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On the Hunt for Good Judaica, Part 2: Menorahs

posted by Arielle Angel on December 15, 2011

Yesterday, we posted about how fed up we are with the state of modern Judaica. We’ve got such a rich history, why does everything look the same? And by the same, we mean awful. Still, we’ve managed to find a few great menorahs, and just in time for Hannukah (and since no one has ever decided how to spell Hannukah, we’re going to spell it every which way throughout the course of this post)!

First, some inspiration from The Stieglitz Collection at The Israel Museum. These images come from a gallery of 70 chanukias, and I must say, it was hard to choose only a few because they are all breathtaking. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Early triangular Hanukkah lamp, Northern Italy or France, 15th-16th century

Hanukkah lamp adorned with sea horses, mermaids, and putti, Italy, 16th century (Don’t ask us what putti is.)

Hanukkah lamp decorated with centaurs and Medusa head, Italy, 16th century

Hanukkah lamp with openwork scaled pattern, Italy, 16th century

Hanukkah lamp, Berlin (?), Germany, 18th century

Hanukkah lamp modeled after synagogue facade, Poland, 18th century

What I find so inspiring about these menorahs–besides, of course, the unbelievable craftsmanship–is that they don’t seem boxed in by a few tropes of “Jewishness.” Not a single “tree of life” among them. Instead we have menorahs inspired by myths and stories, but architecture, by spaces of worship. There are mermaids, the head of Medusa. Heck, in the one below, there are even “demonic figures” (or at least The Stieglitz Collection identifies them as such).

Hanukkah lamp adorned with three demonic figures, Fez, Morocco, 18th century

The Judaica artists of the past were not afraid to draw subject matter from the world around them, instead of cannibalizing the same few ideas over and over and over again. These menorahs show us that Jews didn’t live isolated, but exchanged ideas with the world around them. Nowadays, the Jewish community is more “connected” than ever before, and yet our art looks like it was made by people who’ve been locked in a basement for decades. Come on, people, it’s time for Jewish art to get out in the open air, look at the world and respond!

Here are a few menorahs from Etsy that we think are doing just that.

Patron Tequila Bottle Tops and Oak Wine Barrel Stave Menorah by bottlehood, $72 (only one available, snag it!)

From their product page: “This menorah combines reused oak wine barrel staves with the necks of Patron Tequila to make a beautiful menorah.” Bonus points for being eco-friendly: “Bottlehood’s glassware has a significantly lower carbon footprint as compared to recycled or landfilled bottles. A glass bottle takes more than 4000 years to decompose in a landfill!”

Yesterday, I wrote that because apprenticeships are less and less common, we cannot expect the level of craftsmanship that was once the norm. Also, we cannot expect the highest quality raw material to be as available now as it was then. But we can play to our strengths. One of the modern-day strengths is the ability to repurpose, and the new awareness in regards to upcycling. We may not have the highest quality materials or the highest quality craftsmanship, but we do have a lot of old junk lying around, and a ton of ingenuity.

Modern Style Hannukah Menorah in Wood by littlealouette, $65

True it’s not as much fun without fire, but think of it as a gift to the littlest members of the family. From the product page: “The light /fire is simple hand carved cherry so even the youngest member of the family can celebrate and enjoy the ‘lighting’ of the candles without worry of fire danger.”

Infinity Menorah by JudaicaDesignsUSA, $99

Very clever play on the miracle of the eight days of Chanukah. From the product page: “Year after year, generation after generation, from ancient time till infinity (∞). For 8 days the candles of Chanukah give light. This infinity menorah was designed with inspiration of the number 8 and the symbol of infinity (∞). Original design by the artist Anat Basanta.”

The Pea Menorah by JudaicaDesignsUSA, $135. Available in either aluminum or brass

Simple and elegant.

Happy Hannukah everybody! And as we said yesterday, if you see a menorah, or another piece of Judaica that you think we’d like, please please please email us at, put it on our Facebook wall, or message us @KetuvTweets on Twitter.

On the Hunt for Good Judaica, Part 1: Mezuzahs

posted by Arielle Angel on December 14, 2011

Let’s face it: there’s not much good-looking Judaica out there. That’s the main reason we got into ketubahs when we did. It’s strange, because Judaism has a great history of amazing ornate illuminated and illustrated manuscripts and ketubot, as well as ritual and home objects. And yet, when Judaica artists get “ornate” these days, it almost seems, well, childish, over-the-top, and in bad taste. We decided to post today and tomorrow about our search for two modern, beautiful pieces of Judaica: the mezuzah, particularly those that hold glass shards from the glass broken at the wedding, and the Hannukah menorah (in honor of the approaching holiday). Today the mezuzahs, tomorrow the menorahs!

