A Discerning Eye: Highlights From the Judaica Collection of Daniel M. Friedenberg
Mizrah (wall plaque indicating the direction of prayer)
Germany, circa 1900

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This decorative plaque, known as a mizrah (east), was hung on the eastern wall of a home or synagogue to indicate the proper orientation for prayer. The practice of facing east towards Jerusalem during prayer has literary precedents in the Bible, both in Solomon's prayer and in the Book of Daniel. This custom was later codified in the Talmud. Archaeological evidence shows that ancient synagogues, such as the Dura-Europos synagogue in Syria, by the third century CE had doors on the eastern side with niches for Torah scrolls. The tradition of hanging a paper-cut mizrah in homes and synagogues was popular in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly in Poland and Russia, but also in Germany.