Cer­e­mo­ni­al Syn­a­gogue Textiles

Bracha Yaniv

January 1, 2013

Rich­ly illus­trat­ed and metic­u­lous­ly doc­u­ment­ed, this is the first com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey of syn­a­gogue tex­tiles to be avail­able in Eng­lish. Bracha Yaniv, a lead­ing expert in the field of Jew­ish cer­e­mo­ni­al tex­tiles, records their evo­lu­tion from ancient times to the present. The vol­ume con­tains a sys­tem­at­ic con­sid­er­a­tion of the man­tle, the wrap­per, the Torah scroll binder, and the Torah ark cur­tain and valance, and con­sid­ers the cul­tur­al fac­tors that inspired the evo­lu­tion of these dif­fer­ent items and their motifs. Fab­rics, tech­niques, and modes of pro­duc­tion are described in detail; the inscrip­tions mark­ing the cir­cum­stances of dona­tion are sim­i­lar­ly sub­ject­ed to close analy­sis. Ful­ly anno­tat­ed plates demon­strate the rich­ness of the styles and tra­di­tions in use in dif­fer­ent parts of the Jew­ish dias­po­ra, draw­ing atten­tion to region­al cus­toms. Through­out, empha­sis is placed on pre­sent­ing and explain­ing all rel­e­vant aspects of the Jew­ish cul­tur­al heritage.

The con­clud­ing sec­tion con­tains tran­scrip­tions, trans­la­tions, and anno­ta­tions of some 180 inscrip­tions record­ing the cir­cum­stances in which items were donat­ed, pro­vid­ing a valu­able sur­vey of cus­toms of ded­i­ca­tion. Togeth­er with the com­pre­hen­sive bib­li­og­ra­phy, inven­to­ry lists, and oth­er rel­e­vant doc­u­men­ta­tion, this vol­ume will be an invalu­able ref­er­ence work for the schol­ar­ly com­mu­ni­ty, muse­um cura­tors, and oth­ers inter­est­ed in the Jew­ish cul­tur­al heritage.

Discussion Questions

Cer­e­mo­ni­al Syn­a­gogue Tex­tiles: From Ashke­nazi, Sephar­di, and Ital­ian Com­mu­ni­ties by Bracha Yaniv advances our under­stand­ing of the Jew­ish cul­tur­al her­itage in this medi­um from antiq­ui­ty through the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. Beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed, the book care­ful­ly doc­u­ments exam­ples of Jew­ish tex­tiles, includ­ing the Torah ark cur­tains, valances, man­tles, wrap­pers, Torah scrolls, binders, read­ing desk cov­ers, and much more. It traces the growth of the lux­u­ry tex­tile indus­try in Italy and France and the crit­i­cal role that Jews played in the expan­sion of inter­na­tion­al com­merce through­out Europe, the Ottoman Empire, the Balka­ns and north­ern Africa.

This detailed vol­ume con­tains a live­ly dis­cus­sion of syn­a­gogue tex­tile motifs, orna­men­ta­tion and dec­o­ra­tion. The book builds an inte­grat­ed under­stand­ing of the role of sacred tex­tiles in Jew­ish his­to­ry by ana­lyz­ing lux­u­ry fab­rics and passe­menterie (silks, bro­cades, damasks, vel­vets, satins), col­ors (gold/​silver/​purple/​crimson), embroi­dered, pat­terned, appliqued or high relief designs and weav­ing styles. Anno­ta­tions of inscrip­tions and illus­tra­tions fur­thers our com­pre­hen­sion of the role of tex­tiles in syn­a­gogue practices.

Cer­e­mo­ni­al Syn­a­gogue Tex­tiles is a trea­sure for all who appre­ci­ate an ele­gant, rich­ly researched com­pendi­um ded­i­cat­ed to Jew­ish iconog­ra­phy, craft, and cus­tom in the dias­po­ra. It is a book for those who love Jew­ish cer­e­mo­ni­al art, for those who admire his­toric tex­tiles, and for those who want to know more about Jew­ish his­to­ry across time and place.