Wimpel (Torah Binder)
A "Torah binder" is a Jewish ceremonial textile used to keep a Torah scroll closed tightly when it is not being used for synagogue reading. In some Jewish communities in Germany and Eastern Europe, Torah binders were made from the linen or cotton cloth used to cover new-born males during the Circumcision ceremony (brit milah). This kind of Torah binder, also known as wimpel, would be used to bind a Torah scroll once the child became bar mitzvah, and later again on the occasion of his wedding. The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life includes over a hundred examples of wimpel, most of them from Germany.

The wimpel, a ritual object that physically represents the ties between family rituals on the one hand (the Life Cycle, beginning with the Circumcision), and synagogue and communal life on the other (Torah reading), is today a source of often unique biographical (and genealogical) information about the development of Jewish communities that have long disappeared.

The diverse decorative motifs and the varying quality of the textiles used in the embroideries offer precious insights in reconstructing the social history of the communities of origin, the dynamics of gender roles and relations, the financial status of the families that made them or had them made, as well as the overarching aesthetics that governed their production.

This set includes images of several of the items in The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. The descriptions are drawn from the catalog authored by Ruth Eis, founding Judaica Curator at the Judah L. Magnes Museum, Torah Binders of the Judah L. Magnes Museum (1979).


To learn more about Torah binders see the Magnes website and search the Collection Database online.
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