Monday, December 26, 2011

One More Holiday Gift

I know that Christmas has passed and Chanukah is almost over.  I should have written this post some weeks ago.  But it's never too late to share reading ideas for the year; so, consider this my end-of-the-year holiday bonus.  I only wish I could afford to buy everyone a copy of this most wonderful book.

I am speaking about Exodus: the Book of Redemption, from the Covenant & Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible series, by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.  Rabbi Sacks is the Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth of England, and one of the most erudite of modern Jewish scholars.

His books are written for everyone, Jewish or not.  This recent book is the most wonderful interpretation of the book we call Shemot (Names) and known most widely as Exodus.  It is, at it's heart, the telling of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves from the bondage of Egyptian oppression.  But it is so much more.  It is the story of the birth of a nation, the reasons why Jews are commanded to act a certain way in the world, and what "Being Chosen" really means.  It's not so "hotsy-totsy" after all.

If you ever wanted to know these thing about the Jewish people (and of course, one person cannot speak for all), this is one of his best books, among so many good books.

Have a happy Gregorian New Year!!!!

Exodus: The Book of Redemption

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


 Every winter season, Chanukah and Christmas seem to occur at the same time.  This has led many who are not Jewish to think it must be as big a holiday as Christmas is to the believers in Christ as Savior.  It is, however, a  minor holiday in the Jewish Calendar and in Jewish history and only started being more important in the mid-20th Century.  In fact, there was a time, not too long ago, when both Chanukah and Christmas were celebrated relatively quietly, in church and in private homes with family and friends.  It wasn't until Gimbels and Macy's found a way to ramp up the gift giving aspect of Christmas that both holidays seemed to become more about the gifts than about either holiday's true meaning.  At a time after WWII when Jews were trying to become an accepted part of the American fabric, Chanukah became a vehicle for "keeping up with the Joneses".

This is always an interesting time of year, especially when the Gregorian calendar and the Hebrew Calendar are not in sync.  In a way, I prefer it this way.  It gives Jewish children a chance to appreciate Chanukah and find joy in its simplicity and its message of freedom.  I think when it comes at the same time as Christmas, our kids get too caught up in the commercial side of Christmas and do not learn the lesson of the Maccabees.   Chanukah is such a minor holiday in the Hebrew calendar.  It would go unnoticed if it were not forever tied to Christmas due to the temporal relationship and the pressure Jewish parents have felt to have their children feel a part of the season like so many other Americans.  We call this the "December Dilemma".  Rabbi's all over the U.S. discuss this in their synagogues and temples every year.  For the most part, they agree that it is almost insulting to our Christian neighbors to put Chanukah in the same category as Christmas, an extremely important holy day for Christians. 

Putting all of the controversy aside, Chanukah is a joyous holiday.  It is a time that we celebrate the re-dedicating of the Temple in Jerusalem  after its desecration by the forces of the King of Syria Antiochus IV and commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil". According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil.

The following is from the December 2011 Koleynu (All About Us) from Beth Shir Shalom, in Santa Monica, CA, where I was a congregant before I moved to Asheville, NC.  It is written by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels and expresses the true meaning of Chanukah:

"There's and old joke that gives the definition of a Jewish holiday: “They tried to kill
us. They didn’t. We won. Let’s eat.” As with any good, lasting joke or bit of sarcasm, it
works because it’s based on reality. We all know that the foundation of so many Jewish holidays and holy days is an attempt by an oppressing force to subjugate or even eliminate us.

Add it up and the Jewish calendar looks like one adventure movie after the next in
which the hero (that’s us – the Jewish people!) goes through a maze of “near misses”
over and over until the end when the enemies are vanquished and he gets the girl (or she gets the guy.) But it’s so much more than that.

So what’s the reason behind all this commemoration and celebration – besides the
food? What’s the reason we ceremonially and symbolically recall all of our past experiences as a people, the slavery, the oppression, the prejudice and our eventual survival (especially in shadow of the Holocaust)? For some, the recollection becomes an end in itself. Others become cynical – and just eat.

For me, the sum total of Jewish experience (thus far!), shouts into our Jewish lives the ultimate mission of the Jewish people – “Justice, justice shall you pursue!” (Deut.
16:20). Every injustice we have known pushes us even more to ensure that we are on the front lines fighting injustice for whomever is experiencing it now...

