A recent donation of artwork by Jewish artist Barbara Wolff to the Morgan Library & Museum in New York is doubly rare. With few exceptions, the Morgan’s collection stops at the year 1600, and its Hebrew illumination holdings are scarce.
“A gift of this sort is highly unusual to the department of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts,” says Roger Wieck, acting head of the department and Morgan curator. “We have been approached in the past by modern illuminators, who would have like to have their work represented at the Morgan, but we have not been favorably impressed with the quality.”
Wolff’s manuscripts – a hagaddah and a book that derives from Psalms – are “superlative” and the two donations “catapult the department’s holdings into the 21st century,” Wieck says.
The Rose Haggadah, donated to the museum by Daniel and Joanna S. Rose and one of the subjects of the Morgan exhibit “Hebrew Illumination for Our Time: The Art of Barbara Wolff” (through May 3), is a first for the museum, according to Wieck.
Pickling cucumbers, cultivating yeast for Challah, sewing tallit … these hebraic homesteading projects are certainly not for everyone. But most Jews would agree that plenty of our traditions instill a cool-before-it-was-cool “Do It Yourself” aesthetic. This is a culture that often made do with very little and did it all behind closed doors, or within a tight-knit community. Historically, the center of Jewish life was the home, not the synagogue. And so we present to you a list of eight reasonably simple Jewish DIY projects. You can totally do this stuff. I promise.
1. Make a Family Tree
What Jewish family hasn’t played at least one round of Jewish Genealogy? You can go two routes: decorative or academic. If you’re only going to go a couple of generations back, you can fit you findings on a beautiful piece of art to hang in the home.
But if you’re willing to do some digging — uncovering Ellis Island papers, Shtetl Yizkor books and other primary sources of your family’s story — I guarantee that other members of your family would like to be involved in your findings. The venerable JewishGen is a good place to start. Once you’ve got some basic data, consider entering it to an online or printable template (reputable template sites include MyHeritage.com, Wikitree.com and Geni.com), so that it can be safely stored and shared. Be careful of sharing sensitive personal information on these sites, however, and take advantage of relevant privacy controls.
2. Create your own Chuppah
It can cost up to $1,000 to rent a decorated freestanding Chuppah from a wedding planner or florist. If you decide to make your own, it won’t be free, but it won’t cost nearly that much. For inspiration, head to the photo-sharing social network of choice for dreamy brides: Pinterest. Then check out this set of instructions for a simple, freestanding Chuppah. And here are instructions for an equally attractive version that’s designed to be held aloft by four friends.
If you’re into chopping down your own branches, this one is for you.