Berit Engen WEFT and D'RASH: A Thousand Jewish Tapestries


LOST BUT FOUND (II)
– Half a Million Holy Tatters

 
Archived at Cambridge University Library, the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah Collection is the world's largest and most important single collection of medieval Jewish manuscripts.
 
Cairo, 1896: a giant heap of discarded texts, dating from 870 CE to the 19th century, met Rabbi Solomon Schechter when he climbed a ladder and entered the genizah of the Ben Ezra synagogue.
 
Acting on rumors of a treasure of Jewish texts, Schechter travelled from England to Egypt, zooming in on the site of the find, the synagogue storeroom for sacred writings and objects waiting to undergo a formal Jewish burial.
 
Written by scholars and laymen in many languages on a variety of materials, the collection offers unparalleled insight into all aspects of Jewish life in the medieval Middle East and North Africa.
 
I chose to weave the trash pile’s backdrops from large to small: the Nile River and the desert; Old Cairo at night; the synagogue in the sun-filled street; the dark sanctuary and the floor above; and a cloud of attic dust. The last tapestry depicts a canal far away, up north in Cambridge, by its new home. Surrounded by weeping willow leaves resembling Hebrew letter strokes falling down from Heaven, the fragments are being archived and safely stored in the university library.
 
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