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Morbid Curiosities

A tour through a collection of Jewish funerary objects

by
Jeannie Rosenfeld
October 23, 2009
Len Small/Tablet Magazine
Pitcher used in ritually cleansing the dead.Len Small/Tablet Magazine
Len Small/Tablet Magazine
Pitcher used in ritually cleansing the dead.Len Small/Tablet Magazine
January, 2022: The slideshow that originally accompanied this article was lost in an internet migration from one website design to another. We apologize for the inconvenience.
January, 2022: The slideshow that originally accompanied this article was lost in an internet migration from one website design to another. We apologize for the inconvenience.

When Tablet Magazine recently visited Isaac Pollak’s Manhattan apartment to look at his collection of Jewish funerary objects, the collector was in an unusually good position to talk about them. A longstanding member of his synagogue’s burial society, or chevra kadisha, he had been involved in the ritual purification of a body just hours before. Over the last three decades, Pollak, 59, has taken part in more than 300 such purifications, known as taharot, and has also amassed one of the world’s most formidable collections of objects relating to the process. In the slide show below, he shows us some of his pieces and offers insights into the soothing, if sometimes mysterious, world of Jewish burial rites.

Jeannie Rosenfeld, a Tablet Magazine contributing editor, writes about fine and decorative art.

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