Jewish textiles in Leeds

Hannah Bloom kindly showed me several textile artworks at the Sinai Synagogue yesterday. They include pieces on Sukkot and Jerusalem done several years ago under the direction of artist Gillian Holding, in the main Prayer Hall, and more recent pieces on the history of the synagogue, including one made this year for this Reform synagogue’s 70th birthday.

In the stairway down to the children’s area there is also a multi-panel embroidery of the Hebrew alphabet. Many people have come together to work on these embroideries and their quality and vibrancy make them ideal as possible loans for any future Jewish exhibition.

Hannah  made the figure of the young girl in this family standing under the Sukkot temporary roof canopy, a feature of this harvest festival celebration.

Embroidery  by Hannah Bloom

It’s interesting to compare these modern embroideries, such as this Hebrew letter (also by Hannah) done on a patchwork background from fabric fragments saved from the making of Joseph’s coat  worn in a production of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, to the older embroidered details on Torah mantles, and prayer shawl bags that we have in the museum collections. These are mainly from the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds, and came to us via the Manchester Jewish Museum in 1990.

Some of the older embroideries were done by professional firms, probably based in London, such as the green Torah mantle above), but others look more home-made, such as the red velvet Torah mantle (above) with its many sequins and the Star of David.

By World Cultures Curator Antonia Lovelace

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