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Jacqueline Nicholls Re-envisions the Kittel 

By Alicia Jo Rabins

Published Sep 23, 2022

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Above: "the torah kittel"

In this project, artist Jacqueline Nicholls riffs on the kittel, a simple white burial shroud also worn – by men, traditionally – during heightened moments of ritual throughout the owner’s life. Nicholls’ creative re-interpretation re-envisions the kittel entirely; her collection of hand-sewn pieces presents a range of diverse, kaleidoscopic versions, reaching beyond traditional limitations to explore “the different ways clothing is used as a vehicle for meaning and identity within [Jewish] tradition and literature.” 

Blending her deep knowledge of Jewish text with “fine art” techniques alongside traditional forms such as dressmaking and paper-cutting, Nicholls conveys a powerful commentary on wide-ranging, profound concepts including mysticism, gender, and antisemitism.  

Above: "the torah kittel" (a closer look)

The Kittel Collection was first featured as a monthly online project in the The Forward. 

Explore more of the collection here. 

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Alicia Jo Rabins is an award-winning writer, musician, performer and Torah teacher

Reflections

Get creative 

If you were to design a kittel of your own, what would it look like? Which ideas might you want to express or explore through your kittel? Sketch it out if you wish.  

Go deeper 

What is your most sacred piece of clothing? This could be a ritual clothing object, or simply something very special to you. What makes it holy for you?  

DIY 

In this series, Nicholls reimagines the traditional burial garment. If you were going to take one object of daily clothing, ritual clothing or jewelry and design a series of them, what would it be? Try sketching out a few options. For example: a series of necklaces reflecting various moods; a series of tallitot (prayer shawls) designed for different moments in the life cycle or the year; a series of shirts that embody the themes of different holidays. 

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