Mantle for the Torah

Precious New Beginning

Blue velvet, tassels, gold and pearl embroidery – this cover is clearly meant for something precious. It serves in the Cologne Synagogue as a mantle for the Torah, the scrolls containing the Jewish holy texts. Alongside religious symbols and phrases in Hebrew, it is inscribed with a reference to its year of origin, 1960.

The Torah cover thus also stands for a new beginning of Jewish life in North Rhine-Westphalia following the mass murder of millions committed by the National Socialists. The Jews received much support from both the public and private spheres. The ceremonial inauguration of the synagogue in Cologne in September 1959 was a definitive political signal that a new chapter had begun in Germany for those of the Jewish faith. However, it wasn’t long until the place of worship was defaced by graffiti by right-wing youths at Christmas 1959. Many Germans were appalled by the terrible incident, but a few openly sided with the offenders.

To this day, Jews are threatened by hate and violence. Although their communities are growing and opening up to society, the fear of hostility is ever-present. Thus, the Jewish Culture Days in the Rhineland have been a permanent feature in the state’s cultural calendar since 2002. But at the same time, when a female DJ from Tel Aviv spun the turntables on a Saturday night in the Düsseldorf Kunstpalast in 2019, security guards were on hand to protect the event from any potential attacks.