Thursday, October 18, 2007

First a cry, then a wimple!

The Wimple is a 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 bris or 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.

Today, the tradition of making a wimple is realizing a rebirth as Jewish communities throughout the country seek to enrich their connection to Judaism.

A wimple is a meaningful addition to a child’s bar or bat mitzvah and is now made for both boys and girls. It is tied around the Torah from which the child will read and can also be used to cover the Torah between readings. The Wimpel above is from the artist Annette Kirschner. The photo to the right demonstrates how the wimpel would be used to bind a Torah and is the work of French artist JoĆ«lle Dautricourt .

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