The Cap – a keepsake from the wedding in the Great Synagogue held in the POLIN Museum collection
We mention the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street in the two galleries of our core exhibition: Encounters with Modernity and Holocaust galleries. The first one, covering the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, boasts a large architectural model of the Synagogue, opened after many years under construction on 26 September 1878.
The Synagogue on Tłomackie Street served as a symbol of modern Jewish religiosity. The Holocaust gallery recalls the Germans blowing the Synagogue up on 16 May 1943 in the course of the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
However, the Great Synagogue is mentioned on several other occasions in the narrative of POLIN core exhibition. There is one original artefact related to the Synagogue’s 65-year-long history which is presented in another section of the Encounters with Modernity gallery, namely the section devoted to Jewish weddings.
It is a cap which, according to the family tradition, was the wedding cap of Amelia Eiger (Jewish women had to cover their heads, but there was not one specific headgear used on the occasion of a wedding - a cap was just one example). Amelia was marrying Edward Natanson, an industrialist and physicist, at the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street at the turn of the twentieth century.
She was the great-great-granddaughter of Rabbi Akivah Eger (Eiger); her husband to be, Edward, was the son of Ludwik Natanson, medical doctor and a prominent activist in the Jewish community. It was, among other things, Ludwik's efforts as President of the Jewish Community and chairman of the synagogue construction committee that resulted in erecting the Great Synagogue. There is one more element in the story of this marriage and of the two prominent families that may be regarded as symbolic: Amelia Eiger was born in 1878, the same year in which the Synagogue was inaugurated.
The cap was donated to the POLIN Museum collection by Anna Jakubowska and Witold Swierczewski, grandchildren of Amelia and Edward Natanson.