Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Jewish Arts and Crafts

It's hard to believe three years have passed since we explored the joys of knitting and all the Jewish-related books, websites, and charity projects, when we "Knit One, Read Two." Here in Israel it is the rainy season, and when you're stuck in the house, nothing beats some art or crafting to occupy the time (and having something to show for it, too).

Obviously, I am a big fan of arts and crafts, especially when you can craft and do something else (like listening to an audio book) at the same time. I was thrilled when they did crafts at my mother's, a"h, senior facility; she was not so thrilled.

©Roz Chast, 2017, ‘Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?’, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, used with permission.


One of my neighbors is quite the art expert, so we'll talk about her book, as well as suggest some other resources.

The Joy of Jewish Art for Children

Would you ever think a book about art and about creating art would not be filled with color pictures? Well, if you want young artists to use their imagination and enjoy the process, and to not focus on the end product and not worry about comparing it to the picture or to others' work, then it makes perfect sense.



Such is the genius and sensitivity of Devora Piha, author of The Joy of Jewish Art for Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers (Mosaica Press, 2018). She is the art teacher who wish you had, passionate about art education, emphasizing process over product, and believing that art is not only for those who show "talent," but those who want to grow and create. Rather than putting a paper and crayons (of which she is not a big fan) in front of a child, she looks at skill building projects (repeitition, control, using shapes) and connecting to Judaism through art. We recently spoke about her book and her approach to art for children. The book developed and changed over twenty-five years as Devora expanded on ideas and created new projects.

Who is your intended audience?

It's for everyone, but especially for Jewish teachers (teaching all levels), parents that enjoy art and want to share it with their children, and for people who want to learn about Judaism through art.

What is your background?

Both my parents were artists, so I got a lot of encouragement and nurturing at home. I took art classes and went to art school, and now, if something interests me, I do a lot of research and experimentation to master the concept or technique.  Some things I feel intuitively, and when I do the research, I find that my intuition is right.

What is your approach to art?

Art has so many purposes and functions in our lives. It can be functional, educational, historical in terms of leaving a record for posterity. It is way to communicate and express emotions and thoughts. It is an outlet and a release. It is a combination of both technique and expression.

"Children grow through their art" (page 90), and "Art can be used an an amazing tool to help children improve their character and build their self-confidence" (page 102). It helps children develop patience and self-control. In my art classes, they are free to experiment and try new things and express themselves. They also learn how to work with mistakes, either incorporating them into a project, or adapting the project to the stray mark or splash of color. They learn to plan and organize their project, follow instructions, and trust themselves.

Obviously, they develop fine-motor skills, and they also learn about spatial relations and perspective.

What makes Jewish art special?

It's special because it comes from a spiritual source. It shows the beauty of God's creation and how we personally relate to it. It is "art that feeds the soul along with the eyes" (page 8).

Here are some examples:







Thank you to Devora Piha for taking the time to speak with me and share her thoughts and her art.


Hands-On Activities in Israel

If you are up in the Galilee, you can enjoy the meditative art of Saori weaving at the Tiferet HaYetsirah Studio in Yavne'el. Workshops are offered for all levels, and for families, and, based on personal experience, it is relatively easy to learn, fun, and relaxing.

If you are down south in the Negev, try the B7 Art Experience in Beer Sheva. Activities combine educational tours and workshops like a photography walk.

Resources

Books

Jewish Threads: A Hands-On Guide to Stitching Spiritual Intention into Jewish Fabric Crafts by Diana Drew with Robert Grayson (Jewish Lights, 2011). My kind of book with techniques like quilting, applique, embroidery and cross-stitch and functional projects like challah covers and wall hangings, all with an emphasis on the creative process and "personal flair."

Easy and Economical Jewish Crafts by Susan Fishman Kramer (AuthorHouse, 2011). Projects designed to take thirty minutes with some preparation by the adult and some by the child, depending on the child's age. Full of good ideas that can be created in a school or home environment.

The Yaldah Year: Crafts & Recipes for Every Month of the Jewish Year by Leah Larson and Chavi Resnick (YM Books, 2009). Geared to pre-teen and teen girls, "each Jewish month features two recipes and a craft connected to that month, plus lots of interesting background information about the month."

Celebrating with Jewish Crafts by Rebeca Edid Ruzansky (self-published, 2008). Reviewers on Amazon have dubbed this "the best Jewish crafts book ever," and with the bold colorful photographs of projects that are relatively easy to make, it is a great resource. There are many ideas for holiday-related items as well as things like tzedakah boxes and plates. Thank you for techniques and templates.

Crafting Jewish: Fun Holiday Crafts and Party Ideas for the Whole Family by Rivka Koenig (Mesorah Publications, 2008). This book features "over 120 holiday and every day projects, each with step-by-step instruction; stunning full-color photos of every craft; distinctive ideas for holiday get-togethers -- many with delicious recipes; pictorial reference guide of crafting tools and buying guide; and full-size templates and comprehensive index." Critics note that there are a lot of recipes in a book about crafts, and that the crafts are geared for young children.

Kids Love Jewish Holiday Crafts by Tracy Agranoff (Simcha Media Group, 2000). Provides instructions for making decorations and gifts for the Jewish Holidays and the Sabbath.

The Jewish Holiday Craft Book by Kathy Ross (Millbrook Press, 1997). Kathy Ross is known for her themed crafts that use recyclables, and here she applies her talents to such projects as Jonah and the Whale Puppets, a kiddush cup, a spice box, and a wheel of months, also presented with clear, easy-to-follow instructions and illustrations.

Jewish Holiday Crafts for Little Hands by Ruth Esrig Brinn (Kar-Ben, 1993). Between six and sixteen crafts for each of the eleven holidays included, with concise and easy-to-follow instructions.


Websites

Pinterest has hundreds of pin for all kinds of Jewish crafts.

Creative Jewish Mom is packed with ideas for crafts including Holiday-themed craftsCrafts made from recyclables and Kids' Crafts.

Bim Bam "uses digital storytelling to spark connections to Judaism to learners of all ages." They offer "DIY Arts and Crafts Projects," including a recipe for "Jewish Slime" and "12 Amazing Purim Basket Hacks (more comedic than crafty)," all available as YouTube videos.

The Kveller website hosts a crafts page with links to projects.

AHC offers many, many holiday-related craft ideas.

More websites with Jewish crafts:

Joyfully Jewish

Our Jewish Homeschool Blog

Free Kids Crafts

Bible Belt Balabusta (the queen of Lego and Jewish crafts)



And for those who prefer kits, our friend's at Benny's (exit 159 off the Garden State Parkway) offer a variety of "Affordable Jewish Art Projects."

Just for the Mitzvah, aka JewishCrafts.com, also offers kits, but they deal in wholesale. So if you are looking for a project for a school, party, or other large group, this is the place.

Finally, if you like crafts, but aren't so crafty yourself, go to Buy for Good and purchase some items "made by adults and children with disabilities or from underprivileged communities in Israel through educational and vocational programs."

And, at The Real Cats of Israel, Jojo is doing some quality control on a baby blanket I knit:


Happy Reading and Happy Crafting!

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