Let’s start with Chanukah. Chanukah is about justice in so many ways! At its core, Chanukah is about religious and cultural sovereignty and integrity and there are still so many peoples in the world who are suffering ethnic oppression and worse. But the connections to justice don’t stop there. The lights of the Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah) themselves are symbols of the struggle for justice and how the flame of that struggle can burn strong for a while but it is a further struggle to maintain the flame. In this world with the state of the environment increasingly fragile, light is symbolic of our responsibility for how we consume the resources of the world and the consequences of our choices.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Last Shabbat, October 21-22, Jews all over the world began our annual ritual of re-reading the Torah, one Parsha (portion) at a time from beginning (Bereshit) to the end (V'Zot HaBerachah).  Bereshit (B'-ray-sheet) literally means "at first".  It is the Hebrew name of the first book (Genesis) as well as the first portion of the Torah (Genesis 1:1 - 6:8).

There are a number of translations of the word bereshit as it it used in the context of the creation of earth.  The three most used, I think, are "In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth..."; "When G-d began to create heaven and earth"; and, "In a beginning G-d created heaven and earth."   This discrepancy in translation is, in part, created because, grammatically, "bereshit" is "At first..." or "In a beginning..."  "Be-ha-reshit", would be, "In the beginning..."

Was this the one and only beginning ("the"),  one of many beginnings of earth ("a"), or were there previous beginnings of other worlds ("began creating" earth as opposed to yesterday's creation of Vulcan?)

AND THIS IS JUST THE FIRST SENTENCE OF THE TORAH.  So, if we live long enough and study hard enough and read the Torah every year, we will never have enough time to figure the whole thing out.  But we are patient, and we take what we get, at every level of our awareness.  We say, the importance is not in completing the task, but to keep doing it until the world is made whole.  The correct answer about the meaning of "Bereshit" is not the important part, it is the exploration of the word and how it makes us better to choose our own meaning. 

In Judaism, all voices are valid and right, as long as they do not fall outside the law...all 613 of them.

Shavuah Tov

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Getting Ready for the New Year - 5772

The Jewish High Holy Days begin in the month of Elul (September this year).  The entire month is one of reflection and preparation for the new year and for the act of Teshuvah, turning back to God.

On Rosh Hashanah ( the beginning of October this year), we celebrate the coming year with the hope and prayer that it be a good year, a sweet year, and a prosperous year.  We dip apples in honey, eat round Challah and drink wine.

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are The 10 Days of Awe, during which time we are to make amends for the wrongdoing of the year past, by going directly to the persons we have wronged, if possible, to say we are sorry.  Forgiveness from the persons wronged is not required. Taking responsibility for our mistakes is the objective, not gaining forgiveness.  We must, however, go to each person 3 times, and if they do not except our apology, we need not try again.

On Yom Kippur, we tell God that we are sorry for the wrongdoings committed against God.  We do ask for God's forgiveness, which comes (or does not) in the form of being written in The Book of Life for another year.  We ask for another year of life to "get it right".  We also remember those in our families who have died by lighting candles saying special prayers.At sundown on Yom Kippur The Book of Life is closed for another year.  We say Havdalah (we seperate these holy days from the rest of the year), wishing for a "Good year, a year of peace in which the Messiah (the one anointed to announce the time of peace and plenty on the earth) may come."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The  Rosenzweig  Gallery
Judea Reform Congregation 
1933 W. Cornwallis Road,   Durham, NC  27705


The American Guild of Judaic Art-
Southern States Membership Exhibition
September 2 – November 30, 2011
 Celebrating the Guild's 20th Anniversary in 2011 !

Please join us for the
"Meet the Artists Reception"
 Sunday, September 18, 2:00 – 4:00 pm

The Rosenzweig Gallery is pleased to announce the very special exhibit of the American Guild of Judaic Art (AGJA), September 2- November 30, 2011.  The AGJA is an international non-profit organization of artists that specialize in all forms of art that focus on Judaic and spiritual subject matter, and includes artists that create Judaic artifacts used both in the home and the Synagogue. Their mission is to build awareness of fine art and Judaic artifacts created in the "Jewish Spirit". 

The exhibit at the Rosenzweig Gallery will present 21 AGJA member artists from six Southern States in honor of the Guild's 20th anniversary as a national organization.  You are invited to the exhibit and the reception, to meet the artists, have refreshments, and hear remarks about the Guild from the National President, Flora Rosefsky, a prominent Judaic artist from Atlanta. Most of the work in the exhibit will be for sale, so this is a great opportunity to purchase meaningful Judaic art for your home. We look forward to having you join us for this event!

