Arriving and Belonging
We are delighted that the in-person exhibition Arriving & Belonging: Stories from the St Albans Jewish community will open at the St Albans Museum + Gallery from 4 February – 15 May.
The exhibition grew out of two heritage projects at St Albans Masorti Synagogue (SAMS). In Mapping SAMS Roots we received over 100 stories from community members containing stories from around the world.
We were fortunate to have funding, in the form of a legacy, which allowed us to employ professionals; Devorah Moritz, a heritage consultant, and Simon Leach Designs. We have also created a website for the online exhibition at www.arrivingbelonging.com
From over 100 stories gathered in the previous projects, 18 were selected to represent universal themes, Sanctuary, Courage and Compassion, Setting Down Roots, Work and Community.
The contributors are introduced through the ‘photography wall’ holding their objects outside their homes:
Visitors will also see a world map showing that the stories come from around the world and a map showing Jewish businesses in St Albans between the 1930s and 1980s. The maps show both the wider stories of migration and local connections with the Jewish community. There is also a soundscape so visitors can hear some of the contributors’ voices and a timeline of Jewish life in St Albans and England.
The exhibition includes some moving and powerful stories of displacement and migration, including a postcard in Yiddish and a Yiddish betrothal document.
In the Sanctuary theme, Andrew Hougie describes his grandparents’ exile from Iraq and you can see my mother’s Kindertransport photograph and ID card.
In the Courage theme, Kitty Hart-Moxon who was sent to Auschwitz at the age of sixteen, describes why she had her tattoo removed. This section also features Sylvia Schloss, whose step grandfather was Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank. Her story is about her uncle’s paintings hidden under the floorboards in Amsterdam when the family were deported to Auschwitz, and how these were later found by Sylvia’s mother Eva. You can see a reproduction of one of the paintings in the exhibition.
In the Compassion theme there is a moving story from Evelyn Gold whose aunt Berta Aftergut was saved by Oskar Schindler and you can see a copy of Schindler’s List with Berta’s name at the top.
In the Setting Down Roots theme, there is a naturalisation certificate signed by Winston Churchill and the story of Caroline Pearce’s great-uncle who was killed in the First World War and is commemorated at the Menin Gate.
The Community section features the story of Darren Marks whose family originated in Spain and Portugal and came to London via Amsterdam. Darren restored furniture at Bevis Marks Synagogue, one of the oldest synagogues in London, and more recently took part in a community project cutting out wooden letters for the ark wall at SAMS.
These stories reflect the themes of the exhibition and also key moments in Jewish history as illustrated in the timeline, so it is hoped that audiences will relate to the historic and geographic events through the personal stories. The exhibition also seeks to show that the Jewish community is involved with the wider St Albans community and the St Albans Life section of the exhibition has photographs of involvement in the city that has become our home.
We do hope you will be able to visit: https://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/whats-on/arriving-belonging.
Arriving & Belonging Project Team