Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis

Univ. of North Carolina. Oct. 2020. 248p. ISBN 9781469660639. $29.95. rel
The novel concept of this book is that “hands and emotions matter” when it comes to Jewish domestic arts, themselves an embodiment of culture, history, and relationship. Eichler-Levine (religious studies, Lehigh Univ.) constellates these concepts within what she calls generative resilience or “the act of coping through the process of creation,” particularly with respect to material culture and to some extent, a larger Jewish—although not necessarily religious—identity. This is a tactile engagement with religion and crafting, in which handmade objects convey ancestral relationships across the generations. Eventually, the author herself becomes not just an ethnographic observer but participant of her project of resilience when a cancer diagnosis results in a deluge of lovingly crafted gifts, each a sheltering hug. Advocacy of domestic arts finds ample scholarly support throughout this work that offers extensive academic references as well as recommended art installations. To her credit, despite the tremendous emotional significance she locates within domestic craft culture, Eichler-Levine is aware that “Not all handcrafted gifts meet with sympathetic recipients.” For those individuals, emotional connection only comes with time if at all.
VERDICT A fascinating argument for crafts as a conduit to memory and as an aide to healing.
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