The everyday lives of Italian Jews were strongly inuenced by the treatment they received from local authorities and the present-day rulers. however, the family home and the synagogue were always two rm anchors of stability for them. The use of family symbols is very common in the decoration of personal belongings, including ritual objects. Imagine family members gathering to light candles around a Hanukkah lamp bearing their family symbol, or a baby in his crib, decorated with an amulet with his parents' family emblem, or even members of a family, marching to the synagogue on Saturday morning, each holding a silver covered prayer book with their symbols.
In the synagogue however, which could have ostensibly served as a battlefield of identities and classes, the use of family symbols was not very common. Although there are some examples of sacred objects for synagogues that bear family symbols, the donors of such object were usually satisfied with the mentioning of their names, as is the custom among Jews elsewhere. The question is, therefore, why the presence of family symbols is prominent on personal objects but not in synagogues. There are several explanations, and the exhibits in this exhibition may provide at least one of them.
The use of family symbols on certain objects and their absence from other objects, raises some questions as to the symbol's role in the identity of its owner. The idea of such symbols as identifiers, connecting their owners to a particular group or social class, is evident when considering a third space - which is not physical but conceptual - that exists alongside the private home and the synagogue. The objects that fill this space are personal objects, sometimes very personal, but they also have an outward appearance: a seal ring with the symbol of the Cohen family, or a medical certificate bearing the doctor's family symbol for example, testifies to the person outwardly, and represents his values and social affiliation. The objects are personal objects, but they reveal something about their owner and his identity.