Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bulgarian Parachot on Display in Efrat

When you enter the sanctuary of the Tiferet Avot Synagogue in Efrat, you are drawn to two weathered and worn very-aged tapestries on either side of the holy ark. In fact, those are not wall hangings, but parachot (ark coverings), each more than 100 years old.
They are part of the parachot collection of 20 parachot that will be featured during the year at Tiferet Avot.

The parachot, some dating as far back as the 1700s, were found in an old synagogue in Bulgaria. They were decayed and moldy, others wet and torn, but there were some whose beauty still shone through their disintegrated condition.
The collection of 20 parachot are characterized by the distinct Bulgarian, Turkish, Balkan textile art.
They vary in their condition – the color on some has totally faded, the fabric has worn, but the artwork, the handcrafts and the needlework are extraordinary.
Some bear the symbols of the Holy Temple, the Torah, lions, the doubled-headed eagle, crowns, the ten commandments. And some have interesting symbols of the Turkish empire.
One of the parachot is in terrible shape, but it was chosen to be salvaged for other reasons. It was originally donated to a Bulgarian synagogue in 1900 by a doctor in NagasakiJapan.
These parachot much be seen! They are a piece of Jewish history, recalling the once vibrant Jewish communities of Bulgaria that were destroyed by war, Communism and intermarriage.
On Display in Efrat
Synagogue in Sofia, Bulgaria
Two of these parachot hang in Bet Knesset Tiferet Avot today. Next to each parochet is its history.
The red silk parochet (above) from 1912 stood in the main synagogue in SofiaBulgaria for close to 100 years. All the embroidery is silver and gold metal (now tarnished) thread. Its weight, due to the metal thread, is close to 25 kilos. Its Ladino inscription is in honor of a marriage and then rededicated in memory of the Jewish soldiers from Sofia killed in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). It is estimated that a piece this complicated took four women up to a year to make. The crown in the center has been cleaned a bit to give a sense of its past splendor.
Synagogue in Vidin, Bulgaria
A spectacular silver and gold embroidered parochet, white silk couched on linen. The inscription tells us it is from VidinBulgaria and it was donated in 1836. The intricate metal threadwork, patterns, and semi-precious stones, indicate that it was a central piece in this shul.

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