Shtetl in the city. Antwerp through the lens of Dan Zollmann  15 September 2013 until 5 May 2014

Shtetl in the city. Antwerp through the lens of Dan Zollmann

For many years, the Belgian photographer Dan Zollmann has visually documented the lives of the Hasidic Jews in his home town of Antwerp, creating unique images of the normally unseen world of this deeply religious community. Zollmann has won various awards for these photos, which will be on display at the Jewish Historical Museum from 16 September 2013 to 5 May 2014 in the exhibition Shtetl in the city: Antwerp through the lens of Dan Zollmann.

Dan Zollmann (b. 1964) grew up in the traditionalistic Jewish milieu of Antwerp's diamond trade. In 2006 he started taking photographs of life in Antwerp's Jewish neighbourhood. From 2009 to 2011, when Zollmann was Antwerp's city photographer, he visited the neighbourhood more frequently. Even though he does not belong to the strict Orthodox community there, he knows many of its members and was welcome to move among them and take photographs.

Many of the subjects of Zollmann's photographs are Hasidic Jews, who practice a variety of Orthodox Judaism that emerged in Eastern Europe in the eighteenth century. Joy and mysticism are central to the Hasidic perspective on the Jewish faith. The Hasidim attach great importance to strictly observing all the rules and prohibitions in the Torah, and many of them avoid the aspects of modern life that conflict with their views. Most outsiders know very little about this community, with its reclusive ways and its autonomous institutions and social structures.

Dan Zollmann, Twee fietsen onder een brug, Antwerpen, 2006 Dan Zollmann, In afwachting van de les door de rebbe, Antwerpen, 2010

Jewish Antwerp is most clearly visible in the area between Central Station and the city park. Orthodox Jewish communities live there in relative seclusion, with their own bakers, butchers, shops, and restaurants, as well as dozens of synagogues and schools. Zollmann photographed street life in this neighbourhood, where the traditional dark Hasidic garb contrasts with the bright colours of today's city. The photographer also found his way into more intimate settings - houses of prayer and private homes - both under everyday circumstances and during celebrations. With engagement, respect, and an occasional note of humour, Zollmann introduces the viewer to this usually closed world.

This exceptional series of photographs by Zollmann will be on display in the Jewish Historical Museum's Print Room, with images of street life alternating with more intimate indoor scenes. Visitors will also find striking traditional Hasidic garments acquired especially for this exhibition.

Dan Zollmann, Nogal een glimlach, Antwerpen Dan Zollmann, Twee fietsen onder een brug, Antwerpen, 2006

Guided Tours

You can reserve a guided tour at any desired time. Our professional guides will lead you through the exhibition and tell the stories behind the photographs and objects. A guided tour of one hour costs €70,00 (excl. admission costs). Group size limited to 20 persons. To reserve your tour, please contact the department of Sales & Events: or +31 (0)20 5310 380.