After Twitter storm, Met museum changes tefillin label from amulet to phylactery
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After Twitter storm, Met museum changes tefillin label from amulet to phylactery

But archive’s updated term for the leather boxes and straps still doesn’t mention its use in Jewish prayer

Screen shot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art website with a revised description replaceing the word 'amulet' with 'phylactery' for an antique set of tefillin. (Screenshot via JTA)
Screen shot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art website with a revised description replaceing the word 'amulet' with 'phylactery' for an antique set of tefillin. (Screenshot via JTA)

Days after a small corner of the internet erupted with criticism of how the Metropolitan Museum of Art labeled a Jewish ritual object in its collection, the New York museum has quietly revised the description.

Where its website had previously called the tefillin — the leather boxes and straps used in prayer by observant Jews — an “amulet,” it now refers to them by the word “phylactery.”

A photo of the piece in the collection looks unmistakably like one piece of tefillin, the leather boxes and straps used in prayer by observant Jews. A shin, the Hebrew letter on the portion of tefillin that goes on the head, can be seen in the picture.

Twitter users had challenged the amulet label after an automated account that shares pictures of items in the museum’s holding posted one of the tefillin, which is part of the Islamic art collection. Some called the museum’s labeling anti-Semitic because it did not reflect the Jewish nature of the item.

The new label does not indicate that the item, which is not on display publicly, is used by Jews. The museum obtained the item in 1962 and says it likely originated in sixth century Egypt.

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