JUST IN! Our newest pride and joy, an homage to our fine city: the New York City Water Tower Tzedakah Boxes.
The rustic rooftop water tower, a signature feature of New York City’s skyline, has inspired generations of painters, sculptors, photographers, and filmmakers. From Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, to Rachel Whiteread and Tom Fruin, the “silent sentinels” of our city have ignited artists’ imaginations. Now, Los Angeles-based ceramicist Gaby Tepper has interpreted the water tower’s unique charm and distinctive architectural silhouette in a series of handmade tzedakah boxes. Each box is a one-of-a-kind work of art formed, etched, fired, and finished in Tepper’s studio—a functional sculpture made exclusively for us at The Jewish Museum.
Architect, furniture and product designer, Jonathan Michael Nelson, had no idea what he might create from the walnut tree that fell in his Bucks County, Pennsylvania back yard, but he knew it would one day give him the opportunity to design and build wonderful original products out of this rare and beautiful wood. So he shipped the tree down the road to Ottsville, Pennsylvania to be cut into 2” thick slabs, and then set them up to dry in his barn. Seven years later the gorgeous Hanukkah menorah and dreidel were born (both pictured below).
Jonathan designed this new collection of walnut and copper Judaica, by melding his knowledge of Jewish tradition, gleaned from his Jewish upbringing in rural Pennsylvania, with the modern product design acumen that he developed while studying at the international design school, Domus Academy, in Milan. Working with his talented design assistant and head craftsperson, John Napurano, these products have come to life in exquisite detail.
In Jonathan’s own words, “This project has been a particularly personal one, as it combines my family’s Jewish traditions with wood culled from trees grown on my own Bucks County property.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we are excited to announce that this holiday season belongs to the Menurkey. (ALSO excited to announce that we are officially the exclusive NYC retailer of the Menurkey!) The brainchild of one Asher Weintraub, of New York City’s Upper West Side, he created the Menurkey to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime overlap of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. Asher was inspired by the momentous occasion, particularly by the strikingly similar core themes of thanksgiving and gratitude both holidays share. So inspired, Asher took to Tinkercad, a 3D modeling platform, and created the prototype of what he coined ‘the Menurkey’—a turkey shaped menorah. This is probably a good time to mention that Asher is 9 years old, and he is in fourth grade. Therefore, despite his outrageously impressive technical, artistic and conceptual precociousness, some parental supervision became necessary, due to said youth.
Enter Caroline Baron & Anthony Weintraub, Asher’s parents who then guided Asher and the Menurkey project through a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to make the project a production reality—within a week they were over 90% funded, and at the conclusion of the pledge period ended up with nearly double the requested pledge amount.. Production began without delay starting with the process of getting the prototype 3D printed at Makerbot Studios, then teaming up with ceramicist Connie Smith who worked on a series of prototypes, adjusting and perfecting on the way.
How momentous is this year’s holiday overlap? So momentous it has never happened before—the last year to have such a calendar anomaly was in 1861, a full two years before President Lincoln made it an official event—and will, most likely, never happen again (except for the small statistical chance it will happen again in 79811…enough said.)
A surefire conversation piece, design object, and functioning menorah—it’s the perfect centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table, and the perfect way to commemorate this momentous holiday season. The Menurkey will be a marker of history, a fond family holiday object for years to come.
Danny Azoulay, renowned artist and maker of stunning (and best-selling) ketubot, shares the wonderful story of unexpectedly discovering his parent’s ketubah:
"As we were clearing out my parents’ apartment following my mother’s first Yahrtzeit, my parents’ ketubah was discovered amongst some old documents. None of my seven brothers and sisters had ever seen it before. In fact, it was not immediately apparent to us that this was indeed their ketubah.
The folded yellowed document, almost 90 years old, was written in half culmus : bearing a similarity to Hebrew and “Rashi” (the typeface used in the Rashi commentary). The half culmus font had been used by the Sepahardic Jews particularly in Spain during the Tor Hazahav (the Golden Era of Spanish Jewry). Later, after fleeing to North Africa, the Jews living in Morocco continued to write various religious documents in this font.
The wedding contract—handwritten—elaborated on the families of both my mother and father, with special attention to my mother’s father ( “ a man of great knowledge of the Torah and acts of chesed—good deeds”) as he had been a highly-respected member of the local Jewish community.
Although the ketubah is unadorned, two passport-sized pictures of my parents were attached according to official requirements. This was very surprising for us, and at the same time also delightful. My parents were 19 and 16 at the time of their marriage. I had never seen photos of them looking so young.
Another unusual detail on the wedding contract caught my eye. There was a kind of abstract line drawing on the ketubah that we could not figure out the rhyme or reason for it being there. Only later were we able to get the answer to this curious squiggle. When we brought the ketubah to the local rabbi, we were told that this was the signature of the rabbi who officiated at the ceremony and that his signature, itself, was a chain of signatures incorporating all signatures of his predecessors — including the current rabbi’s own addition. Today a fine- print made of the original ketubah is framed and hanging in each of our family’s homes.
Added to the joy of being an artist and having my work be part of the wedding ceremony for many young Jewish couples around the world, my own experience of finding my parent’s ketubah, gave me a new perspective of the ketubah’s significance—for not only the couple on the wedding day, but for their offspring and the generation to follow.”
Peruse the Jewish Museum Shops’ collection of gorgeous Danny Azoulay ketubahs here: http://bit.ly/16H4uf0
About the Artist
Born in Morocco and raised in Israel, Danny Azoulay is a prize-winning graduate of the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem. In his art, the landscapes of Daniel’s childhood are combined with Jewish symbolism, artistic and architectural motifs from Europe, Morocco and Israel.
Danny specializes in the ancient art of papercutting, another way in which his work reflects deeply traditional aspects of the rich Jewish experience. Papercutting experienced a resurgence in Israel in the 20th Century, and Danny has been at the forefront of adapting this ancient technique into stunning, modern ketubot.