First, let’s look at some inspiration from the past. Here are some wonderful images of mezuzot from The Stieglitz Collection at The Israel Museum.

Carved wood mezuzah case with Star of David and eagle, Slovakia, 19th century

Mezuzah case decorated with a lion, unicorn, and eagles, Poland, 18th century

Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything quite like this! But, we didn’t come up empty, either. As I hinted at before, the most successful modern Judaica, in my opinion, is that that follows the rule my childhood art teacher taught me years ago: KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. In the days since artisan apprenticeships have all but disappeared, we cannot expect the standards of craftsmanship of the past. The Judaica artists of today are those that are playing to the strengths of our era, opting for minimal and elegant over intensely crafted.

Our favorite so far are these by a father-daughter team, Arthur and Wendy Silver (come on, is that really their name?). While their designs are not necessarily easy on the wallet, they make a great wedding gift for a good friend or family member, and the Silvers provide easy instructions for giving them as gifts.

From left, these glass and sterling silver mezuzahs can be found here, here, here, here, and here, and range in price from $180 – $300. A different company makes a cheaper, and albeit simpler version of almost the same thing, which you can find here.

Soon after finding nothing much on the internet, we turned to Etsy. You know things are bad when even Etsy– that bastion of handmade goodness- has got about a page-worth of worthwhile Judaica amidst about a hundred pages of offerings.

Still we managed to find one or two gems, at much lower prices than the above work.

Fused Glass Wedding Shards Mezuzah by EnidTraisman, $49

Each one is different, as each one is fused from the broken glass shards from the wedding! You also have a choice between a Shin, Chai or Star of David on the front of the final design.

Polymer mezuzah by Myflorides, $18

(Get it while it’s hot, people, there’s only ONE in this exact design, and we don’t necessarily endorse the others!)

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventure in Judaica: menorahs! And please please please, if you see something you think we’d like, email us at, put it on our Facebook wall, or message us @KetuvTweets on Twitter.

Best of Etsy: Green Growing Favors

posted by Arielle Angel on November 18, 2011

What’s the deal with favors? They’re mostly just manufactured junk, right? That’s why I’m partial to a living, growing, eco-friendly and potentially DIY alternative: plant favors! They’re beautiful, they’re utilitarian, and they’re quite often cheap. A note about eco-consciousness and the Jewish wedding. For whatever reason, conservation has not been championed as a cause by the most religiously and politically conservative members of the Jewish community, but that is not because this value is not in the Torah. It is! All over the place! There are prohibitions against needless waste (Bal Tashchis, Dvarim 20:19-20). There are laws against air, water and noise pollution (Harchakas Nezikin, found in the Talmud). There are many commandments regarding kindness towards animals, and a prohibition on causing them needless pain, particularly those who are going to be slaughtered for food (Tzar Baalei Chaim). There are laws requiring all cities to be surrounded by a greenbelt (in modern terms, this can be read as a way to preserve biodiversity). There are laws that require farmers to allow the land to rest every seventh year (shmitta). There is even a blanket decree that declares us stewards of the land, with a responsibility to it (Devarim 11:10). If we take care of the land, the Torah says, it will take care of us. We hope you’ll keep this in mind while planning your Jewish or inter-faith wedding. Or any wedding, for that matter. The environment is all we’ve got. If you feel inspired, you can attempt to DIY favors inspired by the below. Martha Stewart has some suggestions how (we particularly like slides 3, 4, and 5). What’s great about all of these favors is that most of them are pretty cost efficient and they all have the potential to double as name /seating cards. Air Plants

Air Plant Terrarium by TheTropicalGarden, 4.5 x 4.5 in. $12/per but less for bulk orders. Moss colors are customizable.

Air Plant Boxes by toHOLD. $135/ 20 boxes, customizable colors

From the seller: “Your guests can place them in an old jar from the flea market, old wedding china, or in a cool ashtray. No dirt required! Easy to care for – just run them under water once a week and give them some light (they LOVE office flourescents).”


