Wimples
Other textile objects associated with the Torah are wimples, a special type of Torah binder used by German Jews. Around 1600, in the German-speaking parts of Europe, it became the custom to inscribe a child's name and birthday on strips of cloth torn from blankets used to swaddle a male infant after the ritual circumcision was performed. These strips are used to tie up the Torah scroll, to keep the two staves in place while the scroll is stored in the Ark. Like birth certificates, they are of historical importance in themselves, but they also represent this Jewish custom. They were embroidered with the baby's name and date of birth and a standard blessing expressing the hope that the child would grow up to study the Torah, perform good deeds and be married. These binders were made in Jewish homes by family members who were not professional embroiderers or weavers, which gives them a special importance in Judaica collections. The wimple would be given to the synagogue and used for any occasion of special importance to the child whose name was on it -- such as a bar mitzvah celebration or a marriage. In a sense, wimples are documents constituting genealogies for whole communities of German Jews. Almost all of them were destroyed by the Nazis, but a few have survived. The oldest in the Fenster Collection is dated 1770, which is quite rare. (Because of the dispersions and dislocation of Jewish communities, the survival of any Jewish art or ceremonial object, even very recent material, is often almost miraculous. Artifacts from the 18th or early 19th century are exceptional, because of the great destruction that these things have suffered.) The other wimples in the collection date from somewhat later. Gradually, the embroidery skills were replaced by painting and printing.


The text and the image was reproduced from the web site of The Gershon & Rebecca Fenster Museum of Jewish Art.


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