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I'm thinking of making a "bencher museum". I'd like to gather some ideas from our readership for this project.

I have a selection of old benchers from the 60's as well as a larger assortment of more current benchers (2000 - 2010's.) I noticed that the style and content of benchers has changed drastically. They've gotten bigger and more colorful, and, there is a larger variety of publishers and designers.

I'm having some trouble finding online resources on the "history" of benchers. I sense that there were some factors among the religious community that felt that benchers shouldn't be just for Birkat Hamazon and Kiddush, but eventually included zemirot, sometimes tefillot and a few other items. And, now, it seems that all the wedding benchers have to have an artistic logo - which wasn't done years ago.

Can anyone suggest some resources on where / how I can locate something that explains this history as well as if you know any store or person that sells such old benchers in NYC metro area?

  • I imagine they used to just use, like, books. – Dr. Shmuel May 27 at 17:32
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    The book “All for the Boss” attributes the idea of wedding benchers to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman in the early 1900s. – IsraelReader May 27 at 18:35
  • @Dr.Shmuel I can't say why bentchers were considered a wedding momento. I guess it was relatively cheap and portable and they figured that people would use it at least each Shabbat and Yom Tov. Today, honestly, how many benchers do people need in their home? – DanF May 28 at 1:31
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Some suggested resources:

Yiddish Prof. Havah Turniansky has an article here treating old editions of bentchers. Examining the provenance of each edition may lead you to find reasons for the distribution of particular bentchers and their [stylistic] evolvement in general.

The Montefiore Endowment contains a miniature Italian c.1490 manuscript of wedding ceremonial blessings. I have a partial facsimile of it which was distributed as a memento at a London wedding in 1973. It’s possible that the original was made -albeit limited- for a ceremony (judging only by its colorful-ceremonial appearance).

Similarly, a pamphlet on the order of the Jewish wedding ceremony was printed in 170 for the marriage of R. David Oppenheim’s daughter, Blima[leh], to Michel. Here is a copy of it. I don’t know how many original copies were printed, probably not hundreds - like is commonly done today, but nevertheless still may lend information to the “history” of bentchers.

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