The Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown this coming Wednesday, is a time for introspection. A busy Jewish quilter in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who prefers to remain anonymous, sent me this message to share with others as we approach the High Holy Days:
“When I became a Jewish woman in 1996, I learned two phrases in Hebrew: tzedakah, which translates as justice and refers to charitable giving; and tikkun olam, which translates literally as “to repair the world” and means social action in English. It was not until ten years later, when I began quilting, that I found a way of making these words truly my own.
Every third or fourth quilt I make now is what I call a tzedakah quilt (one is shown here). Through my guild, many other quilters and I have donated quilts to our community’s women’s shelter. Learning about this program also inspired me to start donating quilts to a local children’s hospital, where there is an ongoing need for twin-size and baby quilts for the children admitted. I have also donated quilts for benefits, such as for our hospice care facility, and of course, I have given away many quilts just to family and friends.
These are my ways of giving back (tzedakah) and repairing a broken world (tikkun olam). The gift of a quilt has always been a gift of practicality and beauty, given with the hope of brightening a person’s surroundings and providing a pleasing, meaningful memory.
All forms of tzedakah and tikkun olam are important. It’s just nice to find a way of doing it that expresses all the love and care that a quilt does. I’m grateful to have discovered this tradition.”