This is a postcard with an illustration of a family getting ready for Pesach. The caption underneath the picture is in French and reads: “Searching for leavened bread.” Beneath the caption, a sentence in French reads: “The woman of the household places leavened bread in various places, after which her husband searches and retrieves it.” This text matches what is depicted in the illustration, where a woman dressed in a bonnet and elaborate dress seems to be scattering crumbs over a kitchen table. She is assisted by two young girls, perhaps her children. In the left-hand side of the picture, a man (presumably the husband) is kneeling in front of an empty cupboard, sweeping crumbs onto a plate with a feather. Standing above him is a young boy who is holding a candle. The illustration depicts the Bedikat Chametz ritual performed on the eve of Pesach.
Other preparations for Pesach can also be seen in the picture. In the foreground an array of kitchen utensils are spread out on the floor, and in the background, behind the window, a woman (perhaps a maid) can be seen with other utensils, possibly scrubbing the dishes or preparing them for use on Pesach. The house is very ornate and there are a large number of kitchen utensils, suggesting that this is a relatively wealthy or middle-class household.
The picture appears on a postcard from the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam. It was created by an engraver called Bernard Picart in 1725. Picart is best known for his book, written with Jean-Frederic Bernard, Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the World, which included images of various Jewish ceremonies.
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Bedikat Chametz – On the night of 14 Nisan, the night before the Seder, it is traditional to carry out Bedikat Chametz, a formal search around the home for any possible remaining leaven (chametz). The search is done at night by candlelight, and any chametz that is found is burnt the following morning to signify that all of the chametz in the house has been disposed of.
The Jewish Community of Amsterdam – The largest and most significant Jewish community in Holland was located in Amsterdam, and it has existed for around 400 years. Sephardi Jews first settled in the city in the sixteenth century, many originating in families who had been expelled from Spain at the end of the previous century. The Jews flourished in Amsterdam, where they were allowed to practise their religion freely, and they contributed to the city’s economic growth in the seventeenth century. The first Ashkenazi Jews arrived in Amsterdam in the middle of the seventeenth century, fleeing from pogroms in Poland. Ashkenazi Jews soon outnumbered the Sephardi community, and by the end of the eighteenth century it was one of the largest communities in Western and Central Europe, earning Amsterdam the name “Jerusalem of the West” and “Mokum,” the Yiddish word for “place,” symbolising its status as a safe haven. During World War II, Holland was occupied by Nazi Germany, and the Jews of Amsterdam were rounded up and deported to concentration and death camps. Anne Frank, who was originally from Germany, spent the war years hiding in an Amsterdam attic, until she was discovered and sent to Buchenwald. Her famous diary provides unique documentation of these times and draws millions of tourist to her last home in the city. In total, at least 80 percent of the Dutch Jewish community were murdered during the Holocaust. In the years following the war, the Jewish community slowly rebuilt itself. Today, there are many synagogues in Amsterdam – among them the historical Esnoga synagogue – providing for the different Jewish communities and denomination. There are also Jewish primary and secondary schools, cultural organisations, and youth movements.