The Mezuzah

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One of the most recognizable Jewish artifacts, the mezuzah is an important part of Jewish culture. It is placed on the side of the doorway, usually slanted, and generally contains a small passage from the Torah (התורה). Its purpose is to signify a Jewish home. While many Orthodox homes and synagogues have mezuzahs even on interior doors, more “modern” sects of Judaism, such as Conservative Judaism, only require that a mezuzah be on the front door. In other cases, some families may not always adhere to Jewish customs (such as keeping Kosher), but place one on their doorposts anyway to identify with their roots. In either case, it is generally Jewish tradition to place one’s fingers on the mezuzah and kiss them when passing through a doorway with a mezuzah on it. As my grandmother, Anita, came to the United States during a great wave of immigration a century ago, her identity as a Jew was invaluable. While she came before the onslaught of the Holocaust, turmoil was already occurring in the Eastern European region as early as the 1920s, as a result of radical factions and struggles in the continent after World War I. In America, Anita kept a Kosher home and was more faithful to Jewish tradition. As a result, keeping a mezuzah in the house was extremely important. While I do not know if she kept a mezuzah in all the doorways of our house, we currently still keep one by the front door and by the back door, even though we are not as adherent to religious laws.

Year: 1925

– Joshua Cutler

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