Focus Questions

What does this object make you think of? Does it remind you of something you have seen before?

Which part of the object do you notice most? What does that part look like and what does it tell you about the object?

How do you think it was used? (Tip! Think about its shape, size, design, decoration and what it is made from)

Have you noticed...The lettering around the star in the centre? Can you guess what it says? Click to reveal answer

It says ‘Israel Zangwill’ in Hebrew which is read right to left.

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Zangwill Plate

Zangwill Plate

Zangwill Plate

This decorative plate was given to a man called Israel Zangwill by Moris Myer, the editor of a famous Yiddish newspaper, and was made by the artist Lazar Berson.

Zangwill Plate
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The Object

Object name: Plate
Date: 1915
Catalogue number: 1989.292
Material(s): Wood, ivory, leather, metal.
Made by: Lazar Berson
Size: 36cm in diameter
On display in the Jewish Museum? Yes

  • The Zangwill Plate is full of Jewish imagery and symbols
  • Look closely to find the Star of David in the centre of the plate. The Star of David is found on many Jewish cultural and religious objects.
  • There are twenty circles with different images inside them in a ring around the plate.  These images include a menorah, lamp, tree and lyre. 
  • On top of the Star of David is the text written upon a white shape.  This shape reminds us of the stone tablet the Ten Commandments were written on.  You often see this symbol in Synagogues.
  • There are three languages written on this plate.  The text painted onto the ivory panel is in English which is the language the quote was spoken in. The writing in a circle around the Star of David is in Hebrew and reads ‘Israel Zangwill’.  Remember that Hebrew is read right to left.  The writing around the edge of the plate is in Yiddish and as yet has not been translated.

The Story

Israel Zangwill
This decorative plate was given to the well-known writer and political activist Israel Zangwill in 1915 by Morris Myer, editor of the Yiddish newspaper, Di Tsayt.  Born in poverty in the East End of London in 1864 and educated at the Jews' Free School, Zangwill grew up to become a writer, campaigner and a playwright. He told society what life was like for the Jewish Community and he also campaigned for important causes such as peace and women’s rights.

The Plate
Myer asked the artist Lazar Berson to make the plate to remember what Zangwill had said to a heckler at a public meeting who had described him as “an alien Jew”. In the centre of the plate is the text of what Zangwill’s said to the heckler.

The History
The heckler’s comment reflects how worried people were about the eastern European Jews moving to Britain from the late 19th century. People complained of an “alien invasion”, accusing immigrants of taking jobs and housing. The Aliens Act, the first peacetime law to control immigration to Britain, was passed in 1905.

Digital Takeaway

Download this PDF to create your own commemorative plate.