Joyful Jewish

Finished challah cover

New Year is just around the corner, and I have been very busy in the lead up this year!

Following on from my earlier Chanukah and family handprint challah covers, I have now made one for Rosh Hashanah.  (I think I’ll be taking a break from challah covers for a while now!)  As Rosh Hashanah challah is round, so so is this cover, and the fabrics depict or represent apples and honey, two traditional sweet foods eaten for the new year.

Fabrics2

Fabrics1

I don’t have much patchwork experience and I wanted something simple (read: foolproof) so I found a very easy looking idea on the internet: a circle made by sewing triangles together.  I made a template out of cardboard, just a triangle with a 30 degree point.  12 “slices” x 30 degrees = 360 degrees aka a full circle. By cutting the point of each triangle off before sewing them together, I didn’t need to worry whether or not the points would meet up neatly.

Construction phase1

As you can see, it is not particularly circular at the edge, but you cut it back later.  (Make sure you cut your fabric larger than you think you’ll need so that it’s not too small when you trim and hem it.)  Alternatively, you might be smart enough to cut the template with the right curve built in – but I was sticking with simple!

Next I appliqued a circle to go in the centre and cover that hole.  I printed off the text for L’Shanah Tovah (literally “for a good year”) using a font called Frank Ruehl and traced around it to put the outline onto double sided iron-on adhesive.  A fair degree of fiddly cutting out and ironing on later, it looked like this:

Construction phase2

I used a bit more iron-on adhesive to stick the circle in the right place. Then it was just a case of stitching around the edges to make sure nothing falls off, EVER, and including a few beads for decorative effect.

Edging detail

Finally, I cut a circle of fabric for the back, trimmed the front to match, sewed the two faces together (you get the general idea…).  Next job, relocating that really good Rosh Hashanah challah recipe I used last year.

I wish you and your loved ones L’Shanah Tovah – may you be inscribed in the book of life for a sweet and blessed year.

Closer view of challah cover

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Some time ago I made a Sukkot guest book, so we could remember who shared our sukkah each year.   It was a hit with my family, so this year we decided to extend the idea and make a Passover guestbook, to record who came to our Seder and all the other things that would blur as years go by.

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I designed the book myself using photobook software, and it has been commercially printed.  On each double page, one side has spaces for the date and location, who came, what we ate and any special things we want to remember from that evening.

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On the other pages,  I have included such things as a list of memorable moments from seders past, the evolution of our bespoke Haggadah,  some alternative questions (with space to add more), a favourite recipe and space for future menu suggestions, a list of things we’ve made especially for Pesach (from placemats to Moses & Pharaoh figurines), and space to list any new traditions we develop or things we want to remember for the following year.

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Next year in Jerusalem!  But more likely back at our place… :-)

Rosh Hashanah in plasticine

My daughter, now aged 6, is really enjoying creating little items out of plasticine.   This is her recent Rosh Hashanah still life, comprising apples, a pot of honey, three round challot, a black shofar and and orange and white Torah.

She had so much fun, she then produced a hamantaschen, a very wonky sukkah with table and chair and a lulav and etrog, among other things!  I was very proud of her efforts and finished products, which were 100% her own work.  My only input was encouragement and supply of the storage container.

Plasticine is really easy for little fingers to work with, comes in a range of colours and stays soft indefinitely.  It’s great!

Rosh Hashanah models and the artist

As my daughter (and our book collection!) continues to grow, I’ve decided to share the love and give some of our books away to friends with younger children.  Before they go, here are my thoughts on them.

Happy Birthday, World – a Rosh Hashanah Celebration by Latifa Berry Kropf, illustrated by Lisa Carlson

Book for Rosh Hashanah

Happy Birthday, World introduces some of the customs of Rosh Hashanah (eating apples dipped in honey, blowing the shofar, giving tzedakah) by comparing them with activities a child would associate with their own birthday (eating cake, tooting party horns, getting presents).  The realistic illustrations show a contemporary boy and girl with their parents.  It’s a board book with simple text, suitable for the youngest of children able to follow along.

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Apples and Honey – A Rosh Hashanah Story by Jonny Zucker, illustrated by Jan Barger Cohen

Apples and Honey

Apples and Honey introduces a more extensive list of customs of Rosh Hashanah, including wearing new clothes, performing tashlich and eating pomegranate on the second evening.  Despite the title, it’s not really what I’d call a story, although it follows a family through a set of scenes. The illustrations are engagingly colourful.  There are a couple of pages of explanatory material (in child-friendly language) at the end of the book, including one on blowing the shofar.  I would suggest suitable for children 2 or 3 years old.

