MILWAUKEE – It is said that Shabbat is the most important ritual observance in Judaism and is the only ritual observance instituted in the Ten Commandments.
Halakha — Jewish law — describes how Shabbat should be observed in precise detail, which is how Orthodox Jews observe the day of rest.
But just because some Jews don’t take part in a fully observant Shabbat, doesn’t mean they don’t observe Shabbat at all. They just observe it in a, well, unorthodox way.
“Shabbat has evolved,” said Molly Dubin, curator of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, a program of Milwaukee Jewish Federation. “There have been so many changes in Jewish life and diversity, intermarriages, and Jews are so tightly woven into the fabric of American life that it’s important to ask the question: What does Shabbat look like and how is it observed?”
You’ll be able to explore that complex question at an upcoming Jewish Museum Milwaukee exhibit, “The Seventh Day: Revisiting Shabbat.” The exhibit runs Sept. 13 through Dec. 31 at the museum, 1360 N. Prospect Ave. For museum hours and special programming visit JewishMuseumMilwaukee.org.
Art and the Jewish experience
“Art is a part of the Jewish experience,” Dubin said. “This exhibit uses visual art to explore how Shabbat observances are reflected.”
The traveling exhibit was developed at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum of New York. It includes the works of 50 international artists who explore Shabbat through provocative works of art. The exhibit in Milwaukee will consist of 30 of those works.
“Nowadays, there are so many expectations placed on study, sports and other weekend activities,” said Dubin. “How do you try to find a balance and time to unplug and refocus, re-energize and get to the basics and reflect?”
Dubin noted that Jews aren’t the only group faced with this kind of situation.
“Most cultures and religions wrestle with this, but in a different way,” she said. “Some see Sunday as the day of rest, for some it’s Friday, or even multiple small points within the day — or even an entire month.”
In addition to the works of art, Dubin said there will be ongoing programs open to the public.
“There will be panel discussions,” she said. “We’ll have authors and scholars to do workshops with teens and schools. We’re interested in including people from other cultures and religions to participate and see how we all deal with the same issue. This will also be a way to bring our communities together.”
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What: “The Seventh Day: Revisiting Shabbat” exhibit
Where: Jewish Museum Milwaukee, 1360 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee
When: Sept. 13 through Dec. 31
More info: 414-390-5730 and JewishMuseumMilwaukee.org.