Prayer Book Bag

When traveling a long distance, one often must travel light. This small prayer bag, used to hold a Jewish prayer book, was the choice of one German immigrant. The drawstring leather pouch, measuring 6-3/4" x 6-3/8", is covered with multicolored beadwork in floral and geometric patterns and bears the initials "L.R.S.," for Lazarus Roth Schild. The bag was made for him as an engagement present between 1810 and1825, then given to his son, about to depart for St. Louis, Missouri. Like many immigrants to America from the 1830s to the mid-19th century, the owner of this prayer bag had no choice but to leave his country of origin. He wanted to marry, but in some German municipalities, no Jews were allowed to marry unless there was proof that another Jewish community member had died. Other regions had laws requiring that Jewish families keep a Matrikel, or list of "all legally permitted families," and prohibited others from living there. One German publication noted in 1839 that the laws "make it little short of impossible for young Israelites to set up housekeeping in Bavaria; often their head is adorned with gray hair before they receive permission to set up house and can, therefore, think of marriage."
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1810-1825
Roth Schild, Lazurus
Physical Description
skin, leather (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 6 3/4 in x 6 3/8 in; 17.145 cm x 16.1925 cm
Place Made
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Division of Cultural History: Religion
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Grossman, Grace Cohen, with Richard Eighme Ahlborn. Judaica at the Smithsonian: Cultural Politics as Cultural Model
similar type referenced
Myers, Susan H.. The Promise of a New Life: Jewish Immigrants in America, 1820-1880
Additional Media

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