Jewish Center & Federation
of the Twin Tiers
Elmira - Corning - Watkins Glen - Waverly - Sayre

Appeal for exhibit items

Dear members of Congregation Kol Ami and the wider Jewish
community of the Southern Tier,

I am working with the Chemung County Historical Society to mount an exhibition and series of public programs on Elmira’s Jewish Heritage this spring.  I have been conducting oral history interviews with members of the community over the past year, in addition to volunteering at the Jewish Food Festival and attending events at Congregation Kol Ami. It has been a pleasure to meet so many people and be welcomed into learning about the history of the Jewish community. The exhibit will especially focus on two areas of Jewish life and art that continue to be strong points of activity for the Jewish community in Elmira: the art of food, and the heritage of business.

As we prepare for the exhibit, we are looking for objects and documents that will help visually tell this story of Jewish heritage in Elmira.  We would like to borrow objects to display in the exhibit at the museum, and we also welcome donations of items that will permanently add to the historical record of the Jewish community in the museum’s collections.

We are particularly looking for objects or photographs that can illustrate these topics:
  • Immigrant origins – Stories of immigration and the foods brought from various cultural regions, with a focus on the nineteenth century waves of German and Eastern European Jews, the passage through New York City towards destinations upstate, the escape from the Holocaust, and contemporary migrations from other American cities and Israel. Focus on the unique culinary contributions from each of these regions.
  • Jewish Businesses of Elmira – History of Jewish occupations such as peddlers and shopkeepers, and the rise of many Jewish owned businesses in Elmira.  The art of salesmanship as a tradition passed down through generations of family business.
  • Community Parties – Community suppers, benefits, Sabbath suppers, and other events. Focus the development of Elmira’s community culture of cooking for Jewish social events.
  • Rituals and Religion – The practice of home rituals, the foods that comprise them, and the objects required to practice them remain important performances of Jewish identity. Ritual objects of interest include Kiddush cups, challah covers, Seder plates, candlesticks, kippahs and prayer shawls.
  • Home cooking – The recipes passed down and home cooking practices of individuals allow food traditions to live on. Objects of interest include cookbooks, recipes, letters, and cooking implements. Focus on
  • The Jewish Food Festival –The community art of the festival itself and how it helps them create the tastes and scenes of a shared heritage.  Focus on the individual stories and recipes behind the food served at the festival.

  • Kinds of objects that may be of interest include, but are not limited to:
  • Family heirlooms from the old country
  • Ketubahs
  • Haggadahs and Seder objects
  • Jewish Cookbooks – especially personal recipes handed down from family
  • Personal Letters
  • Ritual Objects – Prayer Shawls and Kippahs, challah covers, Kiddush cups, candlesticks, or other ritual/religious objects
  • Old / Historical Photographs
  • Business cards, signs, or other documents from local Jewish Businesses
  • Cooking or dining implements particular to Jewish cuisine or celebration
  • Photographs of events at the Synagogue or Temple, especially Kar Klub, Progressive Dinner, Oneg Shabbat

If you feel you may have objects or photographs of interest to include in the project, or if you would like to contribute an oral history interview or information of any kind, please contact me, at or 607-962-1332. ext 206. I am happy to discuss this project with anyone who has interest. Final Deadline for contributions of objects or stories is December 22, 2017.

Thank you!

Dr. Maria Kennedy
Folk Arts Coordinator,
The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes,
607-962-1332, ext 206