States/Cities  and  participating artists:
FLORIDA: (Orlando area) – Judith Segall; (Boca Raton)- Jackie Olenick
GEORGIA:(Atlanta area) -  Susan Big, Ellen Filreis, Barbara Ladin Fisher, Pamela Rishfeld, Flora Rosefsky, Barbara Rucket, Megan Trace Tenenbaum
NORTH CAROLINA (Durham/Chapel Hill area) – Galia Goodman,Ali Halpersin, , Simone Soltan (Hillsborough) Alice Levinson; (Greensboro) Dori  Jalazo; 
(Asheville) Nelle Fastman Pingree; (Wake Forest) Sol Levine
SOUTH CAROLINA: (Charleston)- Julie Klaper
TENNESSEE: (Knoxville) Arnold Schwarzbart;   (Memphis)Carol Buchman, Mildred Schiff
VIRGINIA: (Oaktan) Reeva Shaffer

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I am an Etsy

I am newly excited and inspired to do more now that I have a page on  For those of you who may not know, Etsy is the Ebay (although not run by the same people) of crafters.  It is a sight for selling hand crafted art, clothing, jewelry, etc. and vintage pieces, as well.  So I put up the pieces I have for sale and hope they sell, while I work on my new line.  Part of my malaise of the past had to do with switching form Cone 10 gas and soda fire to Cone 6 electric oxidation.  Trying to find the right clay body and glazes and how to put them together, and if a glaze says Cone 5-6 do you fire to 5 and hold at the end, can you push it to 7.  All of these experimental stages that I did with Cone 10.  Well. all I can say is, "The mind is willing, but the body is weak."

Anyway, I am going to go with this new found enthusiasm and work it for all it's worth.  Check out the page.  Only a few thing on there, but it's a start.  Love the clay!!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Getting Back to Work - WORK!!!!

Moving into my own house studio was so exciting while I was planning it, and doing  it.  Arranging everything in my small studio, getting the kiln hooked up, I was so excited.  Then, without very much pot making going on, I realized that somewhere in my psyche, I equated the new studio with "now I have to do it.  I have to produce and make money.  I have to go to work. WORK!!!!" (a nod, of course to Maynard G. Crebbs).

In a way, the summer is the best time for this to happen, because my 'season' if there is one, starts in the fall.  I can take a week or two to chill and think and do other thinks to support a business, like, finally getting my Etsy Shop in order. (help).  Then I'll have 2-3 solid months to create inventory for fall and 2-3 solid months to create my spring pieces. 

And this year I wanted to put a show together, "The Seder Plate: The Story of a People".  So, I have a plan, I have shows booked for the fall and spring.  So, what is my problem???? I think I miss the energy that comes from working with other artists.  Going to the Toe River Tour was so much fun and the work was inspiring and I miss not being in the RAD.  I don't miss Odyssey, but I miss the artists there and the support from others in the District.  Just venting, I guess.  I can't really stay away from the clay, it in my blood now.  Just another crossroad, I guess.  New work coming next week.

Monday, May 16, 2011


This week has been an education in ethical considerations in conducting business, any business, really.  As usual, I turn to the teachings in the Torah and by our Rabbis.  The two dilemmas faced this week are both dealt with in the same Torah Portion, Vayikra 19:16 & 36. 

Last December, I purchased a kiln, furniture and a slab roller from my neighbor.   Without doing any real research, in my naivte (at 60 years of age, yet), I took the seller's word that the kiln was relatively new had been used very infrequently.  Now, in all fairness to the seller, he did say the kiln had been his ex-wife's and there is a chance that it was "new" to her, before she left him, and that she had used in "infrequently".  However, when the buttons on the controller stopped working, mid programming, after having fired it myself only four times, I called Skutt to find out the kiln was, in fact, circa 1997, and that it is probable that a new controller would be my best bet if the kiln body itself is still useable.  Vayikra (Leviticus) 19: 36 "Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have", is an admonition to us to be fair with others while doing business.  We are to keep the scales by which we weigh the goods we sell balanced.  We are not to misrepresent the things we sell to others.

This is a nice segway into the second ethical dilemma of the week.  There was a tale told on Facebook by one artist about another artist (a student of the first) of the student "stealing" the techniques of the teacher and selling products as her own work.  This was done as a warning to other artists about mentoring students. My dilemma with reading this tale, was not the issues dealt with in line 36 of Vayikra, although they do bear discussion, but with Vaykra 19:16,  "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor".

