My engagement during the years 2005-2011 designing and fabricating a new Torah mantle for Congregation Eitz Chayim (Cambridge, MA) prompted me to examine the multidimensional nature of Jewish text in relationship to the ritual garment I was creating. The visible centrality of the Torah mantle, pointing beyond itself to the sacred text it both conceals and reveals, pushed me to consider the hidden boundary between the textile and the written scroll. I sought to find a way of engaging the congregation in occupying this intimate place with a community-made textile. I was especially interested in creating a space to hold personal narratives and family histories – and to employ a physical process that would enrich and transform one’s experience of telling a story. Upon learning that that the words “text” and “textile” emerge from the same Latin root meaning “to weave,” the answer came by way of a ritual textile called a wimpel and an ancient Japanese fiber process called shifu, whereby paper is separated into strips, spun into yarn, and woven on a loom into fabric.
Eitz Chayim Wimpel (2009-2010) | Photos: George Bouret, Judy Diamondstone, Dennis Friedler, Nan Palmer, Stanley Sagov