Wimples

 

Weaving Family and Jewish Tradition into a Meaningful Artistic Heirloom

 

What is a Wimple?

A wimple, made from cloth, is used to bind the Torah during a bar/bat mitzvah. This custom originated in Eastern Europe during the 1500’s. The cloth used to swaddle a child at his brit milah (circumcision) was cut into strips, sewn together, decorated and then used to bind the Torah at his bar mitzvah.

The wimples of that time were created in long, narrow strips that were bound around the Torah many times and were often donated to the synagogue. The tradition of using a wimple nearly died out during the holocaust when many of the wimples were destroyed. The few that remained were used to piece family histories back together as they often included names and dates of family members.

Today, the tradition of making a wimple is realizing a rebirth as Jewish communities throughout the country seek to enrich their connection to Judaism. A wimple is a meaningful addition to a child’s bar or bat mitzvah and is now made for both boys and girls. It is tied around the Torah from which the child will read and can also be used to cover the Torah between readings.

Fern Leslie's Personalized Wimples

My wimples tell a story that reflect the personality and heritage of the recipient in a truly unique way.

close-up

Each wimple is made from pieces of cloth that have been collected from family members and friends of the bar/bat mitzvah child. They range from sections of garments worn during the child’s babyhood, to fabrics used by friends and relatives on the occasion of their marriage or other special and meaningful events. In addition to this, ribbon, beads,buttons, jewelry and other items can be incorporated into the design. The possibilities are endless. I use these materials as the foundationfor my wimple designs, weaving the stories they hold into one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

 

My wimples are designed to wrap around the Torah once, and are secured with ties. Crafted in customized sizes and styles, a wimple can be made in any size. The typical wimple I create is approximately 16" by 36". Most of my clients have chosen to display their wimple in their home after its use and this size is easily framed. To see some examples of the wimples I have made go to the Wimple Gallery.

ariel's wimple

At a recent bat mitzvah for one of my clients, the Rabbi captured the meaning and importance of the wimple when he spoke these words:

“. . . of all the garments , of all the fabrics , of all the quilts or blankets you will ever see or use in your lifetime, we tell you now, this is the most important one of all. It stands for who and what you are and what matters most in life and what this day is all about - tradition and family.”

In addition to having a wimple created, I encourage families to put together a book to accompany their wimple. This wimple book includes pieces of the fabrics incorporated into the wimple, along with letters explaining the significance of each piece. (view some pages from a wimple book)

After the bar/bat mitzvah, the wimple becomes a lasting connection to the Torah as well as a precious family heirloom. It can be framed and displayed as a work of art.

The following are quotes from some families that have commissioned one of my wimples.

"I just wanted to let you know how much I love the wimple. The rabbi described it as 'magnificent'. I set it up on a table with the scrapbook and a book that mentions the history of wimples. You're a terrific artist! Thanks again."- Arlene B.

"The wimple is magnificent! We love it. Thank you for putting so much thought into it and making it so special. When the fabric pieces came in, it was really emotional. The wimple had pieces of fabric from many relatives that are no longer with us, having something of theirs on the wimple brought them to the occasion." - Ayelet C.

I am absolutely crying tears of joy. I just opened the wimple. It is so perfect - so beautiful. It is going to be perfect for his bar mitzvah. It was fabulous working with you. Thank you so much." - Carrie S.

"WE ALL LOVE IT SO MUCH!!! You are such a gifted and talented artist!! I can't believe how different it feels when you look at your own wimple vs. someone elses!! What I didn't expect was how heartwarming it was to read the letters that accompanied each piece sent to us by our family and friends . EVERYONE including our Rabbis just LOVED your creation! We cannot put it away! It was a magical day! Thank you so much" - Janice W.

"Although we had an idea of what to expect, when the wimple was completed it was even more beautiful than we had imagined. We cannot begin to know how you were able to put together all of our cherished mementos.
Evan’s bar mitzvah was months ago yet we look at the wimple often. Much of what we did the day of his bar mitzvah has become merely a memory. But with the wimple, we have something that will enable all of us to remember for a long, long time the specialness of that day. Thank you so much
." - Kathy & Eddie B.

back to top