Eighth BJE feast pursues Judaisms Common Threads

Ever since Adam and Eve grabbed fig leaves, garments and fabrics have played a key role in Jewish life — and Jews have played a prominent role in the rag trade.

Think Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Diane Von Furstenberg. Even reinforced jeans were the invention of a German Jewish immigrant, San Francisco's Levi Strauss.

The S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education is taking a deeper look at clothing and fabric in its eighth annual "Feast of Jewish Learning," which kicks off at 7 p.m. tomorrow with "A Night of Jewish Unity" at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

The title of this year's feast is "Common Threads: The Fabrics of Jewish Life." Over the years, the feast concept, developed by Kerin Lieberman, BJE's associate director, has grown into a series of programs that take place during February (and, in some cases, March) in San Francisco, the North Bay and the Peninsula.

Events include lectures, hands-on workshops and an art exhibit. Most of these sessions are free and open to the public. The BJE is also offering "Lunch and Learn" sessions at Jewish organizations and area businesses.

For those who want to pursue the threads of Jewish learning further, the BJE has produced a booklet containing family activities, a craft project, a Yiddish sewing song and a number of articles. The booklet, compiled by Rachel Brodie, explores the range of Jewish textiles, from Joseph's coat to the Torah curtain, and it touches on Jews in the shmata business.

Brodie begins one article with the joke: "What's the difference between a tailor and a doctor? A generation." Some of those stories are included in this section.

A complete list of feast activities is on the back page of today's Bulletin. Following are some of the program highlights:

Learn tzizit tying with Sandy Cohen-Wynn from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday at Or Shalom Jewish Community, 20 Woodside Ave., S.F. "The Torah," she writes, "commands us to tie tzitzit on the four corners of our garments in every generation. This workshop focuses on the structure and significance of the tzitzit, then making our own tzitzit and connecting it to our leaves.

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, poet Yiskah Rosenfeld will look at clothing metaphorically in a workshop titled "It's Adar: Come Dressed as You Really Are." The event takes place at Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, 290 Dolores St., S.F. She will speak on "Kabbalah, Clothing and X-ray Vision" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 1808 Wedemeyer St. in the Presidio.

Also in San Francisco, Mark Lazar, the principal of the San Francisco Havurah and the Peninsula Havurah High, will examine "Loose Threads: Jewish Identity in the Modern World. The event takes place from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 at Jewish Family and Children's Services, 2150 Post St.

Lazar will address the same topic in Los Altos, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the BJE Peninsula Learning Resource Center, 5150 El Camino Real, Bldg. D, Suite 14. And he will probe "On the Fringes of the Torah: A Search for Relevancy" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25 at Congregation Beth Israel Judea, 625 Brotherhood Way, S.F.

In the North Bay, Sarah Kaufmann Weinberg, the director of the Club 18 program at the JCCSF, will look at "Fabrics as Identity" from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 San Pedro Rd., San Rafael.

On the Peninsula, Patti Moskovitz will speak on "The Minyan: A Tapestry of Jewish Life," the title of her new book, at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14 at Temple Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City. Participants can learn about the history and significance of the minyan in Judaism.

Delving into another field, Brodie will speak on "Tunics, Tailors and Tsnee-us (Gesundheit): A Look at Jews in Clothes" from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 at Congregation Beth Israel-Judea, 625 Brotherhood Way, S.F.

Artist Nancy Katz will lead a velvet-embossing workshop at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb 9 at Chabad of Noe Valley, 889 Elizabeth St., S.F. She will also lead "Show and Kvell" session from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 at JFCS in S.F. Participants can share stories of their family heirlooms or special fabrics.

Amy Kassiola, an artist and educator, will address "The Art of Tallit" from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the S.F. office, 131 Steuart St., Suite 460.

Finally, in a workshop for women only, educator and writer Rebecca Schwartz will speak on "The Women Wove Houses," a look at the ancient art of weaving. The workshop takes place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, March 10 at Congregation Beth Sholom, 1301 Clement St., S.F.

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of the forthcoming book “Love Atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].