Discover the ideas, myths and stereotypes that link Jews and money over the course of 2000 years.
This exhibition explores the role of money in Jewish life and its often vexed place in relations between Jews and non-Jews, from the time of Jesus to the 21st century. It draws together manuscripts, prints, Jewish ritual and ceremonial objects, art, film, literature and cultural ephemera, from board games and cartoons to costumes and figurines. Contemporary and newly commissioned works, including an archive-based video piece by Jeremy Deller, reflect on the exhibition themes.
A highlight is Rembrandt van Rijn’s painting, Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver (1629), an early yet artistically mature work from a private collection that is rarely seen in the UK. The story of Judas Iscariot, betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, widely embraced in Christian iconography as a symbol of self-seeking greed, and which has propelled anti-Jewish stereotypes to this day, forms an important feature of the exhibition.
Throughout history there have been both rich and poor Jews. The exhibition shows how Jewish wealth and poverty have been created by circumstances as well as by the activity and acumen of Jews themselves – rather than ‘Jewishness’ itself.
The social significance and symbolism of money in Jewish life is also explored. Ancient Judean coins from the first century BCE highlight their use as an expression of Jewish identity in resisting Roman rule. Ceremonial objects show the importance attached to charitable giving. ‘Tzedakah’, the word commonly used for charity, literally means ‘righteousness’: it conveys a commitment to giving which is embedded in numerous Jewish rituals and religious practices.