Synagogue In a Teapot

It may look like a fancy teapot,  but the owner found it had a secret hidden inside:  the teapot disassembled into everything needed to perform various Jewish rites and holidays:

The Redditor who posted this amazing piece of metalwork said he had gotten it from his Jewish grandfather before he died, and the appraisers of Reddit went wild:  although the original poster doesn’t voice any opinion on its origins, various experts — and truly experts, people who work in museums and history departments — interpreted it as ranging from anywhere from the Inquisition to World War II, figuring it was used by Jewish people to conceal their religion from people who would harm them for their faith.   It seems like a reasonable interpretation, right?   Why else would you go all Optimus-Prime on your religious items so that they fold up neatly into an innocuous item that conceals their true purpose?

Many people suggested that this pot could be a truly historical find, with much Indiana-Jonesing over how IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM, but it turns out they’re talking about the wrong kind of museum.

Because the internet is such a vast place, of course somebody else had one of their own, and knew its origins:

The piece actually belongs in an art gallery before it should be sent to any world archives of Judaical history.   It is actually an art piece made by artist Yossi Swed, of Swed Master Works in New York, within the past twenty years.

There’s lessons in this story, like a dreidel hidden in a teapot.   First of all:   Expert make mistakes; you might take a valuable item to an appraiser and they might, really, not actually know what it is and are giving their best educated guess.   Second: the kind of expert makes a difference: I’d bet that a silversmith, with no expertise in Jewish tradition, would have been more valuable in determining the age of this work than the chair of Judaism at a university.    And, lastly, the obvious isn’t always the truth; while this teapot was seemed to clearly be of historical Holocaust-related value, it turns out it was purely a work of art.   Every collector and dealer knows the perils of buying something you don’t completely know the origins of, and this is a perfect example of how, on many levels, things are rarely ever what they seem.

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Derek Dahlsad, husband of Deanna, is a collector of many things, with some expertise in coins and postage stamps. He also writes for the Prairie Public program "Dakota Datebook".

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