6. There was a communal snuff box
One of the most unusual features of the Museum at Eldridge Street is a snuff box built directly into the bimah, the platform where the Torah is read, in the downstairs synagogue. Snuff, or smokeless tobacco and chewing tobacco, was popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was especially popular with the Jewish congregation because on the Sabbath, starting a fire isn’t permitted. Instead of lighting up a cigarette or cigar, congregants could instead take a pinch of snuff from the wooden box.
Located beneath the snuff box was another important item, a spittoon. There were strict rules about spitting on the floors, and to ensure that the refuse of chewing tobacco ended up in a proper receptical, a portion of the congregation’s annual funds went to purchasing new spittoons (as seen on the left in the photo above).