The mezuza is not the decorative container, a frequent mistaken assumption, but the piece of parchment it contains that is inscribed with specific Hebrew verses from the Torah. The handwritten prayer declares the Jewish belief in the “one-ness” of God, beginning with the phrase: “Listen, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”
Mezuzot are thought to be particularly important to Jews outside of the motherland of Israel, providing spiritual protection of a sort, since their residences are considered to be temporary. One Jewish Web site refers to mezuzot as “the original home security system.”
As “Your Jewish World” makes clear, Jews and mezuzot have spread around the world, bringing Judaism’s rich culture with them.
Children will be able to play in a Russian apartment kitchen stocked with borscht and other Jewish foods, learn about Jewish island kids in a Cuban classroom, visit a secret attic like the one in which Anne Frank took refuge during the Holocaust in Amsterdam, and play thumb pianos like Jewish children in South Africa. If they lose track of time, they can glance up at Big Binyamin — aka Big Ben — outside the exhibit’s Great Britain section.
The different areas are stocked with foods, costumes, games, books, maps and biographical sketches of famous Jews with roots in each country, from Marcel Marceau in France to Henry Kissinger in Germany to Belfast-born Chaim Herzog of Northern Ireland, the sixth president of Israel.
Though the walls are already brimming with artwork, maps, photos and text, Sterne hopes metro Jewish children will bring pictures and stories of their ancestors from around the world. “By the time we take down the exhibit [which runs through July], there shouldn’t be much wall space, ” she says hopefully.
Such personal touches should help make the exhibit, the third and final in a series, a deeper and more personal experience for Jewish and non-Jewish visitors alike. The two previous exhibits, “Your Jewish Home” and “Your Jewish Town, ” have been as popular with church groups and other non-Jewish children as they have with Jewish ones, Sterne says.
No matter their religion, all visitors to “Your Jewish World” are invited to write a prayer that they can stick in the mortar of the exhibit’s reproduction of the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.
“It’s really exciting to see kids get a spiritual experience out of this, ” Sterne says, “to find that they do have something to say.”
And all those messages they leave ultimately will be taken to Israel and placed in the real Wailing Wall, among the more than a million that are left in this supremely sacred place every year.
Want to go? “Your Jewish World,” Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s Sophie Hirsh Srochi Jewish Discovery Museum. 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sundays; 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Fridays. Free, donations accepted. 678-812-4171, www.atlantajcc.org.