Another Virtual Seder

Only partially vaccinated and still quite scattered, we will once again, hold our Seder via zoom. It was interesting to review last year’s Haggadah for needed changes. Last Passover, we were in quarantine and it was hard to grocery shop so here is the alternative list that allowed lots of options and little requirement, in the attempt to reach underneath the reason each item is included on the plate:

Seder 2019
  • beitzah(egg)- represents new life and springtime- traditionally a roasted egg, but consider any form of egg, or any kind of seed or nut, an avocado or avocado pit, or even a flower
  • karpas(fresh vegetable dipped in salt water)– also spring, renewal, along with the tears of slavery- traditionally parsley- consider anything leafy or celery or avocado, or even a onion
  • maror(bitter herbs)-the bitterness of our lives- traditionally horseradish – consider anything spicy.  
  • charoset(brick mortar)- the hardship of slavery- traditionally a mix of nuts, apples, and wine- try a mix of some kind of fruit and nuts like peanut butter and jelly or granola
  • lamb shank, beets- bloodshed required to induce freedom- consider any slice of meat or beets or a yam, anything colorful
  • orange(equality)- for all genders and races- this is for something you don’t normally see on a seder plate- so use your imagination.
  • olives (peace)- What represents peace to you?
  • carrots(sustainability)- a simple, practical, nutritious food
  • potatoes(sustenance)- another basic practical, nutritious food
  • fish(merit)- something a little extravagant 
  • chocolate(fair trade)- something that represents the rights of workers

Referencing the plagues set upon the Egyptians, we inserted this list letting us acknowledge the vulnerable members of our society still being passed over through: 

  1. a justice system that instills fear and divides communities. Just as the first plague of blood recalls violence and turmoil, we must take action to reform our criminal justice system to overcomes its brokenness.
  2. a basic lack of shelter and affordable housing. Just as the plague of frogs transformed the Egyptians’ homes into unlivable conditions, affordable housing can transform lives at the most basic level.
  3. a dysfunctional health care system where millions of Americans still do not have insurance. The plague of lice reminds us that affordable, quality healthcare is important to have when we are healthy and especially when unforeseen circumstances arise. We must advocate to ensure that all Americans can receive the treatments that they need.
  4. the plague of gun violence in America that kills 32,000 Americans each year. Gun violence runs rampant in our communities, as did the wild animals in the fourth plague. We are commanded to take necessary measures to ensure the sanctity of human life and safety of our communities.
  5. hungry kids that exist in every community. Our tradition is explicit in commanding that we feed the hungry, and we must work to make that a reality. The plague of cattle disease reminds us how important it is to ensure that all people have the resources and support needed to live healthily.
  6. COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is wreaking havoc across the globe, and those most vulnerable are being hardest hit. With thousands falling ill, vast sectors of our economy are shut down, and many workers continuing to labor under dangerous circumstances. This crisis has major implications for economic justice, underscoring the need for universal health care, workers’ rights and more. Just as COVID-19 plagues our society in this moment, so did boils plague the Egyptians when this sudden health crisis impaired their lives and livelihood. This year, we add an empty chair at our table to honor the lives of those lost during this last year and a one-minute silence of respect and acknowledgement.
  7. the effects of climate change that most significantly impacts low-income communities and people of color. The climate disruption of the plague of hail is a reminder that the onus is on each of us to take action to prevent climate disruption in communities where such events would have a devastating impact.
  8. valuing workers’ essential dignity. Just as the locusts disrupted work and resources for the Egyptians, so does the lack of paid sick days disrupt the lives of families and workplaces across the United States. Without a national minimum standard, workers face agonizing choices between health and subsistence.
  9. education as the key to opportunity and prosperity. The plague of darkness reminds us to pursue a bright future for all our children through robust public education. 
  10. There are many structural policy changes that we can make to ameliorate economic inequality. The drama and pain of the plague of the death of the firstborn does not remind of us of any one social justice issue, but it does remind us of the importance of taking action before crises become truly dire. Enacting new legislation, particularly voting rights, underscores the previous nine plagues making sure that we are a country of, by and for the people. On Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the land of Egypt during this transitional time of the pandemic, we commit to structural change as our opportunity to leave Mitzrayim more united, less isolated and more committed to hope and awakening for all.

And just in case you never added the Cup of Miriam to your seder, here is the info:

The Fourth Cup: Kos Arba: A cup of wine for Eliyahu ha-Navi, Prophet Elijah and a cup of water for the Prophet Miriam, Miryam, kos mayim Chayim: Blessed is the mystery that flows through time and space bringing us clean healthy water.

