The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Eastern European Jewish Ceremonial Textiles in the Age of the Second Industrial Revolution

The corpus of academic papers on Jewish ceremonial objects is immense. The researchers studied types of objects and their history, objects typical for different communities as well as traditional techniques of their production, history of museum collections, and separate prominent objects. The contemporary artists creating Jewish ceremonial textiles also attract the significant attention of researchers and curators. However, the period from the 1850s up until the Holocaust, when traditional techniques had been replaced in Europe by manufacturing, is generally overlooked. It is a common claim that in these years the art of Jewish ceremonial textiles went into decline, as the markets were flooded with relatively cheap and low-quality items. The issue of artistic quality and its reception is intricate and calls for further research. The lecture, though, will be focused on the attempt to reveal how the drastic changes in technology and economy affected the production of ceremonial textiles. Did ceremonial objects get more affordable? If one can trace the emergence of new production centers or distribution techniques? Do manufactured objects keep the “traditional” shapes and decorative patterns or adopt new ones? The discussion will be limited to the boundaries of eastern Europe.