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Threads of Faith: Combining Jewish and Muslim Ritual Prayer Objects

This hybrid Tallit/Sajjada celebrates mixed Arab and Jewish identity

By Liora Ostroff

Published Oct 18, 2022

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This impossible hybrid of a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) and a sajjada (Muslim prayer rug) was an outgrowth of almost two decades of Muslim-Jewish organizing and relational practice. It was woven through 2016–2017 by artist Arielle Tonkin in solidarity with the interfaith protest rituals at Standing Rock and “prayer-formed” at interfaith airport chapels around the world. It is a hybrid ritual object by a hybrid Arab Jew borne out of the Islamophobic Muslim travel ban. 

Arielle created a series of paintings and textiles to celebrate mixed Arab Jewish identity, weaving together ritual pieces from different religious traditions to create a unique mixed ritual object. Its use in interfaith protest rituals showcases art as an integral component of activism, and an expression of South West Asian and North African cultural vitality in diaspora, as well as Muslim-Jewish solidarity. 

This piece was exhibited in A Fence Around the Torah at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, as part of a multi-media installation by a collective of Mizrahi artists titled, “I Mean…How Do You Define Safety?” exploring what “safety” means for Jews from Arab lands, whom after generations of relative safety in the region, were torn from their homes, customs, languages, and ancestral roots upon the establishment of the State of Israel. Although much was lost, stolen, and erased — remnants of our food, language, and and ritual objects connect us to our ancestors. 

This piece explores the questions, longing, and desires of the women who are descendants of those who left.

Interested in learning more? Listen to an episode of Disloyal from the Jewish Museum of Maryland, featuring the artists behind “I Mean…How Do You Define Safety?”: Arielle Tonkin, Coral Cohen, and Hannah Aliza Goldman.

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Liora Ostroff (she/her) is a Baltimore-based painter whose work explores themes such as queerness, Jewishness, violence, and the idiosyncrasies of life in Baltimore. As the 2021-22 Curator-in-Residence at JMM, Liora curated A Fence Around the Torah: Safety and Unsafety in Jewish Life, which explored manifold discussions on...

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(From the artist) Arielle created this sculpture as a portable interfaith house of worship that could roll up and fit in a pocketbook – its compact-ability and portability makes it un-ban-able, able to traverse policed borders and boundaries. Do you have any such objects from your families’ migrations? What would you imagine creating to take with you to preserve the rituals you hold dear? 

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