Outside of their own world, little is known about them – and such is the fascination that thousands have flocked to an exhibition that casts a little light on Israel’s Hasidic Jews.
The exhibition celebrating the 250-year-old Jewish movement has become an unexpected success since opening in Jerusalem two months ago.
Alongside images of day-to-day life are photographs of special ceremonies such as funerals and weddings, along with heart-warming informal photographs of groups just having a chuckle.
A World Apart Next Door is attracting around 1,300 visitors each day as members of the community flock to learn more about the ultra-Orthodox way of life, which is an influential presence on the city’s streets, but still relatively unknown.
Half of those attending are themselves ultra-Orthodox as they enjoy seeing their religion documented in such a way.
James Snyder, the museum’s director, said: ‘It’s a phenomenon – a kind of a blockbuster. It’s definitely exceeded expectations.
‘For the ultra-Orthodox, it’s the first opportunity to see their communal culture elevated and celebrated in a museum setting.
‘For everyone else who sees members of the community on the streets, it’s an opportunity to learn about a culture of which you can’t help but be aware, but about which you know little.’
The exhibition displays historic and contemporary photographs, with separate sections focusing on the lives of men, women, children and rabbis, it was reported in The Guardian.
Others include clothing and head-wear accompanied by explanations of different dress codes and requirements.
Among the most popular are videos projected onto walls which show religious gatherings, festivals, dancing and singing.
There are also recorded interviews with Hasidic Jews, including a young mother explaining the role of women in the community and a hatmaker displaying his skill.
Mr Snyder had braced himself for tensions to present themselves over the exhibition as many Israeli Jews are resentful of Ultra-orthodox communities because of their exemption from military service and complaints of unfair economic and social differences.
One perception, for example, is that many ultra-Orthodox men spend their lives in full-time subsidised religious study while fathering very large families.
But these have not become apparent.
‘These issues have not come up,’ said Mr Snyder. ‘The abrasion that exists on the street is not present at the museum.’
The exhibition, which runs until December 1, is expected to tour museums in Europe and North America next year.
It illustrates the Hasidic experience through the complex attire of the men, women, and children.
Many of the items on display were brought in especially, but many others were borrowed from people who live nearby.
It also features objects with meaning for the group’s social and spiritual life, which revolves around its charismatic leader, the Rebbe.
Photographs, films, and music from life-cycle events and other rituals and celebrations are also presented, offering visitors an opportunity to enter, for a moment, the intriguing world of a vibrant ultra-Orthodox community of today.
Televisions show interviews with members of the Hasidic community feature women explaining their roles, plus workers and traders explaining what they do and men and children undergoing coming-of-age rituals such as their first haircut.