Photos Of A “Hidden Synagogue”

UPDATE: It seems like there’s a good chance this piece is not historical.  A silversmith designer, Yossi Swed, claims that he designed this piece 20 years ago or so, and that it’s an original creation, not something used during the Inquisition, World War II, or any other time.  I will try to keep you updated as the day goes on, and I find more information.  The original poster has not responded to my messages so far.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE 2:  Okay, I’ve written up a full explanation.  Feel free to read it here.

We often hear of stories of Jews who kept their faith throughout history, and the many amazing sacrifices they made to make sure their children would still keep their faith.  But it’s extremely rare to see photographic evidence of these sacrifices.

Last night, Redditor atcaskstrength posted 24 photographs of a gorgeous contraption that at first seems like a simple teapot.  However, as the photographs progress, you see that this was an ingenious contraption used to allow Jews to practice their religion in hiding.  Items like this have been used since the Inquisition.  This item is one such piece, although unfortunately the information about the original time and place it was used seems to have been lost.

I messaged him and asked him I could post it here, and apparently he’s a fan of the blog so he said yes.  I’m very excited to present to you an abridged version of the “Hidden Synagogue” (link to the full gallery below):

The “Teapot”

The teapot

Taking Off The Top Piece

Take off the top piece...

It’s A Dreidel!

It's a dreidle!

Next Piece

Next piece...

A Spice Holder (For Havdalah)

A spice holder

Next Layer Down

Next layer down.

The Eternal Flame

The eternal flame.

Inside Of That Is Another Secret: A Megilla

A Megilla!

An Etrog Holder (For Sukkot)

Etrog holder.

Opening It Up…

Inside!

Shabbat Candlesticks

Shabbat candlesticks

Under The Candlesticks… A Seder Plate

A seder plate!

Everything Open

Everything open.

 

But One More Thing… A Menorah

A Menorah!

I want to thank atcaskstrength for sharing this amazing gift with us.  It’s so beautiful to see how hard Jews worked to keep their faith, and I hope it inspires people to remember how real this faith really is and how hard we’ve worked to keep it within us.

To see the full, unedited gallery, check out the original imgur post atcaskstrength put up.

 

  • Sean

    This is amazing! One thing you may have missed – it seems like in the picture with the seder plate, the middle piece is a kiddush cup!

  • OMG this is amazing!! a true sign of never give up on your beliefs – just pretend to love coffee!!!

  • Makabit

    This is a gorgeous piece, and very ingenious, but I am going to say that while the concept may date back historically, this piece is fairly modern (early twentieth century?) to judge by the style of the metalwork, and based on the use of the dreidel, probably not used by crypto-Jews. I think the original poster means that the idea of concealing religious objects in a piece like this dates back to the Inquisition.

    It’s really stunning. I love the design of the seder plate.

    • Ah, that’s a good point. He mentioned that his grandfather was a survivor of Auschwitz so it’s possible that he used it for that. I contacted him for details, but unfortunately it seems like no one in the family knows exactly when/where it originated from. The information seems to have passed with his grandfather. I’ve updated the description at the top to reflect that.

      • Dave

        I would say, that the design could be rooted to the Northern Asia/Eurasia, or this could be similar to theirs, as many eastern European culture/traditions/artifacts also resemble them. Check Khazars history, it is interesting, but great work here, whoever did it, and wherever it was done.

        • Thanks for the info! Looking forward to more people weighing in.

  • Elon

    The script of the Megillah is late Mizrahi style. Notice also that it the Ner Tamid is serving as the eitz of the scroll, which Ashkenazi ones lack, but is often ornate in the Mirahi ones. So I would venture to guess this came from Mashad or something similar.

    It’s certainly not from Auschwitz or the inquisition.

    • Awesome, thanks so much for the info. Maybe if we get enough people here with knowledge like yours we can really pinpoint is origin. That would be amazing.

  • Rebecca Klempner

    I spent the whole post going:
    “No!”
    “Uh-uh!”
    “Whoa!”
    as each piece came out.

    No matter what it’s origins, this item is totally cool.

  • Just for clarification – The Megillah is Megillat Esther, read on Purim.

  • i can’t imagine how a human being create these amazing and unique man-made with faith,

  • No way this was from the Inquisition and possibly was not even designed as a way of hiding Judaism.

    http://finkorswim.com/2013/04/17/tempest-about-a-teapot/

    • I’ll just paste the comment I made on your site here:

      I don’t think he was implying that this particular item was from the Inquisition, but I think his wording made it a bit confusing, which is why in my original post about the subject I didn’t clarify that (which I later edited). After some commenters pointed it out, though, it became clear that it wasn’t from the Inquisition. Unfortunately, the myth is out to an extent. However, some folks have come forward with different theories as to its origin. I really hope we can figure it out.

