Jeweler Andrew Litwin and one of his creations, which reads "lev," or heart, in Hebrew.
Jeweler Andrew Litwin and one of his creations, which reads "lev," or heart, in Hebrew.

A jeweler’s winding path back to Judaism, and the family business

Though he grew up in an Orthodox home, after decades of living a secular life, Andrew Litwin revisited Judaism and dove into it. The 63-year-old San Rafael resident began studying virtually with a rabbi about 10 years ago and grew especially interested in Jewish teachings and the “infinite meanings” of Hebrew letters, he said.

He also began to rethink his professional life as a physician. “A multitude of things started to leave me thinking about life from a 10,000-foot view …  about the nature of matter and energy and God and what religion teaches us,” he said.

As Litwin studied, he “started to draw out some of these concepts and play around with some of the Hebrew letters on the computer.” He focused on the first and last letters of the Torah, bet and lamed, which spell lev, or heart.

That led Litwin toward something else he’d grown up with but not pursued: making jewelry.

Litwin comes from a long line of jewelers, starting with his great-grandfather in the late-1800s. Akim Litwin made jewelry for the Russian czar and nobility, according to his great-grandson. After immigrating to America and settling in Cincinnati, the family established Litwin Jewelers in 1911. Boris Litwin Jewelers, a fourth-generation, family-owned store, still exists in Cincinnati.

Andrew Litwin retains “vivid memories” of watching jewelers work at their benches in the family shop. Though generally familiar with the business, Litwin had no hands-on experience with the craft.

But after his newfound attraction to Judaism and the lamed bet, he attended a jewelry-making class to learn the craft and honed his skills as a designer. He found a manufacturer in the U.S. to make his prototypes and launched his business, A. Litwin, in 2019. “Then Covid hit,” Litwin said. “The pandemic has slowed things down.” Dayenu Judaica at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco took a few of his pieces to sell. But most jewelry shops were not expanding their inventory as the pandemic took hold and raged.

So Litwin turned to the internet.

At, his centerpiece collection of silver and gold pendants intertwine the bet and lamed in intricate patterns. Litwin provides a photo of each piece and detailed information about it on the website. “Each of the enduring styles in my collection are paired with thought-provoking information about the Jewish teachings — in some cases thousands of years old — that inspire my work,” he writes.


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Since his business venture is still young, Litwin has limited his collection to five sterling silver pendants and one in gold. He also designs custom wedding bands and hopes to expand his collection. “There are more designs now than could ever be produced,” he said.

Meanwhile, his dive into Judaism continues as he works with a study partner, concentrating on “the nature of prayers.”

Litwin attended Orthodox synagogue growing up in Ohio — his mother had an Orthodox upbringing and “tried to keep a kosher household,” he said, while his father was “on the other side of the spectrum. But my mother was in charge of the household.”

Once Litwin left home, his religion basically fell by the wayside. He spent 10 years in Tulare County, near Sequoia National Park, working with the Indian Health Service. Living in the small town of Three Rivers, “there was very little interaction with any religious affiliation,” he said.

After that, Litwin moved to Columbia, South Carolina, to study preventative medicine at the University of South Carolina. It was only after someone approached him at the gym one day and asked “Are you Jewish?” that Litwin became reacquainted with his religion. “That began my connection to the Jewish community,” he said. He began to dip his toes into the local Jewish community and joined the Jewish Learning Network, a Chabad program.

Litwin relocated to the Bay Area, where his sister resides, about seven years ago.

He finds designing jewelry with Jewish meaning to be rewarding in several ways. “As you design, it is meditation. There’s a spiritual aspect to it.”

Hebrew letters “have thousands of years of history behind them,” he said. Sharing that history and wisdom through his jewelry “is an indirect kind of mitzvah. It’s another way of contributing to help people get in touch with their humanity and do good deeds.”

Designing “is fun,” he added. “Life is short. You have to be doing things that are fun.”

Liz Harris

Liz Harris is a J. contributor. She was J.'s culture editor from 2012-2018.