Vail Rabbi featured in book about Jewish fabric crafts |

Vail Rabbi featured in book about Jewish fabric crafts

HL Tallit and Torah JM 10-21-11

When Rabbi Debra Rappaport became the spiritual leader of B’nai Vail Congregation in Vail, her proud mother, Susan Rappaport, made her a stunning cashmere tallit, and a matching tallit bag out of silk.

When she received the pieces her mother had made, she was moved to tears.

“Though my mom invited quite a bit of collaboration on this project, I was moved to tears when I received this tallit,” Debra said. “The thoughtfulness and love that went into it were profound. I feel deeply blessed, held, and joyful every time I put it on.”

Rappaport’s story and others are part of a new book, “Jewish Threads: A Hands-On Guide to Stitching Spiritual Intention into Jewish Fabric Crafts” (Jewish Lights Publishing).

It explores the world of Jewish fabric crafts and the inspiration behind them, showcasing 30 fabric craft projects created by talented artisans from throughout the United States and Israel.

Every project has a story, and authors Diana Drew Robert Grayson examine the backstory of each piece. The artisans share what influenced them to create the pieces, along with step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions.

Susan Rappaport lives in Minnesota, and making the tallit for Debra was a family affair. For the tallit, Susan chose white cashmere from sweaters worn by her husband, Gary; her daughter, Debra, the intended recipient; her other daughter, Lissie Schifman; and by Susan herself to ground the tallit in a sense of family heritage. Susan sewed everything by hand, making the tzitzit (ritual fringes) from directions she found on the Web.

“The directions were very specific about keeping focused on your intention and not being distracted by the things around you,” she said. “It was a very profound process for me.”

“Jewish Threads” author Diana Drew spent a year and a half sifting through a myriad of projects from throughout the United States and Israel, choosing those that reflected deep-rooted connections to Jewish heritage and contemporary Jewish life. Each project has a compelling story behind its creation, and fits with the book’s two-fold concept: A volume of stories about artisans’ spiritual intentions, and a how-to book for needlecrafters of all skill levels.

Most of the projects are relatively simple, Drew said.

“‘Jewish Threads’ brings together the disparate threads of my own life – Judaism and Jewish observance, sewing and knitting, writing and editing – while stitching together the inspiring stories of fabric artists from throughout the United States and Israel,” Drew said.

“Jewish Threads” projects range from wall hangings for the home to shulchan (lectern) covers for the synagogue, whimsical pieces for celebrating holidays (a ChanuCats quilt for Chanukah and Dancing Hamantaschen costumes for Purim), and projects to honor milestones in the Jewish life cycle, such as healing and memorial quilts.

Some of the crafts presented in “Jewish Threads,” such as challah covers, have roots in Jewish tradition, while others, including Purim puppets and a knit seder plate for Passover, play off centuries of tradition, while adding a contemporary spin.

Among the fabric craft techniques represented in “Jewish Threads” are quilting, needlepoint, knitting, crochet, felting, embroidery, applique, needle felting and counted cross-stitch.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

Support Local Journalism