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Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt at Brooklyn Museum of Art

Ancient documents, written on papyrus, from a settlement on Elephantine Island offer the earliest proof that Jews lived in Egypt eight hundred years after Moses led the Exodus. The papyrus rolls will be part of the exhibition Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt, on view until May 12, 2002 at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

The documents also confirm portions of the books of Kings and Jeremiah in the Hebrew bible that Jews inhabited Egypt during the time when the Temple of Jerusalem was rebuilt. These Jews worshiped God at a temple they built on Elephantine Island, Egypt.

In this remarkable period, Jews, Egyptians, Persians and Greeks lived together in peace. Through the nearly miraculous preservation of ancient papyri from one Jewish family and other ancient works of art, visitors to the Brooklyn Museum of Art can look back at Jewish life in ancient Egypt. Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt focuses on the Brooklyn Museum of Art's collection of fifth century BC Aramaic papyri, revealing Egyptian daily life during the Dynasty 27 (525 - 402 BC) - the period of Persian rule in Egypt and the Near East.

In addition to 8 of the best-preserved papyri, the exhibition includes 39 works of ancient Egyptian and Persian art from the Museum's collection that are related to the topics addressed in the papyri. Three rare books lent by The Library of the Aqudas Chassidei Chabad, ohel Yosef Yitzhak - Lubavitch are also included in the exhibition.

The objects include life-size statues, reliefs, bronze statuettes, silver vessels and gold jewelry. The papyri are a family archive, which belonged to a Jewish temple official, Ananiah, and his wife, Tamut, an Egyptian slave, and their children. The exhibition illustrates their family life from their marriage in 447 BC to the final payment on the daughter's wedding gift in 402 BC. In between these events we learn about marriage, labor conditions, real estate, religion, and burial in a multi-cultural community comprising Egyptians, Jews, and Persians.

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