Storytelling, textiles and food

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There is beauty to be found in embracing the multiplicity of stories that constitute our identities. The essence of home is portable and fluid—always growing and adapting, fusing and mingling with different times, places and people, expressing itself in new forms and stories.

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© 2023 Lara Bongard, all rights reserved

The Girl Who Crossed the River with a Tablecloth, Jewish Museum Amsterdam

In 2019, Lara Bongard acquired a more than one-100-year-old tablecloth ‒ the only remaining family treasure from her Jewish, Eastern European ancestors. Her great-grandfather Mordko Bongard had taken it with him in 1911 when he fled pogroms (organised persecution and killings) in what is now Ukraine. He left his family behind in the shtetl ‒ then a Jewish village or town in the Russian Empire. In 1914, he resettled in the Netherlands.  

That tablecloth, meant especially for Friday night’s Shabbat meal, sparked Lara Bongard’s interest in her Jewish roots. She went in search of her family’s splintered history, which took her to Israel and Ukraine. There, she collected and photographed the few traces she found of her ancestors’ vanished Jewish world. Later she interwove these with Yiddish stories, symbols and myths. She used all of this in her multimedia installation The Girl Who Crossed the River with a Tablecloth and in her book, both of which are displayed here.

For Lara Bongard this tablecloth symbolises her family. It unites several places and eras, connects Eastern and Western Europe, and brings different generations together at the dinner table.

Installation 2023
Jewish Museum

Photos by Peter Lange
Curated by Judith Hoekstra

Music: Mejoeches

The installation has been made possible with financial support from Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, LUCA Breakout, and Joods Jongeren Fonds.