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40 years of active presence

Sunday, December 10, 2023

    RELIGIOUS LIFE – Synagogual ritual objects

    Only a small number of ritual objects and textiles from Corfu’s synagogues is still extant, but archival photos of the synagogues’ interior can give a clue regarding their syncretic style. They displayed a harmonic combination of Italian baroque and Ottoman visual art motifs, and show a close adherence to both the Romaniote and the Sephardic rites as well.

    The wooden Torah cases and the doors of the Torah arks of the Corfu synagogues were covered with elegantly patterned Italian brocades. The Sephardic custom of using two parohot, or Torah ark curtains, to be hung in front of and behind the ark doors, was maintained. The outer parohet was provided with a horizontally running, braided band, to support the shaddayot. These silver dedicatory plaques, designed in various shapes, were dedicated by community members, for example for the cure of a sick family member or in remembrance of the deceased, and represent a centuries-old Romaniote custom.

    The Jews of Corfu all cultivated another Romaniote tradition: storing their Torah scrolls in wooden polygonal cases. They adorned these colourfully painted tikim with sumptuous, gold painted woodwork in Venetian baroque style and an imposing gold coronet, which is provided on the inside with metal supports for flowers or ears of wheat, to decorate the tikim during the Simchat Torah and Shavuot festivals. Other unique characteristics of the Corfiot tikim are the inner gold canopy and the decoration of the upper part of the tik with three pairs of rimonim. These Torah finials from Corfu, usually spherical or bulb shaped with baroque decorative elements, reflect in a distinctive manner the centuries-long history reciprocal cultural influences between the Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta and the Near East.

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