Joyful Rest: Shabbat in the Context of Daily Life

PISCATAWAY – The Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission and the Folklife Program for New Jersey will present their newest endeavor, “Joyful Rest: Shabbat in the Context of Daily Life” next month. This project includes an exhibit, a full-color monograph, lectures and discussions, storytelling, and more.

The exhibit opens on Nov. 7, with a free, public opening reception from 2 – 4 p.m. “Joyful Rest: Shabbat in the Context of Daily Life,” will be located in the Runyon House at East Jersey Olde Towne Village, 1050 River Road, Piscataway and open Monday through Friday 8:30 – 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 – 4 p.m.


The exhibit displays family treasures and objects used in the home relating to the observance of the Jewish Sabbath and other artifacts of daily Jewish life. Among them a mezuzah – these are placed on the frame of a front door to a Jewish home and contain a prayer of blessing; men’s and women’s prayer shawls; challah (bread) coverings; Judaic papercuts; spice boxes in wood and silver, and more.

Traditions arise from the repetition of actions, the recurrence of events, from celebrations or an oft repeated acknowledgement. They continue and are embedded in our culture when they are passed on from generation to generation. The tools and ceremony of tradition are the objects we use and the narrative we share. No matter one’s origins, we are alike in the need for tradition and the same in the comfort and familiarity we feel when participating in a tradition that reflects our sense of self, family, religion, culture, ethnicity and community. For what are considered the three major religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, there is a weekly observance, a day apart from the other six, a respite from work and the worries of daily life – a day of rest, introspection and thought.

For persons who are Jewish, that day of rest is called Shabbat. This begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. In between is a time meant to be spent in rest, with family and friends and in contemplation of God.  The celebration of a weekly Sabbath is not limited to Judaism. All religions have holy days; some like Judaism have weekly celebrations, but not of the same magnitude as Shabbat, as it is unique in its adherence to a strict set of rules assuring that rest, contemplation and community are the focus of Shabbat.

Guest curator, Elinor Levy, Ph.D, received her doctorate in folklore from Indiana University, Bloomington. She has done research for Habitat for Humanity, as well as in ethnic and traditional communities of Nevada, Northwestern New Jersey, Indiana and Georgia. This project had special meaning for the author. It offered the opportunity to present local Jewish traditions, and explore communities different from the one in which she was raised, Oakland, CA, where her parents attend the synagogue founded by her great-grandparents.

All elements of the Joyful Rest project are offered free of charge. For more information and to register for the Opening Reception, call 1-732-745-4489. Persons with hearing disabilities may dial 1-732-745-3888 (TTY users only) or 711, the New Jersey Relay System.

East Jersey Olde Towne Village is a fully accessible site. Wheelchairs are also available upon request for visitors who may need assistance from the parking lot. Funded in part by Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission, New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

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