The Jewish holiday of Shavuot-Pentecost will be celebrated this week. The holiday has several traditional names: Shavuot, the festival of weeks, marking seven weeks after Passover; Chag HaKatzir, the festival of reaping grains; and Chag HaBikkurim, the festival of first fruits. Shavuot, according to Jewish tradition, is the day the Children of Israel accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai. It is also believed to be the day of King David's birth and death.
The reading of the Book of Ruth is one of the traditions of the holiday. Ruth, a Moabite and widow of a Jewish man (and a princess according to commentators), gave up her life in Moab to join her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, in the Land of Israel. She insisted on adopting Naomi's God, Torah and religion.
A central element of the story of Ruth is her going to the fields where barley and wheat were being harvested so that she could collect charitable handouts. She gleans in the fields of Boaz, a judge and a relative of Ruth's dead husband (as such he has a levirate obligation to marry the widow). The union results in a child, Obed, the grandfather of King David.
The members of the American Colony were religious Christians who established their community in the Holy Land. They were steeped in the Bible and photographed countryside scenes that referred to biblical incidents and prohibitions.
We present a few of the dozens of "Ruth" photographs found in the Library of Congress' American Colony collection.
A major effort was made by the photographers to re-enact the story of Ruth. "Ruth," we believe, was a young member of the American Colony community; the remaining "cast" were villagers from the Bethlehem area who were actually harvesting, threshing and winnowing their crops. We have matched the pictures with corresponding verses from the Book of Ruth.