Sunday, November 23, 2008

England: Synagogue Textile Exhibit at London's Bevis Marks Synagogue

England: Synagogue Textile Exhibit at London's Bevis Marks Synagogue

The Friends of the Jewish Museum of London has opened “Hidden Treasures- Sacred Textiles,” an exhibition of rare textiles from the collections of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation (Bevis Marks Synagogue) and the Montefiore Endowment, at the Bevis Marks Synagogue. Bevis Marks, built in 1701, is the oldest extant synagogue building in the British Isles.

Some of the Bevis Marks Torah mantles have been in the possession of the Congregation for three centuries.

The exhibition shows off other textiles, many of which have been conserved for the first time in years. Funds were raised from private sources for conservation, and more remains to be done.

Exhibited textiles include mappot, used to cover the scroll during interludes between reading, and a gilded linen jacket believed to have worn by the Reverend David de Sola at his circumcision at the end of the 18th century. A Torah mantle donated to Ramsgate Synagogue in 1833 was made from the wedding dress of Judith, Lady Montefiore, wife of Sir Moses. The gift was apparently in gratitude to God for her marriage. The use of cast off but still valuable clothing for materials for synagogue textiles was common in the pre-modern era (The Jewish Museum in Rome, for example, has a Torah mantle made from a dress that once belonged to Queen Christina of Sweden.)

Another mantle bears the initials of Moses Lopez Pereira, the first Baron Aguilar, who grew up in a family descended from conversos (forced converts to Christianity) but who reverted to Judaism in Vienna in 1722. He came to London with his 14 children in 1757. A decorated tefillin bag has special interest For Bevis Marks curator, Maurice Bitton: it has been handed down through his family from 18th century Morocco. "Every boy in the Bitton family," he said, "has used it on his barmitzvah down the generations."

For more on the exhibition click here

The exhibition runs until 15 March 2009.
Hidden Treasures, Sacred Textiles is open until mid-March from 11 am to 1pm on weekdays, and 10.30 am to 12.30pm Sundays

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