  • This was buried in the reddit thread but it could be a piece of artwork by Yossi Swed. See here: http://myiuki.imgur.com/all

  • very nice

    I know someone who has one of these. it is amazing to see. This one looks like a replica comparatively. It is kind of too obvious.

    • Do you think this person could send me some pictures of it?

  • I think the responsible thing would be to take this down or at least change the headline until you can verify its authenticity, this seems to be the work of contemporary artist yossi swed, amazing work, but nothing historical about it

    • There’s no evidence whatsoever that this was designed by Yossi Swed, besides the fact that he seems to make contemporary versions of such objects. Unless we were all scammed by the original poster, and from my interactions with him I find that hard to believer, this is a historical item. The only question is from when.

      I actually think it’s much more irresponsible to spread rumors that it is something contemporary, since the proof that does exist points the opposite way. Again, not from the Inquisition, as has been mentioned multiple times here, but still historical.

      • there is no evidence that this is a historical item, in fact I beleive the original poster is a fraud, the greatest proof being how white the megilla is, it is obviously a new scroll, and noone in their right mind would replace an old historical scroll

        • here is the link to the yossi swed items posted by a reddit user who said that her partner’s father collects Jewish art:http://myiuki.imgur.com/all, the only way yossi swed could have made such a perfect imitation would have been with a mold, most likely this is a yossi swed creation too

          • “Perfect imitation”… okay… we’re getting into conspiracy theory level here. I’m moving on.

          • conspiracy theory level????, you believed a fantastical claim that this stems from the time of the inquisition, apparently you have not bothered to even click on the link to compare the two items, the leaves are curved in the exact same places, unless yossi swed is a reincarnation of a silversmith living in days bygone, the original poster would have a lot of explaining to do, and I would expect a little more intellectual honesty from you, any attempt to make sure your readers are not being misled

          • the letters on the megilla are not even faded!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • this is what a faded megilla looks like, nothing like the fresh black ink in the above photos:

            http://www.ebay.com/itm/Old-Megillah-Esther-Scroll-Hebrew-Manuscript-on-Parchment-judaica-hebrew-bible-/370564015637

          • Just so you know, I’m digging into this more I’m finding some amazing information, I’ll try to get back to you about it ASAP.

          • thank you!!! looking forward to hear!

          • Ah! I THOUGHT I found this Yossi Swed, but I think I found a different Yossi who happens to be a silversmith. Either way, I have to go to sleep, but I promise you I’m going to do some more investigating and will try to get an answer for you as soon as possible.

          • myiuki

            Yossi Sagi was trained by Yossi Swed. Easy mistake.

          • Thanks for all your updates!

          • Trust me, I am doing my best to find out the truth (and have changed the post twice now to reflect that), and have messaged the poster with your concerns. But I don’t buy what you’re selling me, although I see the similarities you are pointing out. If there’s more something more than your proof, which is not proof, I’ll of course make an update and change this post.

          • myiuki
        • Sorry Shaina, I really find your argument hard to buy. There have already been commenters on here giving more solidly proven points than your one piece of “evidence” and connection to Swed. If you have something solid besides the color of the scroll, please feel free to point it out. Otherwise… yeah.

          • I don’t have to convince, but this guy is claiming that this piece is at least 100 years old, the scroll would be visibly yellow with holes!!! more so how did his grandfather manage to get this through Auschwitz?

  • Pingback: UPDATE: “Hidden Synagogue” Just A Piece Of Art (But Still Awesome) | Pop Chassid()

  • Adam Swed

    This unique item is the creation of the esteemed, Jerusalem based, Swed Masters Workshop. It is an original design of the Workshop house designer, and all the craftsmanship was solely made by the Workshop’s artists. This Secret Pitcher is part of a signed and numbered limited edition.

    • Hey Adam, thanks for commenting. I assume you work with Yossi? Feel free to get in touch with me if you want to talk more about this by clicking on “contact” above.

    • just as I thought, the original poster claimed that he had no way of knowing where it was from, I imagined it was signed, what a fraud that guy on reddit is!

  • az

    so beautiful!!!!

  • I admire the creativity of the artist. So unique. Made me think of the Mitzvah Train.

  • Pingback: Une théière magique ! | UFE Israel Official Site()

  • Yonah Malka Gold

    is there anywhere this item can be purchased?

  • Ora Jacobi

    Old or Modern, this isn’t the point at all…any way it is beautiful, very touching and inspiring. It takes a very creative mind and a wonderful artist to plan and make such a nice piece of art.

  • Lilian Gafni

    It is irrelevant whether this piece is from the Inquisition or as that old. It is an exquisite and clever work of art. I can see, perhaps, another piece just like it, designed many years ago, for that purpose alone: to hide one’s faith. It would be the same as the hidden synagogue of Abraham Senior in Spain.