A few weeks ago we found Opa’s tallis, the one he carried out of Germany in 1938. Horrifyingly, my first inclination was to dispose of it, and I wrote to my rabbi asking how to do so. (For those interested you put it in a bag in the garbage). Part of this is because it is somewhat moth eaten. However, I think that this was in a larger part due to a physically and emotionally draining day cleaning out Oma’s house. I wasn’t ready to take on another family artifact that needed physical care with emotional and financial investment to restore it to its former glory. Sometimes I feel like the curator of my own museum both with both a sense of pride and also responsibility. Thankfully I didn’t take any drastic action and the next morning I was able to see how cool it was.
The first thing that my dad noticed when we found it is that the strings are FUZZY.
I wanted to find out more about why the tztzit were old and cool so I checked them out with a wool expert friend, Abby. She got all excited “Wow I bet those were spindle spun!” (For those super interested in what spindle spinning is, I found a video here). She also noticed that the staple length is particularly long and the wool still has an impressive sheen, considering that my Opa probably got this talis for his bar mitzva (Jews of German descent get a tallis at bar mitzva, unlike my husband’s more standard custom to get one at the time of marriage), making it 95 years old this March.
The next thing I realized, was that the beautiful bag was hand sewn and embroidered, possibly by my Oma, who did embroider other things in this manner. Or possibly not since he got it for his bar mitzva. Maybe my GREAT grandmother made it, maybe my GREAT GREAT grandmother made it? The pictures don’t do it justice.
Opa’s name was Ludolf Heidecker. I think he was named for his Opa, Lamlien Hirsch Heidecker.
Look at the hand stitched construction
The tallis itself is fairly standard but also beautiful:
Now that I’ve decided it’s not headed for the trash, I’m still not sure what to do with it. (Suggestions appreciated.) As I said before it’s fairly moth eaten and no one I know has any inclination to put it to use. For now I’m going to add it to a big (figurative) bin of future use to be determined.