The Eldridge Street Synagogue/Museum was a delightful find during a recent visit to Lower Manhattan. Although the neighborhood had greatly changed demographics from the early days when the Jewish community formed a vibrant setting on Eldridge Street, we found a jewel in the restored Synagogue building and its wonderful congregational memorabilia.
What brought us to the museum originally was the display of its wimpelin collection. Two examples were donated by their owner, Adrian Baker, with a wish to preserve the custom.
In follow-up communication with Ms. Baker regarding the 2 wimpelin, I received the following data.
“…they were discovered in a desk drawer in the basement of the house that belonged to my uncle (by marriage) who died in 2008. His family was Fredericks and they came from Germany, and these wimpels are about 200 years old – having been passed down through the generations in his family.”
They appear to have been from two contiguous generations, with one dated “19th day of Cheshvan, year 563 (corresponding to November 15, 1803),” and the second “Month of Ab (July or early August) year of 596 (1836).”
(Eldridge Street Museum; Judaica; Accession #2009.001 and #2009.002)
This wimpel was first created in Sacramento, California, in July 1979, preceding the birth of Rachel Kaplan on August 29, 1979. Colored pens, pencils and embroidery are incorporated throughout this always growing design. Over the years, with the inclusion of each simcha in Rachel's life, this wimpel has continued in the performance of its duty to provide a chronology of her Jewish growth. When it was first conceived, there was no preconceived idea that it would take on a life of its own. In some parts of Rachel's wimpel, the congestion of data reflects the need to create a wimpel with open spaces, left vacant for future growth.
Details have been added that include Rachel's family linage.
The Hebrew word 'Shalom' flanks the central prayer, along with personal detail to support it. The prayers focus remains a priority, that Rachel grows to the study (of) Torah, be married under the chuppah (make a Jewish home) and perform good deeds.
Graphic symbols and text relevant to Rachel's history enhance this wimpel. Her embroidered name (in Hebrew), with the hands of the Kohanim, reflect upon her paternal heritage.
Rachel displays her wimpel at synagogue, with the support of family and congregational members. It had been removed from binding the Torah scroll.