Objects of the Month

March 2010: Passover salt-water bowl

Passover salt-water bowl
  • Object No.: 2009.34.10
  • Donor: Robert Barkin
  • Description:

    Egg-shaped salt-water bowl, date unknown

Canter Jacob Barkin headshot
This bowl was donated by Robert Barkin, son of esteemed cantor and opera singer Jacob Barkin. Cantor Barkin served Adas Israel Congregation for more than 10 years during the 1940s and ‘50s. He performed in many concerts, secular and religious, appearing with the National Symphony Orchestra many times. While at Adas Israel, Barkin received an offer to join the Metropolitan Opera, but he turned it down so he could continue being a cantor.

This three-legged saltwater bowl would have been used at a seder (ceremonial Passover meal). Salt water's role during the seder is to remind the meal participants of their Jewish ancestors' tears and sweat when they were slaves in Egypt.

The open book depicted on the bowl is a Haggadah, which tells the story of the Exodus to be recited at the seder. The Hebrew seen here is the beginning of the Four Questions, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The Four Questions, a fundamental part of every seder, point out ways in which the seder is different from all other meals.  Traditionally, the youngest child present recites the questions and answers.

Do you have unique ritual objects that were used in your D.C.-area home or synagogue?  To donate your materials to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org.