For Richer For Poorer: Weddings Unveiled


For Richer For Poorer: Weddings Unveiled

13 February to 31 May 2015

Head to the Jewish Museum London on Valentine’s weekend and be among the first to experience For Richer For Poorer: Weddings Unveiled. This major new exhibition showcases a rich and evocative collection of dresses, photographs, invitations and objects to tell the story of Britain’s Jewish community from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century.

Between the 1880’s and 1914, around 150,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Britain from Eastern Europe, with the majority settling in the East End of London. Part of a larger migration of Jewish people across the world, many were motivated to leave due to persecution suffered in their homeland.

Marriage is a central institution within Judaism and weddings were a hugely important social occasion for this growing community. Despite the poverty that many families experienced, some celebrated weddings with huge receptions, with families often saving for years to pay for them.

Highlights of For Richer, For Poorer: Weddings Unveiled include:

  • A collection of wedding dresses dating from 1905, the 1920’s, 1930’s and from World War II.
    The 1905 dress belonged to Sarah Levy, who married an immigrant bootmaker from Poland at New Road synagogue. The 1925 dress is a fashionable flapper dress with beaded tassels worn by a shorthand typist, the daughter of immigrants. The dress on display from the 1930s was made by the bride, reflecting the financial hardship of the time.
  • Stories of how Jewish couples met, including the role of the ‘shadchan’, or matchmaker, who arranged wedding matches within more orthodox communities. For the first time ever, visitors will be able to view a shadchan’s ledger from the 1940s and letters between the shadchan and his clients.
  • Photographs taken by Boris Bennett, together with his camera. The most sought-after wedding photographer of his day, Boris’s East End studio captured the Hollywood glamour that 1930s Jewish couples wanted their wedding photos to reflect. Crowds would gather outside his studio every Sunday (the traditional Jewish wedding day) and Boris would photograph an average of thirty couples in a single day.
  • Artefacts used in the Jewish wedding ceremony, including a display of ‘ketubots’– Jewish wedding contracts. The earliest English ketubah in our collection from 1729 will be displayed.
  • A journey through the music, food and dancing that was at the heart of every celebration. There’s a table plan for a wedding reception in Piccadilly, a catering agreement by Sterns Caterers for huge amounts of food that continued all day long and printed table cards with lists of music that was played.

Abigail Morris, CEO of the Jewish Museum London, said, “Uncovering the stories behind this wonderful collection of objects has been a fascinating process because each and every item gives us an insight into the traditions, cultural ‘norms’ and social aspirations of this fledgling Jewish community at a critical time in its history. What comes across is that despite the challenges of the time – including poverty, in many cases – putting on a good party for the neighbours was vital, irrespective of the cost involved!

“We are delighted to unveil this inspirational, romantic exhibition and we are excited to use so much from our collection that has remained hidden until now.”

Throughout the exhibition, the Jewish Museum London will host a series of events on the theme of love and marriage. Events include a ‘Secrets of a successful marriage’ workshop with the Jewish Marriage Council, a Jewish dance session for weddings and other celebrations, a tour of historically important wedding locations in London’s East End with Rachel Kolsky and a talk by Maureen Kendler about weddings and relationships in the Torah. See the full programme of events.


Notes to Editors

For press enquiries, media interviews, photographs or further information please contact:
Miriam Rich [email protected] +44 (0) 7810 395490

PRESS PREVIEW: Journalists wishing to attend our breakfast press preview on 12 February 2015 which will include a curated tour of the exhibition should register with Miriam on [email protected] or +44 (0) 7810 395490

The separate ‘Love’ exhibition in the Welcome Gallery is the Jewish Museum’s first crowd-sourced exhibition. It features everyday objects, works of art and paintings inspired by love and submitted by members of the public. Produced in collaboration with the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, ‘Love’ runs from Tuesday 20 January to Sunday 19 April 2015.

About Jewish Museum London

The Jewish Museum London is for people of all backgrounds and faiths to explore Jewish heritage and identity as part of the wider story of Britain. Displayed across four permanent galleries, the huge variety of objects, photography, hands-on exhibits and personal stories paint a rich and nuanced picture of British Jewish life and history.

The only museum in London dedicated to a minority community, the Museum’s expansion and redevelopment in 2010 was supported by a £5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum also houses a café, shop, 100-seat auditorium, and education space.

Twitter: @jewishmuseumLDN
Instagram: Instagram/JewishMuseumLDN

Opening Times: Sunday – Thursday: 10am – 5pm, Friday: 10am – 2pm
Exhibition Dates: 13 February to 31 May 2015.
Tickets are available to book at
Address: Jewish Museum London, Raymond Burton House, 129 – 131 Albert Street, London NW1 7NB
Tube: Camden Town