The Arty Semite

The Vanishing Synagogue Bulletin Board

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

  • Print
  • Share Share
thinkstock

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

The recent volley of Jewish holidays — so rich in activity — didn’t leave much room for thinking about absence. What with a seemingly non-stop round of marketing, cooking, eating and shul-going, the opportunity to take note – and stock – of something missing all too easily got lost in the festive shuffle.

But now that things have resumed their normal course, it’s hard for me to think of anything else, from the absence of the occasional worshipper who would pop in and out of the sanctuary just in time for yizkor to the disappearance of the synagogue bulletin board.

My Forward column acknowledges and, in its own way, salutes the former. Here I’d like to give the latter its due.

For years, well before emails and other forms of digital communications colonized the contemporary Jewish world, congregants and passers-by alike would know what was going on within their local synagogue simply by glancing at an exterior bulletin board. Whether bolted to the ground or fixed to an outside wall, this metal-framed object — close kin to a movie marquee — featured such critical tidbits of information as the names of the presiding clergy and the times when services were being held. It also announced a forthcoming bar or bat mitzvah or a special Kiddush.

This information was usually conveyed through a series of white letters against a black ground. Simple as it sounds, it took some doing to make sure that the letters hung straight rather than drooped. But whose doing was it? The synagogue’s all-purpose handyman? Or did the weekly task of arranging the letters in an orderly fashion fall to the shamash or sexton, himself a vanishing breed? I never did manage to find out.

All I know is that in my neighborhood the exterior bulletin board has gone the way of so many other forms of vernacular architecture. True, the corner which it once anchored is now a more open and inviting space. And, yes, the digitization of the weekly schedule is not without its pleasures and conveniences.

Still, I’ll miss this informational device, even though I, like so many others, probably never gave it more than a passing look, much less a second thought. The synagogue bulletin board represents just one more in a long line of objects that once rendered the American synagogue a distinctive presence.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jenna Weissman Joselit, From Under the Fig Tree

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.