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OBJECT OF THE MONTH – March 2007


Dezider (Dudy) Salomon (18 May 1918, Chust, now Ukraine – 24 August 2006, Prague),
Purim Mask with the Text of the Yiddish Song ‘A gutn purim, malech’, (c. 2004)


Papier-mâché, 175 x 170 x 50 mm
signed in Yiddish with Roman characters: Dudy Salomon, Chust
Provenance: JMP acquisition from 2006
JMP 179.037

Purim, which falls on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (usually in March), commemorates an event that is described in the Book of Esther. During the reign of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I, 486–465 BCE /Artaxerxes II, 430–358 BCE?), all the Jews in Persia were to be executed on the advice of the King’s evil advisor Haman. Tradition has it that this holiday was designated by the pious Mordecai, a relative of Esther (also called Hadassah) whom the powerful Persian ruler had taken as his wife. By revealing her Jewish identity, Esther saved from destruction the entire Jewish nation; the latter had lived in Persia since the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. In memory of this occasion, the Book of Esther is read from a special scroll (called the Megillah Esther) in synagogues throughout the world. Purim celebrations involve considerable revelry, including the wearing of masks. The Purim masquerade, which is probably based on the tradition of the Roman carnival, is first mentioned in responsa by the rabbi of Padua, Judah ben Eliezer ha-Levi Minz (c. 1408–1506). The custom associated with concealing one’s identity, which played such an important role in the Purim story (Esther initially concealed her Jewish identity, Mordecai did not admit to knowing a foreign language and G-d’s presence remains concealed throughout – referred to by Jewish scholars as hester panim, or hiding of the face, from which derives the name of the biblical book and that of its main protagonist) soon spread across the Diaspora and has been maintained to the present day. The mask on display comes from a workshop run by the Charles Jordan Retirement Home. It was made by Dezider (Dudy) Salomon from the small town of Chust in Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia, who added the Yiddish text (with Roman characters)of a humorous Purim song A gutn purim, malech. This song was recreated and studied for the Jewish Museum in Prague by the singer and ethno-musicologist Kateryna Kolcová.

A gutn purim, malech
AUDIO RECORDING (MP3 format)
Melody © Kateryna Kolcová, 2007

 


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