A collection of contemporary and traditional Jewish prayer shawls has gone on display at the Jewish Cultural Center. “Wrapped in Tradition,” which includes shawls from the local community, elsewhere in the United States and Israel, will continue through Wednesday, Jan. 15.
Called talliot (plural for tallit), the shawls were made by 21 artists. Their diversity of styles includes woven, embroidered, handpainted, appliqued and tie-dyed designs. A biography of each artist and information about each tallit is also included.
Talliot owned and used by community members are included with the exhibit as examples of how this religious tradition is locally maintained. Ann Treadwell, Jewish Federation program director, says the exhibit “represents an inspiring selection of fabric art that contains a strong spiritual message.”
A tallit is the shawl a Jewish worshipper wraps around him/herself during prayer. A tallit is worn only during the morning prayers, except for the Kol Nidre/Yom Kippur Eve service — arguably the holiest occasion of the Jewish calendar year, Treadwell explains. The garment can be made out of linen, wool, silk or synthetics, so long as the biblical prohibition against the wearing of clothing combining linen and wool is observed.
According to religious tradition, it is not the garment part of the tallit that makes it special, regardless of whether or not the garment is plain or adorned. Rather, on the corners of each square or rectangular tallit are placed tzitzit (fringes). The tzitzit are the visual reminders to the wearer of God’s laws (see Numbers 15:37-41). The tzitzit make the garment important. The tallit is not worn at night because the tzitzit are to be seen by daylight.