15 August 2007

Creating a new family heirloom

Recently, I told readers about a new blog called JudaicaJournal. A new posting focuses on tzedekah boxes, the artists who create them and their philosophies of tradition and art. These women also produce other Judaica items that could become your family's next heirloom or a treasured gift for an important life cycle event.

It is fair to say that most of us grew up with blue-and-white tzedekah boxes for Keren Kayemet, and with other collection containers for numerous institutions. These new creations are not your parents' or your grandparents' tin boxes.

At a time when 90 percent of donations are made by the solitary act of writing out a check, tzedakah boxes are enjoying an unexpected renaissance. The simple box that embodies one of Judaism's foundational tenets—the commandment to help those in need—has blossomed in the hands of contemporary Judaica artists. This modest denizen of bubbe's kitchen is now wrought in a multitude of shapes, sizes, media, and methods and has become an object as beautiful as the mitzvah that inspires it.

The strong link between tzedakah and the home is the inspiration for Leona Fein's unique stained-glass tzedakah boxes. "Giving tzedakah is part of my family's heritage," she says. "My uncle gave to an old-age home for rabbis—The House of Sages on Manhattan's East Side. That is still my charity, and when I began to design tzedakah boxes, I wanted them to have the shape of a house because tzedakah should start at home."

Other artists mentioned: fused glass artist Sara Beames, cloisonné enamelist Marian Slepian and Bonnie Cohen's ceramics,

The article, by Debra B. Darvick, originally came from Jewish Woman magazine.

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