Art, Craft or Kitsch?
Folks of all ages express their religious feelings in handmade Judaica.
DEBRA B. DARVICK
Special to the Jewish News
wo semi-employed sisters have cooked up
a 120-page guide to a funky, festive
In Judaikitsch: Tchotchkes, Schmattes
and Nosherei (Chronicle Books; $24.95), Jennifer
and Victoria Traig have assembled a year's worth of
crazy crafts, pun-inspired projects and recipes that
would make radio's ultimate Jewish mama Molly
Goldberg kvell — once she came out of her faint.
A quick scan of the table of contents turns up such
gems as a "Neil Tzedekah Box," featuring the singer's
image surrounded by rhinestones; a "Borscht Belt," a
chain-link belt hung with papier mache beets and car-
rots; and, most remarkable of all, a "Passover Purse,"
made from a box of Manischewitz matzah meal.
"The book is in bad taste but good fun," Jennifer
Traig gleefully admits. "[Judaism] is not thought of
as a joyous religion. I guess as a people we tend to
be self-punishing. But we honestly have fun being
Jewish and we wanted to put that into words."
Reached in Washington, D.C., where she was
attending a family celebration, Traig, a "self-styled
kosher cowgirl from San Francisco," told the Jewish
News she dreamed up the Passover Purse "as a fun
accessory to wear to the Jewish Film Festival."
Lined with orange felt and topped by a green
beaded handle, the purse is made with more than
20,000 seed beads and an attention to detail border-
ing on the obsessive. When Traig, the author of
Barbara Wallace of Huntington
ready-to-paint Judaic ceramics offered
Woods to paint fourteen sets of
by her suppliers.
candlesticks for son Adam's bar
"Since we opened," says Smith,
"we've always had the basics — a
"It was very rewarding," she
menorah and a seder plate. That's
recalls. "I felt like I wasn't just
all I could find back then.
making a party for Adam but was
"But now there are apple boxes for
doing something from me. I felt a
Rosh Hashanah and everyday kind
great sense of accomplishment
of items with a Jewish theme, like a
when they were all done.'
box in the shape of a Star of David.
The candlesticks, which took
"There are matzah plates and
eight months to complete, were
Kiddush cups and six menorahs to
painted in a variety of intricate
choose from, whereas before there
"The book is in bad taste but
patterns and colors, no two sets
was only one style."
New mom Melissa Rosenzweig of good fiin," admits co-author
Recently, You're Fired was the scene
Bloomfield Township is a familiar
an arts night sponsored the Young
You're Fired customer. Rosenzweig has
Adult Division (YAD) of the Jewish Federation of
made candlesticks and even a plate she uses to serve
gefilte fish on Shabbat.
Participants set about making trays, boxes and pic-
"It's fun to see your creation on the table. It adds
ture frames using one of history's earliest media —
such a personal touch," she says.
That personal touch is what inspired accountant
Crafty Girl: Accessories, Crafty Girl: Fun 6 Games
and the like, showed the Passover Purse to her edi-
tor, the idea for Judaikitsch was born.
Some of the projects, such as "Vegetable Jew-
Shoo" ("moo shu meets matzah"), are real groaners.
The "Jewish American Princess Tiara," festooned
with tiny pink cans of Tab and Princess telephones,
might well cause an uproar with the PC police.
But each Judaikitsch project is done with a great
sense of fun and joy in Jewish life.
Traig, who is observant and attends a Chabad
shul, was concerned about the community's reaction
to some of the projects in the book, especially the
dog yarmulke. But she has received no flack.
"They love it," she said. "Chabad's sensibility that
`as long as you're practicing and having fun, we're
happy' informed the book."
Judaikitsch's Gefilte Fish Platter ("Piscis Piscis
Gefiltavus found in the Lakes of the Catskill
Region") could easily be reproduced during a visit to
West Bloomfield's hands-on ceramics and mosaic
studio, You're Fired.
In the five years since she began the business, owner
Stacy Smith has seen a huge increase in the variety of
Clockwise from top left:
Adorned with beads and
miniature vegetables, the Borscht Belt
is 'funny and fashionable"
and "great for (beetniks,'"
write the authors.
Mah-Jongg Menorah: "A project
that proved to be much easier
than the game itself"
Passover Purse: More than
20,000 beads, but you'll end up
with "et one-of-a-kind piece
of heirloom kitsch."