Exhibitions Guided Tours Events Collection Friends of the museum Friends of the museum Links Contact E-News Home Deutsch
Jewish Year
Daily Life


Many objects and documents in the collection testify that for many centuries Jews had very limited choice on how to make their living. During the Middle Ages they mainly lived from money-lending and real estate as they were not permitted to enter any guilds. Later on, they started earning money as peddlers, cattle or horse dealers, working mostly independently in order to be able to keep the Jewish Laws.

Document, private property:

Adolf Weil, who ordered this elegant letterhead (1) for his writing paper, was a cattle dealer in Thun. He took the business over from his father, Isaak Weil, who came from Alsace. Adolf acquired the citizenship of Bern in 1871, shortly after 1866 when Jews living in Switzerland finally got equal rights.

Tape Measure:

Tape measures were used at cattle markets. The dealers, however, could mostly rely on their expert eyes without using any special tools.
Family Wyler from Langenthal and Winterthur used this tape-measure (2) in the 1950’s.

JMS 161 Purse:

Having to travel around to markets and clients, the Jewish dealers kept their money in purses hidden in broad belts made of leather.
Our model (3) belonged to a cattle dealer in Lengnau who probably used it between 1800 and 1850.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904):

The First Zionist-Congress was presided over by Theodor Herzl in Basel in 1897. His vision: „In Basel habe ich den Judenstaat gegründet“ finally led finally 1948 to the establishment of the Jewish State - Israel. Graphic material and documents date from the ten Zionist-Congresses which took place in Basel.
The famous picture postcard (4) shows Theodor Herzl standing on a balcony of the Hotel Drei Könige in Basel about 1902.

1 | Document, private property
2 | Measuring tape
3 | Purse
4 | Picture postcard, T. Herzl

T. Herzl