Traditionally, Elijah the Prophet visits each home on Seder night as a foreshadowing of his future arrival when he announces the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Jewish feminists place a Cup of Miriam filled with water beside the Cup of Elijah. 

Midrash teaches us that Miriam, the prophetess, was the keeper of a miraculous well accompaning the Hebrews throughout their journey in the desert. Both Miriam and her well were spiritual oases in the desert, sources of sustenance and healing. 

The Cup of Miriam is living waters, the fresh beginning; The Cup of Elijah is wine, awareness that our world is imperfect and still in need of repair. Miriam is present; Elijah is future. Miriam is place; Elijah is time. Miriam is the sea; Elijah is the mountain. The water of Miriam rises from the earth; the fire of Elijah descends from the sky. Together they are the circle of sunlight and rain needed for growth. Together they give us the consciousness to be free. These cups are our determination for a time of true redemption when all people will live:

  • free from bigotry and oppression.
  • with equality for all races to never again shunned by prejudice and hatred.
  • in respect for the aspirations and humanity of women and girls.
  • with sustenance for communities living in hunger.
  • in peace, particularly in those societies torn by savage war.
  • with safe harbor for refugees and survivors of violence.with the promise of dignity and human rights for all.  

Pocket Potholders

Sarah and I have come up with a couple of winning products, one of those being our potholder made from the front pocket of a pair of jeans. It is offered here on our ETSY page.

During the pandemic, it has been my responsibility to keep us stocked and fulfill the orders, so when an order came for one of these potholders this past weekend, I had to replenish the stock and make some.

The construction is actually pretty challenging, finding the right pocket and cutting it so as not to sew over hardware or heavy seams. Add onto that, 5 layers of remnant tee-shirts for the lining and a backing, all attached with a 3″ binding, doubled.

It’s actually impossible sewing for any normal machine, even my working horse of an industrial brother. However, through the fluke of friends and the closing of a factory, I happen to have the key to the potholder’s completion: this most industrial special walking foot sewing machine shown here:

Is’t she a beauty? I can tell you, without a doubt, that we could not make these potholders without this machine. Its nature allows for all of the thickness in a way that makes me eternally grateful. Quite something, right???

Vaccines in the time of Covid

One year after quarantine began, I have achieved the unimaginable: the immunization protection from this deadly disease. Going out into the public, still masked, with my immunization card in hand, brought out the following dichotomies and then some:

  • I feel safer from, yet less trusting of anyone without a mask.
  • I feel happy that life is finally starting to get back to normal, but sad that we lost an entire year.
  • I am tired of being sedentary but find it hard to muster the energy to re-activate.
  • Be disgusted by the continued divide of politics vs. rights.
  • Measuring my faith vs. my feelings of doubt.
  • My conflicted feelings of action and inaction.
  • Accepting the mystery of all vs. the needs to problem solve and provide answers in the moment.

I read an article in the Times about disenfranchised grief, the kind we feel everyday: that if we did not die or lose a loved one, we have no legitimate complaints. This is a ridiculous unrealistic notion. Everyone of us has reason to grieve. Each has suffered hardships and losses and all are valid.

Here are some suggestions to help acknowledge and validate the grief: seek support from others with shared experiences; create a ritual to bring forward the deeper meanings of the experience; reaching out to help others that have greater needs and losses; and work to discover and acknowledge the small moments of joy that came through the grief.

Getting ready for Passover this year, I will add an empty chair to our seder table- representing both the unforgivable magnitude of lives lost and unforgettable feelings of individual grief.

A New Torah Mantle

When our granddaughters had their B’Not Mitzvah this past September, I was introduced to the Torah that was very likely used when my father had his Bar Mitzvah. What better honor for me than to collaborate with my cousin, Keshira HaLev to give the Torah a new mantle!

  • Cousin Sandy’s tuxedo, shirts, hankies, and ties
  • Uncle Jason’s Greek hats and Tallit bag
  • Maya and Naomi’s B’not Mitzvah logo
  • Keshira’s Wedding dress
  • Sacred garment silks
  • Tim’s Bar Mitzvah kepah
  • Cousins’ photo transfers, needlepoint, and embroideries
  • Spoonflower Shehikianyu fabric
  • Maurcy Gottlieb painting fabric
  • Pomegranate embroideries

Finding The Unknown

I know very little about my grandfather, Sam. There was only one picture of him that used to sit at the table near my Nana’s chair in our home.

