is nevertheless news for them.”
As he exited the exhibit on Wednesday a hassidic man who declined to give his name said he felt “a little weird” that he and his community were part of a museum exhibition.
“It’s not defaming the subject, it’s taking a picture,” he explained. “It presents it correctly and there are some new and interesting things.”
But the man, a leading rabbi in the Polish hassidic community in Jerusalem, said he felt like hassidim were presented as “the other” so that secular people could gawk, and he worried that most of the secular public came to stare at their differences rather than to appreciate the close-knit hassidic community.
“You can ask anyone here. No one came to learn,” he said. “It’s like a zoo. You don’t go to a zoo to learn zoology, the same way you didn’t really come here to learn anthropology.... It doesn’t reveal anything. It gives a view from the outside but it doesn’t show the meaning of hassidut.”
The rabbi added that he understood the pull of the exhibit for haredim. Ream More @ JPost