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Connecting threads … one Hebrew letter at a time

A time to sew: Lili Shain coordinates an extraordinary textile project which connects cross-stitchers of many faiths with sacred text

Connecting threads … one Hebrew letter at a time ERAN ALONI (COURTESY OF TORAH STITCH BY STITCH PROJECT)

Torah Stitch by Stitch

Torah Stitch by Stitch

ALMOST SEVEN YEARS AGO, I picked up a 14 square inch piece of blank aida cloth, a needle and black embroidery thread and began to cross-stitch four verses of Genesis. Twenty minutes later, as I finally finished the first letter of the first word, that piece of cloth was looking bigger and bigger. Eventually this slow, exacting work became a kind of meditation: both on the beauty of each letter and on the meaning of the text that I was stitching. At the same time, I could not help but wonder how I, and my fellow stitchers, would ever finish even the book of Genesis, much less the whole Torah (also known as the Pentateuch). Torah Stitch by Stitch is the brainchild of Toronto-based Judaic textile artist Temma Gentles who, in thinking of a project that would serve to engage women with sacred text, naturally thought of using textile as a medium. Thinking big, in a moment of ‘inspired lunacy’, she hit upon the idea of cross-stitching an artistic representation of the entire Torah, complete with illuminations. She recruited volunteers from among her friends and fellow synagogue members and began to stitch the book of Genesis, four verses at a time. In what turned out to be a prophetic move, she stitched the last verses of Deuteronomy, thinking at the very least we would have a beginning and an end.

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