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Pastel portrait of a Jewish man with a toothy smile

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.262

Austrian pastel drawing of a smiling, Orthodox Jewish man dressed in black, created in approximately 1880. Orthodox Judaism is the most traditional and stringent of the three main branches of modern Judaism. Orthodox Jews believe the Torah is of divine origin and strive to adhere to the 613 commandments of Jewish Law. Orthodox Jewish men traditionally wear a black top with a black, brimmed hat, as seen in the drawing. The black clothing conforms to the Jewish concept of tzniyus (modest dress and behavior), which Orthodox Jews adhere to for religious reasons. Only men can wear the brimmed hats. Jewish boys receive their first hat following their bar mitzvah, when they are ready to observe religious laws and are eligible to take part in public worship. The man has several stereotypical physical features commonly attributed to Jewish men: a large nose, sidelocks, and a red beard. The man’s unappealing grin, coupled with the unkempt appearance of his wiry facial hair, gives him a disquieting air. The depiction of Jewish characters as redheads also has a long history. Some interpretations of the Bible describe Esau and David (King of Israel) as being redheaded, and for many red hair became a Jewish identifier, even though Jews are genetically no more likely to have red hair than other groups. In medieval Europe, redheads were regarded as untrustworthy, and the Jewish, literary villains Fagin and Shylock had red hair. The pastel drawing is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

creation:  approximately 1880
creation: Austria
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 18:12:44
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