Torah Binder (Wimpel)

This is the wimpel of Joseph Wile, one of nine wimpels of the Wile family in the Spertus collection

Unknown Artist

Ground Level Arts Lab - Currently On View

A wimpel is a Torah binder formed from cloth wrapped around a male infant during the circumcision ceremony. The cloth is cut into four parts and stitched together to create one long banner. The banner is inscribed in Hebrew with the name of the child, his father's name and his date of birth, followed by a blessing recited during the circumcision. Embellishments may be added, such as the infant’s zodiac sign, or a rendering of the marriage canopy or Torah scroll, both mentioned in the blessing. The wimpel is used to bind the Torah scroll on the occasion of the child’s first visit to the synagogue and again at the boy's bar mitzvah.
 
Joseph Wile was born in Binswangen, Bavaria in 1819. His brother, Jacob, was born in 1828 and settled in La Porte, Indiana in 1852. The town was an important stopover for many Jewish immigrants on the way to Chicago between 1850 and 1880. He opened a dry-goods store and went on to found a bank in 1857 and later a title company and insurance agency. He helped establish the B’ne Zion synagogue and served as its first president. For much of the synagogue’s existence the congregation was unable to secure a professional, ordained rabbi so Jacob Wile, having received some religious education in his youth, served as the congregation’s volunteer lay leader. He officiated at the weddings and funerals of Jewish people all over Indiana and became known as the “banker-rabbi.”
 
Jacob Wile donated the family wimpel collection to the Field Museum in 1894 and died in Chicago two years later. They entered the Spertus collection in 1981.

Ground Level Arts Lab
Name: Torah Binder (Wimpel)
Artist: Unknown Artist
Location: Ground Level Arts Lab
Origin: Germany, 1819
Medium: Textile
Dimensions: 5 1/8 x 112 in.
Credit: Gift of Mrs. Marguerite Bowman
Catalog Number: 81.17