Seed Bombs by BigRockPaperCo. 7-10 seed bombs in each packet, $1.50/per ($1.65 for custom orders). Seeds, ribbon color, and tag fully customizable.

Seed Bombs by visuallingual. Hand-screenprinted personalized pouch (3 x 4.5 in.) with 5 seed bombs of edible herbs: basil, dill, cilantro, chives, and parsley. Price per depends on quantity, but ranges from $6.50/per – $3.50/per.

Wildflower Seeds by thepaperynook. Handmade muslin pouch, seeds, and custom thank-you note tied with rope. $1.95/per.


This is a personal favorite! Mini Chalkboard Herb Pots by SophisticatedPalate. Comes with 3 pots, chalk, handmade envelope with your choice of seeds. $9/3 pots with seeds, but discounted for use as wedding favors.

Succulents by SucculentsGalore. Succulents with pots wrapped in natural color ribbon. $168/48 succulents with pots.

Lavender Herb Box by favorcreative. 3 x 3 x 2 in. recycled box. Inside: 2 in. peat pot, peat pellet, instructions for planting, and lavender herb seeds. Ribbon color is customizable. Personalized tags sold separately. $35/10 boxes.

Chuppahs We Heart: Best of Etsy

posted by ketuv_admin on October 27, 2011

We’ve been focusing a lot on DIY chuppahs, but what if you still want something handmade, but you’re not really the crafty type? Never fear, Etsy is here!

We took a look at what Etsy has to offer and we’ve decided to give you our favs.

1. Intricately-Cut Canopies by sculptor Andrea Cohen‘s chuppahstudio.

Photos by Anna Kuperberg Photography

While it’s definitely more of an investment, we can’t help but drool over internationally known sculptor Andrea Cohen’s custom chuppahs. From her Etsy page: “Each chuppah comes with a painted wood frame and intricately-cut canopy. The canopy pattern, as well as the frame and canopy colors are all customizable.”


2. Quilted Canopy by Kelly Brooks of BrooklynNouveau.

Getting your names and wedding date embroidered on the back side of the chuppah costs just a bit extra ($50) but it seems worth it to me! She can also build a sleeve onto the back of the chuppah so after the wedding it can be hung on the couple’s wall.

From her Etsy page: “I will create a completely personalized quilted chuppah based on your colors and style for use on your wedding day. This chuppah is perfect for a couple looking for a unique, rustic chic, handmade feel to their wedding. Great for outdoors (the light shines through the top with a wonderful stained glass-like effect) or indoors. I made one for my own wedding and it was so beautiful and fun that I thought I would start doing this for others!”


3. Garlands! (Various)

Ok, so we said no DIY. But this is only halfsies. We showed you the wonder of garland-based chuppahs with the Confetti System chuppah. The good news is, you can basically do this with any kind of garland. All you have to do is make the posts (there are lots of quick, easy, affordable ways of doing this, depending on what you want) and string a few of them across.

Like this:

Reblogged from Pretty Lucky Events.

The extra good news is that when you type “garland” into Etsy there are literally over 15,000 results, and most of them are really affordable. Here are some of the garlands we think would make great chuppahs.

Pom Pom Garland by WestcoastKnittery. $17/ 70 in.

Pom Pom Garland by perfectlypaper. $40/ 7 ft., comes in customizable colors.

Hand-cut Heart Garland, by PaperPolaroid. $35/ 9 hearts

Shakespeare Book Heart Garland by bookity. $28/ 8 ft.

Vintage Handkerchief Flower Garland by HomeRoomStudio. $18/ 6.5 ft.

Vintage Map Garland by moonandlion. $8.50/ 9 flags

Comic Garland by missisaau. $6.50/ 30 in. Also check out her Heart Garlands. (You might have to ask her to make longer ones.)

Crochet Garland by Emma Lamb. Colors customizable. $59/ 70 in.

Tissue Garland by pipsqueakandbean. Customizable colors. $9.50/ 12 ft.

Paper Garland by hoopdaloop. Fully customizable. $18/ 15 ft.

Paper Fan Garland by EntertainingPapers.$24 / 6 tassels (6 ft.)

Fabric Garland by ShopLuLus. $42 / 65 in.

We love the idea of garland chuppahs. You can get a lot of them affordably and match your chuppah to other accents of your wedding decor. The possibilities are endless, whether you go the DIY or the Etsy route.