The Tapestries

The walls of Yeshurun’s main Synagogue are adorned with an attractive collection of twelve embroidered textile panels, each representing one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  The inscriptions and modern designs are based on references to the individual tribes in Bereshit.  The panels are positioned around the walls, with the leading tribes placed nearest to the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark).  The colours of each tapestry match the colours of the corresponding stained glass windows alongside.

The panels were commissioned in 1977  from Manchester based freelance designers, Judy Barry and Beryl Patten.   The colourful images are shown below, along with the inscriptions and design explanations.  In 2008, Judy and Beryl also designed new modern Ark curtains and Bimah covers, which blend sympathetically with the wall panels.



Asher: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 20.
Inscription: “Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.”
Design: The traditional symbol of Asher is the fruiting tree. In this interpretation, however, the idea of “bread shall be fat” is interpreted as a sheaf of corn representing a fruitful and bountiful harvest.


Benjamin: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 27
Inscription: “Benjamin shall raven as a wolf:in the morning he shall devour the prey and at night he shall divide the spoil.”
Design: Morning and night skies divide the panel as in the inscription. The darker, night side leads the eye to the adjacent green panel. The ravening wolf is interpreted as a hunter and instruments of the hunt, spear heads glinting in the morning light can be seen amongst the grasses


Dan: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 17
Inscription: “Dan shall be a serpent by the way, and adder in the path…”
Design: Represents the snake or adder in the desert landscape.


Ephraim: Genesis Chapter 48: Verse 16
Inscription: “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads… “


Gad: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 19
Inscription: “Gad, a troop shall overcome him but he shall overcome at the last “
Design: The tent, the symbol traditionally associated with Gad, is represented in the quiet of the desert. The deisgn is still and empty representing the peace that was finally Gad’s.


Isacchar: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 14 and 15
Inscription: “Issachar is a strong ass crouching down between two burdens”
Design: A central motif reminiscent of a cornucopia represents the good of land, its riches and bounty. Two interwoven forms can be seen behind the name of the tribe. These loosely represent the two burdens or panniers carried on the back of a donkey. The design composition leads slightly to the left towards the neighbouring Simeon-Levi panel


Menasseh: Genesis Chapter 48: Verse 20
Inscription: “May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menasseh.”
Design: The palm tree, traditional symbol of Manasseh, is depicted in this panel.


Naftali: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 21
Inscription: “Naftali is a hind let loose:he giveth goodly words.”
Design: The hind is emerging from the darkness into the light, taking on the mantle of good words and counsel


Reuben: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 3-4
Inscription: “Though art my first born, my might and the beginning of my strength.”
Design: Represents the sun (symbol of Reuben) scorching flames and unquenchable fire being all-powerful. Diagonal lines in the composition lead the eyes towards the Ark on the right of it in the Shul.


Simeon-Levi: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 5-7
Inscription: “Simeon and Levi are brethren…I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel “
Design: Represents sharp and angular shapes-the instruments of war/battle and confrontation. The central yellow area ‘divides’ the red, and the small fragmentary shapes represent the scattering of the tribe. Diagonal lines in the composition lead the eye to the right, towards the Ark.


Yehudah: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 9
Inscription: “Judah is a lion’s whelp:from the prey my son, thou art gone up.”
Design: Represents the Lion of Judah leaping towards the left and thus leading the eye towards the neighbouring red panel of Reuben


Zebulun: Genesis Chapter 49: Verse 13
Inscription: “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea: and he shall be for an haven of ships.”
Design: Represents the sea in waving blue and silver lines. Plant forms and pebbles suggest the sea’s edge and the plant forms curves to represent a harbour or haven. The division of colour leads to the adjacent orange and green panels.