A Spanier Arbeit is a little-known technique and the only specifically Jewish textile technique. Ceremonial textiles and garments, was and are made with shpanyer arbet technique. tallit is a rectangular piece of fabric with fringes (tzizit) at the four corners.
Until fairly recently, it was worn as a prayer shawl exclusively by observant Jewish males over the age of thirteen. In Ashkenazic lands, primarily Germany and Poland, a limited range ofmaterials was used to make a tallit. It was made ofwool or silk, and was white or off-white with a black stripe. The center ofone long side ofthe tallit was often distinguished by some form ofdecoration. This decorated area would be worn at the neck, functioning as a neck band. The decorative band was called the atarah (pI. atarot)! meaning crown or diadem. Its decoration usually consisted ofa panel ofembroidery, sometimes incorporating metal thread. The subject ofthis paper is one variant of decoration for the atarah which incorporated metal threads and was known as spanier arbeit. It is characterized by a lavish use ofmetal strips, usually silver or silver coated, sometimes gilded, wrapped over or wound around a cotton or linen core in dense schematized floral or geometric patterns.
Arbeit means work. Combined with the Yiddish term spanier, the term spanier arbeit has been translated as both "spun work," derived from the Yiddish word spinnen, and as "Spanish work," work of a type produced in Spain. The latter interpretation implied that the craft oflace making incorporating silver and gold threads practiced by Jews in fifteenth century Spain was the direct ancestor ofspanier arbeit.
While Jews of Mallorca, Barcelona and Toledo produced gold and silver lace in twelfth and fifteenth centuries, we have no evidence at this time to connect them to the Eastern European nineteenth century Jewish producers ofspanier arbeit. Furthermore, the essential similarity ofspanier arbeit to contemporary Russian5 and Eastern European passementerie and bobbin lace suggests that one need not look to far countries or distant periods for its origins.