Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Torah Scroll as sign of legitimacy

The AP's report of a Philadelphia synagogue's new Torah scroll emphasizes its significance as a sign of this African-American congregation's Jewish legitimacy:

The jubilation in Temple Beth’El’s packed sanctuary overflowed into the aisles, with members dancing, clapping and singing as they welcomed their first Torah from Israel.

A new sacred scroll, the holiest object in Judaism, is cause for celebration in any synagogue. But for this Philadelphia congregation, it meant much more. It signified a tentative step toward the mainstream of American Jewish life.

“We have been unable to sleep and to eat,” said Debra Bowen, who is the rabbi. “We have Torah fever!”

The article proceeds to tally the signs of links between this congregation and other Philadelphia Jews, which seems to be nation-wide trend.

This story provides a good example of the fact that the social function of the iconic dimension of scriptures is to convey legitimacy, whether religious or political.

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