Pinkas Project

Front matter from the pinkas of the Homestead Hebrew Congregation's burial society. It includes the names of the members and a poem expressing the group's purpose.

Front matter from the pinkas of the Homestead Hebrew Congregation’s burial society. It includes the names of the members and a poem expressing the group’s purpose.

pinkas is a traditional ledger from a Jewish communal organization.  They often incorporate calligraphy and illumination to elevate the community’s records beyond the standard practice. In so doing, these pinkasim demonstrate a remarkable continuity of practice with the style of record-keeping that originated in Eastern Europe.

While Eastern European pinkasim have long been collected and studied in a systematic way, nothing of the sort has been attempted for immigrant pinkasim. More than just curiosities, these records capture, in a visually compelling way, the blend of the old and the new in the formation of immigrant communal organizations.

View the pinkasim

I initiated this project to build an online catalog of these communal records and to encourage deeper study of all Jewish immigrant community records. Beyond the names and events they capture, all the stylistic choices in these records, artistic or otherwise, provide a new lens towards understanding the formation and goals of these communities.

If you know of any examples of relevant pinkasim, please contact me!