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January 29, 1994 - Image 50

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-01-29

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ber of the family. Jeri
Rope, an inveterate
needleworker, never
liked the canopies she
saw at wedding cere-
monies; she thought
they were too plain. So
when her daughter an-
nounced her engage-
ment last year, Rope, a
resident of Southfield,
Mich., took matters into
her own hands and needlepointed a chuppah.
The result was a large, magnificent canopy
that features Jewish stars and Chasidic wed-
ding scenes, as well as the Hebrew words,
"Ani le dodi ye dodi li" ("I am my beloved's
and my beloved is mine")— a phrase tradi-
tionally recited by the bride.
To make the canopy, Rope selected illus-
trations from needlepoint books and had them
painted onto a canvas. She then stitched three
or four hours a night for about a year, using
bright, primary threads on a white back-
ground. She finished two months before her
daughter's wedding.
Making the chuppah, Rope feels, allowed
her to contribute something to the wedding
besides money. "It made the wedding more
special for me. It made me feel like I was ac-
tually a part of it, more so than just picking out
a caterer or picking out a band."
In suburban Philadelphia, artist Elsa Wachs
has been sewing heirloom chuppot for about
eight years from such materials as ties, baby

This heirloom
chuppah, created
by Elsa Wachs for
a Florida bride,
bears family pho-
tographs trans-
ferred onto fabric,
the bride's varsity
letter, pieces of
family wedding
gowns and the
keys to the hotel
room her parents
shared on their

48 • JANUARY/FEHR 1 JARY 1994 • s-rvi.E.

dresses and tablecloths. She usually embroi-
ders the names of the bride and bridegroom
and their family members— creating what is
essentially a family tree.
`There's a feeling that when a couple mar-
ries, there's an umbrella of history, family and
continuity that you come to it with," Wachs
Wachs, whose canopies sell for $1,000 to
$10,000, often incorporates memorabilia such
as fraternity pins, keys, jewelry, or bottle corks
into the canopies, and transfers photographs
onto the fabric. One chuppah was made out
of wedding dresses worn by the bride's moth-
er, grandmother and great-grandmother. An-
other depicted, in embroidery, a plane and a
coffee cup— a reminder that the bride's par-
ents met when the mother spilled a cup of cof-
fee on the father
during a flight. "I've
taken actual letters
and reproduced
them on fabric,"
41 1111
Wachs notes.
Wachs usually
crafts her chuppot in
sections that can be
separated and dis-
played, then brought
back together for

Jeri Rope, of South-
field, needlepointed
four hours a night
for a year to com-
plete this canopy in
time for her daugh-
ter's June wedding.

another wedding a symbol of
family reunification.
That was what Alvin Gershen
had in mind when he asked
Wachs to design a chuppah sev-
eral years ago for his daughter's
wedding. The Princeton, N.J.
resident knew he wanted to use
the canopy for each of his six
children's weddings, and he
wanted it somehow to symbol-
ize the family itself. Wachs
came up with a design that con-
sists of a center panel sur-
rounded by six panels. Each
panel is devoted to a child and
embroidered with his or her
name. As the children marry,
their spouses' names are added
to the panels, as are relevant
symbols. And as grandchildren
are born, their names are
stitched on their parents' pan-
els, as well.
So far, the canopy has been raised six times,
says Mimi Gershen, Alvin's wife. (Alvin has
since passed away.) Eventually the panels will
be given to the children and displayed in
frames with glass doors. When grandchildren
many, the panels will be brought together to
form the chuppah yet again.
"My husband and I felt very strongly about
family, and we felt that this is one way that the
family will always come together, because the
chuppah can't stand alone," Mrs. Gershen
In her studio, Shaffer layers pieces of silk
and brocade and adorns the fabric with intri-
cate braids or colorful ribbons to create beau-
tiful, delicate chuppot. Shaffer and partner
Shoshana Enosh paint floral designs on the
fabric, as well as the
names of the bride
and groom and the
date of the wedding.
To personalize the
chuppot, which range
t4ti tr5 4214
in price from $1,000 to
$3,000, Shaffer and
Enosh might incorpo-
rate beads from a
grandmother's wed-
ding dress, or parts of
a mother's bridal veil,
or fringes from a
grandfather's prayer
shawl. "This way,
people feel that they

Photography by Buz Holzman

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