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How the Rosh Hashanah Challah Became Round by Sylvia B. Epstein, illustrated by Hagit Migron

How the Rosh Hashanah Challah became round

Jossi is the son of the local baker, and he is very proud to help his father make bread for the townsfolk.  One day he is proudly carrying freshly plaited “challahs” to the oven when suddenly he trips.  The loaves roll down the stairs, becoming round in the process.  The townsfolk are at first unimpressed by these strangely misshapen challahs, but on the eve of Rosh Hashanah the local rabbi is inspired to find meaning in their shape, and soon everyone is agreeing with him.

This book assumes familiarity with the concepts of challah and Rosh Hashanah, and offers a gently humorous explanation for a question which probably occurs to children each Rosh Hashanah.  The illustrations are very simple cartoons.  It’s a little longer than the previous two books, and would be suitable for children over 3, or who are in that “Mum, why is….???” stage.

Feel the urge to sew something useful and maybe a little bit fancy, but don’t think you have the stamina for a quilt?  Think challah cover!  Big enough to look impressive, small enough to finish in a relatively short space of time.

Hands on challah cover

Our first challah cover was a wedding gift and has already given us 15 years good service, but we felt like a change.  I made a new challah cover for Chanukah last year but I wanted a design which would be suitable for use year-round.   Then an idea coalesced after I read a post on Sweet and Crunchy in which she made a mini-quilt featuring the outlines of her childrens’ hands.

I thought it would be lovely to capture an image of my daughter’s childsize hand next to those of her parents.  Even when she grows up and leaves home, we can still have her with us on Shabbat.   I was also reminded of a custom of our synagogue – when they say the blessing over the challah, everyone reaches out to touch the arm or shoulder of the person next to them, forming branching chains that reach towards the person in the centre who is holding the tray with the challah on it.  If we have visitors who don’t know this custom, someone will usually call out “Everyone’s touching someone who’s touching the challah!”

Appliqued challah cover

So we traced around our hands (my husband and I are right-handed, our daughter is a “lefty”) and transferred the images to fabric in our favourite colours.  I blanket stitched around each hand.  In retrospect it might have been better if the arms went to the edge of the cover rather than looking like disembodied glovesl but I was making the pattern up as I went, and didn’t think of that until later.

bias binding

Then I made some bias binding out of the three fabrics to use as a border, and stitched a gold ribbon into the seams when I put on the backing.

And here we are: everyone’s touching the challah cover that’s touching the challah.

family challah cover

We’re between festivals this month, so I decided to focus on some Hebrew words and phrases with the kids in my Shabbat Tot class.   “Lailah tov” means “Good night”. For a craft activity, we’re making a collage quilt using squares of fabric. You could also do this activity with squares of paper if you didn’t have any spare fabric.
As a bonus, my fabric represents a number of Jewish festivals, either intentionally or via a process of creative reimagining!

This is the (very simple) backing picture prior to the fabric squares being glued on.

Lailah tov

And this is what it looks like with the completed quilt.

Lailah tov complete

Can you spot: matzah for Passover, apples for Rosh Hashanah, a candle holder for Hanukah? How about: party hats for Purim, flowers for Shavuot, a plague of insects and another of darkness for Passover, water that parted at the Red Sea, and a selection of stars of David?  If you can suggest what my plain square of orange (ignoring the glue stain) might represent, please leave me a comment!

I decided to decorate a t-shirt for my daughter for Pesach.  I wanted to make something easy but cute, incorporating some matzah-coloured fabric I bought online. After brainstorming a couple of designs, we agreed on this one: four hearts on four squares.

Pesach shirt design

I used an image from the internet as a template for the heart.  It was very simple to cut and assemble the fabric pieces onto a plain t-shirt using iron-on fabric adhesive (heat and bond lite), after which I zig-zag stitched around the edges of each shape.

We have another little girl coming to our seder this year, so I made a shirt for her too.

Pesach shirt with flowers

They are going to look so cute together!

My daughter was very excited and wanted to wear her new shirt right away.  And to bed.  And to school the next day. :-)

Pesach shirt modelled

Fun crafts and activities for Jewish families with young children

A resource site for anyone who wants to share the joy of being Jewish with the children in their life.

Enjoy!

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