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The Photogenic Sukkot Festival -- 100+ Years Ago. Another Mystery Photo
The Jewish festival of Sukkot is called by several names: the Harvest festival, the Joyous festival, and the festival of Booths.  Jewish families construct temporary huts -- Sukkot -- where they eat and some even sleep for the week-long holiday.  Jews traditionally pray during the holiday while holding a citron fruit and branches of myrtle, palm and willow branches -- called the lulav and etrog.

Jews sitting in their Samarkand Sukka (circa 1870, Library of Congress). More on Samarkand Jewry here.

Bukharan family in their Jerusalem sukka (circa 1900). Note the man on the right holding the citron and palm branch
(Library of Congress collection).  Compare this sukka to one photographed in Samarkand 30 years earlier
And Now the Mystery Picture -- The Occasion for this Photo

We recently found this photograph of Australian soldiers at the Western Wall in an Australian library archives and posted it on this site. The men fought in World War I in Palestine in 1917-1918.

Australian soldiers at the Western Wall, picture taken by "R. F. Ingham, 1st L."
 (Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Australia)
What was going on at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City?

The reason for the kittel
We went back and inspected the photo closely.    
The shadows suggest it was photographed around noon. Several men appear to be wearing white caftans, called a kittel, normally worn on Yom Kippur. But if the day were Yom Kippur, where were the throngs of worshippers?

Another section of the picture may provide the answer.  It suggests the day was actually the seventh day of Sukkot, a day called Hoshana Rabba, when some men have a custom to wear a kittel. The hour was well beyond the traditional morning prayer period so the crowd was sparse.

The lulav and etrog
The woman conversing with the Australian soldier may be holding a lulav (between her left shoulder and knee); the soldier may be holding the etrog.

Sukkot 1918 would have been a holiday for everyone in the picture: The Jews were liberated from the oppressive Turks, and the Australians Light Horsemen were on their way home after hard-fought battles in the Sinai, Beer Sheba, and east of the Jordan River. 

 The date: September 27, 1918.

Yom Kippur at the Western Wall 100 Years Ago

Reposting a feature from last year
Jews at the Kotel on Yom Kippur (circa 1904) See analysis of  the graffiti
on the wall for dating this picture. The graffiti on the Wall are memorial notices. (Library of Congress)
On Tuesday night, September 22, Jews around the world will commemorate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  For many centuries, Jews in the Land of Israel prayed at the Western Wall, the remnant of King Herod's retaining wall of the Temple complex destroyed in 70 AD.

Several readers noticed and commented on the intermingling of men and women in these historic pictures. It was not by choice. 

The Turkish and British rulers of Jerusalem imposed severe restrictions on the Jewish worshipers, prohibiting chairs, forbidding screens to divide the men and women, and even banning the blowing of the shofar at the end of the Yom Kippur service.  Note that the talit prayer shawls, normally worn by men throughout Yom Kippur, are not visible in the pictures.

Jews at the Western Wall (Ottoman Empire Archives)

Editor' note: In September 2015, the Ottoman Empire Archives tweeted this picture of Jews at the Western Wall, circa 1900 when the Turks ruled Palestine.  Note the small tables permitted at the time, a very unusual concession.

The men are wearing their festival/Sabbath finery, including their
fur shtreimel hats. Note the prayer shawls.  (Credit: RCB Library1897)

We found one rare picture in an Irish church's archives, dated 1897, showing men wearing prayer shawls at the Kotel.

View this video, Echoes of a Shofar, to see the story of young men who defied British authorities between 1930 and 1947 and blew the shofar at the Kotel.

Another view of the Western Wall on Yom Kippur. Note the various groups of worshipers: The Ashkenazic
 Hassidim wearing the fur shtreimel hats in  the foreground, the Sephardic Jews wearing  the fezzes in the
center, and the women in the back wearing white shawls. (Circa 1904, Library of Congress)
For the 19 years that Jordan administered the Old City, 1948-1967, no Jews were permitted to pray at the Kotel.

Many of the photo collections we have surveyed contain pictures of Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall over the last 150 years.

After the 1967 war, the Western Wall plaza was enlarged and large areas of King Herod's wall were exposed.  Archaeologists have also uncovered major subterranean tunnels -- hundreds of meters long -- that are now open to visitors to Jerusalem.
Click on the photos to enlarge.  Click on the captions to see the originals. 

Rosh Hashanna in New York 100+ Years Ago. The Busiest Men in New York on New Year's Eve
The George Bain Collection in the Library of Congress contains several dozen pictures of New York's Jewish community. Our previous posting showed the community commemorating the Jewish New Year. 

"Celebrating the Jewish New Year on the East Side" (circa 1910, Bain Collection, Library of Congress)
But during a period of about 10 years at the beginning of the 20th century, the Bain photographers focused on a group of very busy men on the eve of Rosh Hashanna -- not the rabbis or the cantors -- but the "boot blacks," the shoe shiners on the street corners.  Note the women customers, perhaps the reason for the Bain photographers' interest.

"Bootblack stand, busy on Jewish New Year, Sept. 1905" (Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

"Jewish New Year - boot blacks" (circa 1910-1915, Bain Collection, Library of Congress)
"Jewish New Year - boot blacks" (circa 1910-1915, Bain Collection, Library of Congress)  
"Jew[ish] New Year - boot black"  (September 1912, Bain Collection, Library of Congress)  

Correction to Our Posting about Max Rossvally and "Blowing Smoke"

Max Rossvally was a Jew who converted to Christianity, a fraud and ex-con. However, one of the sources we cited was actually a satire written 120 years ago.
Reader "Sarah" informs us that the section below is a satire, using real names of known individuals of the time. Apparently the report on the meeting is a lampoon. She quoted from the editor's introduction:
"Litigation apparently did not recornmad [SIC] itself to Harry Hananel Marks (z8yy-z916), editor in 1878-1879 of New York City's Reformer and Jewish Times. Marks... preferred the "means" of satire and produced the lampoon reprinted below. .... His pamphlet is, in any case, a clever - and even a prophetic -piece of work. .... Marks cleverly juxtaposed these savory characters with some of the leading and most accomplished Jews in the world at that time.... "

and from
He also published the sharp satire Down with the Jews! Meeting of the Society for Suppressing the Jewish Race (1879), which attacked anti-semitism among American politicians"
A [satirical] description of a meeting of an American anti-Semitic group attended by Rossvally
who converted while serving a sentence in prison (American Jewish Archives, 1964)


Gallery of Rosh Hashanna Photos in New York 100 Years Ago. To Our Jewish Readers. May You Be Inscribed and Photographed in the Book of Life

Re-posted from 2013
Tashlich prayer on the Brooklyn Bridge, 1909. The Near Year prayer is traditionally
said at a body of water where the worshipper "casts" his/her sins
Israel Daily Picture normally focuses on pictures of the Holy Land found in the Library of Congress archives' American Colony collection. 

In honor of Rosh Hashanna, we present vintage pictures of the holiday in New York City, taken in the early 1900s by George Bain and also housed in the Library of Congress archives.  Our thanks to the librarians and archivists at the Library of Congress.

Jewish boy in prayer shawl on Rosh Hashanna (1911)

Tashlich prayer on the Brooklyn bridge (1919)

Jews praying on the Jewish New Year (circa 1905)

Rosh Hashanna worshippers (1907)
Tashlich on the Brooklyn Bridge (1909)
Going to prayers (circa 1910). Note the pipe in the elderly man's hand

Selling New Year's cards, East Side, New York City (1910)
Going to synagogue (circa 1910)
"New Year's Parade" (1912)
Jewish New Year's nap, East Side (1912)