Lift the Curtain!

New Photos of our Torah curtains

In Octo­ber 2022, our cura­to­ri­al team pho­to­gra­phed the 21 Torah curta­ins in the museum’s collection.

Torah curta­ins (paro­chot, Hebrew: פרכת) are cere­mo­ni­al syn­ago­gue objects which deco­ra­te the Torah shri­nes. The Hebrew name refers to the curtain that sepa­ra­ted the sacred space from the holiest space in the Bibli­cal sanc­tua­ry. The­se rich­ly deco­ra­ted tex­ti­les are often the synagogue’s visu­al cen­tre­pie­ce. Start­ing in the 17th and 18th cen­tu­ries, the Torah curta­ins were often inscri­bed with the let­ters כת as an abbre­via­ti­on for Keter Torah, Eng­lish: Crown of the Torah.

Among the Judai­ca in our coll­ec­tion, the Torah curta­ins are of par­ti­cu­lar importance, sin­ce they give insight into the histo­ry of Jewish women, which is other­wi­se spar­se­ly docu­men­ted. Bes­i­des tail­ors and embro­ide­rers, who crea­ted repre­sen­ta­ti­ve pie­ces, Jewish lay­wo­men pro­ces­sed exis­ting tex­ti­les into cult objects. They resor­ted to pre­cious second‑, third‑, or fourth-hand silk fabrics that they had pre­vious­ly worn as dres­ses for spe­cial events, most often wed­ding gowns. Many of the Torah curta­ins in the Jewish Museum’s coll­ec­tion show traces of their for­mer use through visi­ble stit­ching. The fabrics them­sel­ves also reve­al for­mer tra­ding net­works. In the rural com­mu­ni­ties of Endin­gen and Len­gnau of the 18th and 19th cen­tu­ries for ins­tance, many Jews made their living by buy­ing and sel­ling second-hand tex­ti­les. They ther­eby trans­por­ted not only goods, motifs and pat­terns, but also lan­guage and cul­tu­re across regio­nal borders.

In the urban Jewish com­mu­ni­ties, patrons often dona­ted pro­fes­sio­nal tex­ti­les for wor­ship. Many included their names in the inscriptions.

In the 1960s, the Swiss-Jewish artists Régine Heim and Susi Gug­gen­heim-Weil intro­du­ced modern mate­ri­als and forms to Jewish cere­mo­ni­al objects.

A diver­se sel­ec­tion of pho­to­graphs of our Torah curta­ins have been prin­ted as gree­ting cards, available in our store. Each of the Torah curta­ins with their date and refe­rence is searcha­ble in our online catalog.

We would like to thank our cura­tor Chris­ti­na Meri and her team, Elwira Spy­chals­ka, Adi­na Feigel and Cor­ne­lia Lang.




verfasst am 02.01.2023