The Gifts of Hands and Hope

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From a very early age, I loved anything that involved art. My father is very artistic and I would watch him draw and sculpt. Watching his hands move made me feel inspired and alive. 

I chose to study Graphic Design in college but realized very soon after graduating that I felt the need to channel my creativity into creating art with my hands. 

After receiving a scroll-saw that a family member was no longer using, I started experimenting with cutting Hebrew letters out of wood and combined them with my handwritten calligraphy to make Brachot and Tefillot. I had found my medium. 

Very early on in my marriage, we made the decision that I would stay home with the kids while they were young. I ran the house and was always home for our children. In my ‘spare time,’ I would create pieces of art, but it was more of a glorified hobby than a profession. 

The kids grew and I felt that it was time to get back into being creative on a more regular basis, but had no idea how to get out there and market my work. I felt lost. The orders trickled in, mostly by word of mouth, but it wasn’t enough to keep me busy full-time or to feel like I was pulling my weight financially.

In 2014 everything changed.

My husband Jeremy, who trained as a plumbing and heating engineer, suffered a heart attack that went undiagnosed. This led to his suffering, additionally, two strokes.  

Suddenly, he was unable to do the very physical work he had been doing, and with me taking care of him and the rest of the family, we found ourselves with no income.

Following heart procedures and many, many visits to cardiologists and neurologists, his strength slowly returned. We sat and discussed how we would move forward. We had often dreamed of focusing more on the Judaica pieces I had been creating for many years, which Jeremy had always had an active part in producing with me – and realized that this was our opportunity to do just that.

Workspace became available in an industrial zone close to our home, and we signed the lease with both excitement and trepidation. 

I had to overcome my fear of business and marketing in order to help our ‘new baby’ grow. There was much to learn, but together, as a team, we were sure we could do it. 

As an engineer and designer (the perfect combination for creativity), we had both learned many skills over the years, and it seemed that it was the right time for us to share them with others. We set up our Judaica Gallery and created a space where we could invite families to create their own pieces of Judaica under our guidance. The Workshop Gush Etzion was born. We split our time working on our own pieces and teaching our excited participants how thrilling and satisfying it is to create something with one’s own hands. As people told their friends about their experiences with us, interest grew and so did the business. People came to us from near and far, and there were periods when we were so busy, that we no longer had the time to focus on designing our own new Judaica pieces.

Until Corona.

Corona brought an end to the flow of tourists who swarmed to us during the Chagim, and we were forced to turn away the locals from visiting because of Jeremy’s high risk of contracting the virus due to his health issues. 

Hashem had brought the world to its knees, but at the same time, had given us another opportunity – to focus on our art uninterrupted. A scary change while needing an ongoing income in order to survive, but an exciting chance to spend some time doing what we have grown to love. 

No family sessions allowed us to let our creativity flow and we’ve managed to keep ourselves busy working on new ideas and filling orders. 

Selling a luxury item during a global pandemic is not an easy way to survive. But we’re blessed to be working together, with the support of our loving family and friends, doing something that gives us so much fulfillment. 

Sometimes we have to stop and pinch ourselves to make sure we aren’t dreaming.

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