Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

Collections: Objects of the Month

October 2012: Handmade tallit bag, c. 1800s

Arthur WelshObject No. 2012.08.01
Donor: Rabbi Arnold Saltzman
Description: Tallit bag (15"x10.5") made of burgundy velvet with a red, yellow, green, and blue flower trim. Features Star of David design.

Background: This hand-sewn tallit bag was used by three generations of Rabbi Saltzman's family. The bag, which likely dates to the 19th century, was handmade by Saltzman's maternal grandfather, Samuel Holzman, a tailor who emigrated from Russia to the United States.

In Holzman's bequest, each of his 18 grandchildren received something he had made for them from fabric. Their grandmother presented an item to each grandchild after their grandfather's death. Saltzman received the bag prior to his bar mitzvah in 1961.

Saltzman's father, Max, was a tailor who left Poland for America in 1904. By age 18, he owned a clothing manufacturing business in New York. As a fellow artisan, Max so admired his father-in-law's tallit bag that he soon "borrowed" it from his son. Not until Max's death in 1983 did his son reclaim the precious object.

Rabbi Saltzman used it through his remaining 22 years as Adas Israel Congregation's cantor and it accompanied him on his numerous trips to Israel. Once it became too fragile to use, Saltzman, now a rabbi, donated it to the Jewish Historical Society. The tallit bag is a wonderful reminder of beloved relatives and a world gone by.

Do you have Judaica items related to the Washington, D.C.-area that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society's collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.