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Ceremonial Synagogue TextilesFrom Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Italian Communities$
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Bracha Yaniv

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781906764180

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781906764180.001.0001

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Chapter Four The Torah Mantle

Chapter Four The Torah Mantle

(p.127) Chapter Four The Torah Mantle
Ceremonial Synagogue Textiles

Bracha Yaniv

, Yohai Goell
Liverpool University Press

This chapter highlights the Torah mantle, which was the last of the ceremonial objects to evolve for the wrapping of the Torah scroll. Just as garments reflect the status of their wearers in all cultures, so the mantle plays a similar role. Thus, a mantle is donated not only in order to protect the scroll, to give thanks to God, or to commemorate someone who has passed away; it is also a means of acquiring social status in the congregation and demonstrating one's wealth. This is especially evident in congregations in Italy and the Portuguese diaspora, whose mantles compete with each other with their wonderful gold embroidery, even though most of them lack any inscription or Jewish content. Flaunting wealth in the synagogue by donating ceremonial objects is especially ingrained in the Sephardi and Italian heritage as a result of the restrictions placed by rabbis on wearing sumptuous outer garments so as not to arouse jealousy among non-Jews. In contrast, in Ashkenazi congregations, the social status of the donors is demonstrated primarily through the use of honorific titles in the dedications, though beautiful embroidery and luxurious materials may be used to enhance the effect.

Keywords:   Torah mantle, ceremonial objects, Torah scroll, social status, Italy, Portuguese diaspora, synagogue, Sephardi diaspora, Ashkenazi congregations, honorific titles

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