Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis

How Jews Craft Resilience and Create Community

By Jodi Eichler-Levine

240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 24 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6063-9
    Published: October 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6062-2
    Published: October 2020
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6064-6
    Published: September 2020

Where Religion Lives

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2021 Religion and the Arts Book Award, American Academy of Religion

Exploring a contemporary Judaism rich with the textures of family, memory, and fellowship, Jodi Eichler-Levine takes readers inside a flourishing American Jewish crafting movement. As she traveled across the country to homes, craft conventions, synagogue knitting circles, and craftivist actions, she joined in the making, asked questions, and contemplated her own family stories. Jewish Americans, many of them women, are creating ritual challah covers and prayer shawls, ink, clay, or wood pieces, and other articles for family, friends, or Jewish charities. But they are doing much more: armed with perhaps only a needle and thread, they are reckoning with Jewish identity in a fragile and dangerous world.

The work of these crafters embodies a vital Judaism that may lie outside traditional notions of Jewishness, but, Eichler-Levine argues, these crafters are as much engaged as any Jews in honoring and nurturing the fortitude, memory, and community of the Jewish people. Craftmaking is nothing less than an act of generative resilience that fosters survival. Whether taking place in such groups as the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework or the Jewish Hearts for Pittsburgh, or in a home studio, these everyday acts of creativity—yielding a needlepoint rabbi, say, or a handkerchief embroidered with the Hebrew words tikkun olam—are a crucial part what makes a religious life.

About the Author

Jodi Eichler-Levine, Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization at Lehigh University, is author of Suffer the Little Children: Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children's Literature.
For more information about Jodi Eichler-Levine, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"A tactile engagement with religion and crafting, in which handmade objects convey ancestral relationships across the generations. . . . A fascinating argument for crafts as a conduit to memory and as an aide to healing."--Library Journal

“The interweaving of the personal and professional allows Eichler-Levine to walk the reader along an analytical path that appreciates deeply what it examines and which pairs insight with empathy. . . . Because the ethnic, cultural and demographic limitations of her study are taken as an opportunity to reflect on the diversity of gender and Judaisms, the explorations of Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis have much to give to other fields of ethnography-based studies of religion.” --Jewish Culture and History

“The book can be enjoyed by both academics in fields of religion who employ oral histories for much of their research and laypeople as the conversational writing style makes the book highly accessible.”--Atlanta Jewish Times

"A well-written and carefully argued book. . . . An insightful and compelling view into how with the help of objects American Jewish women make memories, craft resilience, and create community."--Reading Religion

"This well-written ethnography, based on three years of fieldwork, gracefully interweaves the author’s presence."--Material Religion

“Eichler-Levine’s compelling account of how to experience religion outside the traditional spaces of focus illuminates how American Jews create and craft a Judaism as a form of resilience, a material encounter with memory, and a physical desire for continuity. This book is testimony and witness to these lives and to these practices.”—Ken Koltun-Fromm, author of Imagining the Jewish God