Attention women in the Jewish community who like to socialize and try new things! The Jewish Discovery Center has a group just for you. The Jewish Women's Circle is an ongoing monthly program "designed for the contemporary Jewish Woman. The Circle membership comprises young, hip single and married women of diverse affiliations and backgrounds who join together to have a good time, participate in workshops and explore Jewish themes."
I had the opportunity to participate in one of the most recent workshops organized by The Circle as a collaboration with Brazee Street Studios. Located in Oakley, Brazee houses over twenty artist studios, but is also the home base for Brazee Street School of Glass. The School of Glass provided The Jewish Women's Circle with tools, materials, and instruction for twenty or more women to learn how to make their very first mezuzah case with fused glass. The scene was reminiscent of art class when we were all children (aside from the complimentary wine and snacks). Rochel Kalmanson, co-director of the Jewish Discovery Center, first stood at the front of the class and gave us a short lesson on the mezuzah, while we all patiently sat in our chairs and dreamt up designs in our heads.
Rochel told us that the mezuzah actually refers to what is inside. A scroll written with verses from the Torah that make up the Shema prayer. Below is an excerpt (translated in English):
4. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one. 5. And you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your means. 6. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart. 7. And you shall teach them to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up… 9. And you shall inscribe them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
In order for the Mezuzah to be kosher it must be hand written in Hebrew on parchment by a professional scribe. The mezuzah should be placed on the right side of the door (from the point of view of one entering the room), on the lower part of the upper third of the doorpost. Mezuzot should be placed in every doorway aside from bathrooms and closets too small to be considered a room. The placement of a mezuzah on the door requires the recitation of a blessing, which can be done by any Jew. We place mezuzot on our doorways to protect us and in Rochel’s words, “it is our security system.” She reminded us that all mezuzot should be checked twice in every seven-year period (again by a professional scribe) since the ink tends to fade or the parchment may crack. If this happens the mezuzah becomes invalidated.
At this point in our lesson, Rochel decided to share a personal story to express the importance of the mezuzah for our protection. In her home, two of her sons share a bedroom and these two sons happened to both break their legs in a span of two months. In light of this misfortune, Rochel thought it was time the mezuzot be sent off for checking by a qualified scribe. Rochel knew this scribe and mentioned he was always very speedy to check and report back to the family in a few days. However, a week went by and there was no word. Starting to worry, Rochel gave the scribe a call. “I’m so sorry!” he exclaimed. “The craziest thing happened…my son broke his leg and I’ve been taking care of him, but I promise I’ll check the mezuzot soon.” “Well that’s the very reason I sent them to be checked! Both of my sons broke their legs!” said Rochel. At once the scribe checked each mezuzah, and #15 (you must number them, in order to know which room the mezuzah will be re-hung) had a crack in the parchment. And sure enough #15 belonged to the room of the two boys with broken legs.
Now that we were all brushed up on what a kosher mezuzah was and how to care for one, the Brazee Glass instructors showed us a few methods of stacking different kinds of glass to achieve our desired style or design. All of us were given a hand painted shin symbol on clear glass. The rest of the color and design was up to us. Some women made little Jerusalem houses. My step-sister made a beautiful tree of life! I opted for an abstract patchwork of colors. Once we had artistically stacked our glass, the teachers collected our designs and did the hard part for us. They fused the glass folding it over a mold to give us our 3D mezuzah. It was this part that reminded me of art class when we were kids. We got to do all the fun, messy, easy and creative work, and the teachers somehow turned it into a completed project! TA-DA! Now I have my one of a kind personalized mezuzah case. Now all it needs is a kosher scroll.
This evening set me back only $15, which was a great deal considering I made my first mezuzah and shared food, drink, fun and friendly conversation with women in our Jewish community.
Keep your eyes peeled on the Jewish Discovery’s website for more monthly events. There is talk of another collaboration with the Brazee School of Glass- this time attempting a bigger project of personalized Seder plates. Hope to see you there!