Before the official start of the conference, a group of us visited Florence's synagogue and the Jewish museum housed in its women's gallery. The synagogue is a stately Moorish-style structure with an ornate interior and towering green dome. A grandiose symbol of Jewish emancipation, it was designed by the architects Marco Treves, Mariano Falcini and Vincenzo Micheli and inaugurated in 1882.
The Jewish museum is on two levels -- the lower level is mainly a display of Judaica. The upper level was revamped and reopened last year as a multi-media history exhibit using objects, panels, sound and projected images to tell the story of the Jewish community in Florence.
Florence Jewish Museum. Photo (c) R. E. Gruber
After visiting the museum, I stopped in the gift shop (I love museum gift shops.) It's small, but has a lot on offer -- jewelry, ritual objects, stationery, etc. All seemed rather expensive, but, with Hanukkah gifts on my mind, I found a nice little pair of earrings for €15.
I wanted to get another piece, apparently made by the same designer. The saleswoman showed me a pendant -- for €20.
I didn't want to spend that much, I told her. Her response was immediate. "What would you like to pay? How much do you want to spend?"
Well, the earrings were only €15 -- I didn't want to spend more than that.
"OK -- €15 -- the pendant is yours!"
Damn, I thought. She gave me 1/4 off, just like that. I could have got it for less!
Then I thought about the last place I had come into contact with a reference to bargaining in a Jewish context -- the "At the Golden Rose" cafe in L'viv, where no prices were put on the menu so that patrons could haggle ("like Jews") as to what they would pay...
As for the conference -- I will try to write something on it later. For now, you can see the program by clicking HERE.
As the author of National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe, I have roamed thousands of miles around Europe's historic Jewish heartland, bringing Jewish heritage to light for on-site explorers and armchair travelers alike. On this blog I will post photographs, links and personal experiences related to Jewish heritage sites and travel, particularly in the countries of east-central Europe.
Aside from clearly marked quotations, links and pictures, all material on this blog is copyright ⓒ Ruth Ellen Gruber
I'm an American writer, photographer, and public speaker long based in Europe. I've chronicled Jewish cultural developments and other contemporary European Jewish issues for more than 20 years. My latest books are "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," published in 2007, and "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," published in 2008.
I also am working on "Sturm, Twang and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe," an exploration of the American West in the European imagination for which I won a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH summer stipend grant.