The Parokhet

Welcome to the State Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg, Russia. This museum was originally founded in 1932 under Communism, when religion was meant to be a thing of the past. But now that Soviet Communism is a thing of the past, the museum celebrates different religious traditions, housing artifacts from many times and cultures – including that of the Jews.

Join award-winning author Matti Friedman as he takes us on a rare tour and a glimpse of Jewish history and culture as they appear in the treasures of the State Museum of the History of Religion.

The State Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg displays a remarkable exhibit - a parokhet, or curtain, that once covered the doors of the aron hakodesh, or Torah ark, in the synagogue on Bolshaya Bronnaya Street in Moscow. This synagogue was funded by Lazar Polyakov, a prominent Moscow businessman and merchant, and for years was known as the Polyakov Synagogue. Polyakov is also known for his philanthropic support of Jewish causes. What makes this parokhet unusual? Why did the synagogue have a secret underground passage? When did the crown that topped the parokhet disappear?.

Script: Julia Idlis
English Script: Matti Friedman
Director: Nina Guseva
Producer: Daria Shtyrkova
Videographer: Maria Falileeva
Academic expert: Alla Sokolova
Voice-over: Matti Friedman
Music: Maria Logofet
Sound Mix: Alexander Nadezhdin
Animation: Vadim Tugeev, Galina Palchik
Editor: Evgeniy Todich

Beit Avi Chai is grateful to the State Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg for permission to film the artifacts.

Beit Avi Chai: Dr. David Rozenson, CEO; Dr. Simon Parizhsky, Educational Director of Ideas Without Borders; Svetlana Busygina, Administrative Director of Ideas Without Borders.
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