He was the first of his family to come to Pittsburgh. He opened a bar in Harwick, Pennsylvania. He sponsored his younger brother, Jake, a sister and a half-sister. One sister died tragically in Pittsburgh, the other went back to Europe and died in the Holocaust.  Jake took over the bar when Samuel died. He was married to Frances and had three girls. The oldest one, lives in the same building as my oldest daughter.

Sam died of some kind of cancer. Someone told me once it was colon cancer. He was lucky to have a wife with a big family home on Portland Street in the East End of Pittsburgh. It appears from the obituary he went there for treatment and subsequently died there.  I wish I knew more.

2019 Memory Quilt

  • Remnant Nicole Miller Pittsburgh Tie
  • Steve’s graffiti watch shorts
  • Favorite SilkDenim deconstructed pockets
  • Nana Sadye’s kaftan
  • Tie-dye t-shirts
  • J Jill knit shirt with satin trim
  • Alex’s tablecloth chuppah remnant
  • Sandy’s Bubbe’s tufted cover
  • SilkDenim shirt and light denim remnants
  • Blue Fish Shirt
  • Ronda’s Hemp suits
  • Dana’s printshop bag
  • Steve’s India bag
  • Special Olympics golf shirt
  • SilkDenim Flying Geese
  • Rochester green Hemp Shirt
  • Black Turtleneck
  • Gabe’s thermal sleep shirts
  • Spoonflower Mi Sheberach Fabric
  • Gottlieb tent fabric

Calm Amongst The Storm

When there’s much shifting through me, it helps to look to outside sources to help me make sense of myself.

One such viewpoint came by way of a podcast by Tara Brach on gratitude. What an apt view for this holiday season- suggestions on how to awaken our natural capacities for gratitude and generosity though pathways of honest presence and purposeful cultivation. Tara Brach is a gem!

The next influence came by way of a new book of short stories by Nicole Krauss. Each one is more fabulous than the next. The NYTimes explains her writing this way: In each of these moving stories, we feel the weight not only of family, but of history and faith and leaving a legacy, pressing down on every one of her characters. Birth and death, joy and mourning, love and heartbreak — these too animate the collection. But as a writer Krauss is less interested in describing life’s grand explosions than she is in showing how people make sense of the rubble. My, my, my, another gem: Nicole Krauss.

Finally, though this might be a little harder to understand, was the documentary series on Netflix about Ivan The Terrible called The Devil Next Door. The story itself is difficult to watch, scary and horrific with interesting twists and turns until the very last scene when the foreman of the Ford plant explains that most of the men on the assembly line were just like Demjanjuk, undercover, silent, make no waves so as to blend into America’s melting pot, acting as if, proving that the true horror of hidden prejudices and behaviors are right there to been understood and conquered by all who choose to shine the light and look closely.

Digging Deep and Staying Low

My goodness it is still hard to talk politics- the win seems so precarious- until things are totaling in motion including the vaccine. Meanwhile, I continue to find the only way to be in the muck is to stitch, stitch, stitch.

I had a couple of nice honors: an article in the PG, the purchase of my No-Hate Flag, the continuation of my exhibit at BYN, acceptance into a sculpture show, and I feel like I’m on the cusp of more…….

Blessings For The Children
BNY Exhibit
No Hate Flag

And some hits of a recently completed project that will hopefully be seen in its entirety soon:

And some hits of another recently completed project that will hopefully be seen in its entirety soon:

Stay Safe and Be Well!!!!!

A Couple of Recommendations

I spend the majority of my time listening to podcasts while stitching. The pod cast that brings me the most joy these days is The Promised Podcast by Noah Efron. It gives me, as an American Jew, the clearest perspective on Jewish Israeli life. I can’t say enough about the quality. Noah is honest, thorough, left of center, and the kind of historically religions that I understand and respect. To prove my point, listen to his podcast on Rabbi Steinsaltz.

Another interesting change of perspective has come to me with the Tortoise News. It is English, and another way to see the world, that is progressive, yet thoughtful. They have a podcast and I subscribe to the newsletter, where you get the gist of everything and can explore further to your interests.

My third recommendation is the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson. I know you might thing it is fuffy being Oprah’s book pick- but I can assure you it it the most powerful book you will read this year- and maybe ever.

Angel of God

When the pandemic started, I thought of it as a time to dig deep and create. Now, on my fourth major project, it seems a little ridiculous, but really, its all I’ve got given the craziness of life today.

For this project I am going all out- something that will bring everything together for me. Attributes by color from Kabbalah applied to a 3-dimensional figure. Now I know that makes no sense to you and it shouldn’t, really, but hopefully, the finished piece will enable it to be clear.

For now some in process photos to excite: