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Bronze figurine in the shape of a seated Jewish fortune teller

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.44

Bronze figure of a seated Jewish fortune teller depicted with oversized tarot cards made in Austria during the 19th century. It is possible that this figure was used to hold calling cards, or even as an ashtray. Although the Bible forbid Jews from using divination and magic, Jews were still associated with the magic and mysticism in the eyes of many non-Jews (Gentiles). The accusations stemmed from a combination of antisemitic beliefs, including pre-modern ignorance about the causes of natural phenomena like weather, fear of “others” (individuals or groups from outside the population majority or with nonlocal origins), and ignorance of Jewish language and religious practices. Throughout the Middle Ages in Western Europe, Jews were falsely accused of many malicious acts, including ritual murder, performing satanic black masses, and using amulets and talismans for occult sciences. It was believed that Jewish religious texts, written in Hebrew, with its different characters and right-to-left orientation, contained spells or secret knowledge that could only be used by initiated members. In Eastern Europe, many Gentiles believed Jews possessed the ability to control the weather. Folk tales accused Jews of using the holiday, Sukkot, which celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the protection God provided for the children of Israel when they left Egypt, as a Jewish ritual event to control the weather. It was believed that the Jewish ritual dances and prayers called, Tefillat Hageshem, were used to invoke rain. This statue is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

creation:  1800-1899
creation: Austria
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 18:12:35
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