A wide-ranging discussion about the focus of the museum concluded that the exhibition should focus on the most vibrant period in the life of the Jewish community, the period from 1774 to 1941, when Bukovina was first part of the Habsburg Monarchy and later the Kingdom of Romania.
permanent exhibition is housed in a small area about 53 meters square
in two rooms on the ground floor of Chernivtsi’s former Jewish
National House. Despite the limitations on space, there is much
material presented in “circles.” - The upper circle is devoted to architecture; photographs of Jewish religious and communal buildings in Bukovina are on display; - The middle circle is devoted to zodiac signs, representing the Jewish religious year; - The lower circle
is devoted to factual information - it consists of twelve display
boards, on which the life of the Jewish community is described
chronologically from the end of the eighteenth to the middle of the
All these circles
together symbolise the ongoing transformation of the Jewish
energies. From the end of the eighteenth and to the beginning of
the nineteenth century these were predominantly religious, in the
second half of the nineteenth century they focused on education and
culture and finally turned to political activity at the beginning of
the twentieth century. A significant part of
the exhibits comprises original books, documents, postcards and objects
of daily life and religious tradition. General
information and official documents concerning the Bukovinian Jews
during the Austrian era are presented in the first exhibition room.
The main focus is on tradition, religious life and customs
of Judaism. The materials shown here are
dedicated to the activity of the two greatest Bukovinian Hassidic dynasties - the Vizhnits Tzadik
Mendel Hager and the Rizhiner wunderrebbe (wonder rabbi) Isroel Fridman from Sadigura.
Furthermore, the exhibition includes a "Shabbat corner" - a part of the interior of a traditional
Jewish home, with the table where the family celebrates the beginning of the Shabbat.
There is also an interesting presentation of traditional Jewish art, in particular, reproductions of unique oil
paintings from the still functioning synagogue "Beit-Tfilah Benjamin" in Chernivtsi, and tombstones
(matsevas) from old Bukovinian cemeteries.
The exhibition of the big hall provides information on the Jewish cultural and political movements
from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, as well as on the daily life of the
Jews, their professions, interests and cultural life. Materials on the development and activity of
the Chernivtsi Jewish community play a significant role here. Here different aspects of the life
of the Jews in the town are shown and photos of exceptional personalities within the community
In the life of the Bukovinian Jews the beginning of the 20th century is marked as the time when they
entered the political arena and as the time of the creation of political unions and parties and the
fight between different movements within political life.
This was primarily reflected in the variety of party
periodicals which are shown in the exhibition.
A special focus is on materials that are dedicated to the activity of the cultural unions that acted
against German and later Romanian assimilation and acculturation. There is detailed information on the
first world conference on the Yiddish language, that took place in Chernivtsi in 1908.
During the time between the two world wars, culture played a significant role in the life of the
Bukovinian Jews. Without theatres and books, the Bukovinian Jews could not be imagined. Bukovina
gave the world a number of scientists, writers and poets, artists and musicians of Jewish origin.
Information on a number of prominent Bukovinian Jewish writers who created masterpieces of literature
in the German and Yiddish languages are presented: Karl Emil Franzos, Elieser Steinbarg, Itzig Manger,
Paul Celan, Rosa Auslaender and others, as well as on talented artists who worked in the spheres of
easel paintings, plastic art and graphics: Arthur Kolnik, Bernard Feder,Moshe Krinitz and Isiu Sherf.
The only still unfinished display board is to be used for documents and photos from the time of
the Soviet occupation and annexation of Bukovina (1940-1941).
The catastrophe of World War II did not pass by Bukovina. Archive documents, photos and testimonies
of survivors of these tragic events complete the exhibition on the history of Bukovinian Jewry.
In the display cases of the exhibition halls a number of objects of the museum's collection are presented.
They complete brightly and vividly the narrative on the religious and everyday life of the Bukovinian
Jews. Authentic objects of daily life help to imagine the atmosphere of the past and to fill it with
Video about the creation of the museum's exhibition (45 Mb)
(photos by J.Zissels, N.Shevchenko, G.Kharaz, A.Voloch were used).
Music: "Hey, brothers, why are you sleeping?" (written by Sh.Karlibach, performed by M.Itkina)