Was it my duty, knowing both the student and the teacher to lodge a protest? Against the student? Or a protest against both the student and the teacher?

We are not to tell tales about another person whether true or not.  Telling tales is among the greatest sins of man against man, with making up tales being the most serious charge.  However, because some "truths" are relative, no tales are permitted.  AND, we cannot stand idly by while the others act unjustly against our neighbors.  Hmmm?

I chose to protest that manner in which the teacher presented the injustice to the world.  While I understand how she might have felt ripped off by the student, but that the teacher dealt with the student privately.  The student took the offending pieces off the market.  Why then did the teacher have to tell tales against the student, thereby embarrassing her and shaming her?  Could the story, without naming the student, have been enough of a warning to other artists? 

I'd be happy to hear how others feel about these issues. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making Pots

I think that every teenager in American should have to take pottery for at least one semester in Junior High or High School, like they have to have three semesters on French or Spanish.  The lessons learned from the highs and lows of the process will be immeasurably more valuable than being able to order a croissant at the local bakery or a Dos Equis in Tijuana during Spring Break.  It would also ensure that most customers would know the value of a pot that is hand thrown or built with loving care.

A previously posted list of the steps it takes to get just one pot made is in my blog list somewhere, but I only recall listing those steps that are taken when things go right.  It didn't talk about the thing that can go wrong, beginning with a customer wanting something for a holiday that is just 4 weeks away.  Can it be done? Well, yes, theoretically, if the potter is a production potter and makes 20-50 pots a day or more and can turn over multiple kiln loads in a short time, with assistants.  Most studio potters works on a much more spread out schedule, and depending on how they glaze fire, may only produce 4 very large kiln loads a year.

Then there is the possibility (read probability) that something happens to the kiln (like a burner going out), or in the kiln (like a pot with undetected air bubbles exploding leaving itself stuck in the glaze of all the other pots) or...????  The possibilities are staggering even in the best hands.

All I am saying is, be kind to your potter.  He/she loves the clay and the fire and the possibility that something he/she made will make you happy. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Almost There

I have, for the last several months, been preparing, planning, organizing and realizing the dream of having my own studio.  I gave up my studio a Odyssey Studios & Gallery at the end of January, took a shelf there for a month during transition and have, except for one more bisque kiln and the possibility of taking classes there in future, left Odyssey, altogether.  I take with me valuable training by talented teachers and some new good friends.

I have not had time to organize the actual workspace, but I am working on actual orders from customers I've met at the various Jewish Festivals at which I have shown my work.  The task seemed daunting, until I was referred a UNCA ceramics grad who would very much like studio space in exchange for being my assistant.  And, this weekend, I am having the back patio covered and my Skutt KM-1227-3 installed.  Additional shelving and storage will be built in the coming weeks, so that, by May, I think I'll be ready to have a Clay Club meeting here.

So, if the "creek don't rise", and today it seems like it might, Oy Clay!!! Pottery and My Wonky Pots Studio are almost there.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Well, I've gotten myself in trouble again.  Kari very graciously agreed to help me fire Cone 10 in her kiln on the 24th and with all the moving and rain and , well, all of the excuses I can muster, I'll only have 1/2 a kiln. Is there anyone with pots to fill the kiln or a kiln with room for my pots next week.  I am desperate, as this is a big order (big for me) for Passover that has to be shipped by the end of the month.  Any advise?

Out of Bondage

Freedom is an interesting concept.  At the time of this writing, it seems the whole world is fighting for their concept of freedom.  Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin, Ohio, etal.  We are also learning scary lessons about  responsibility in exercising the freedom we think we have to "forge [earth's] beauty into power".  

As I write, Passover is a month away.  The iconic story of the Jewish people's delivery from bondage and the manner by which they became a "nation".  Many different struggles for freedom have taken the biblical story of freedom as their own symbol for their struggle.  But so often the ultimate lesson of the Exodus is lost in the glorification of the miracles, miracles that were meant to get the attention of a people whose destiny it is to learn and teach the lessons of the journey from slavery to freedom.   It needed a technicolor extravaganza just to ask humans to receive the lessons.  I hope the kind of explosion that is possible in our present situation is not necessary for us to learn the lesson of the role responsibility plays in the exercise of real freedom.