Sunday, 20 October 2019

Amit & Roei

A customer asked me to make a papercut card for her friend and assistant at work who was getting married. She had no specific requests apart from a preference for an oval shaped design and purple for the paper inlay. She told me the names of the young couple, Amit and Roei, the date they were getting married and finally, she requested that I create the design in Hebrew.
I was ready to get cutting!
I hand drew their names in Hebrew lettering and added the date of their wedding below in a ribbon banner. Flowers, oak leaves and a small heart add a romantic touch. The card opens the Hebrew way, from right to left.
"It is beautiful!" my customer wrote to me and told me how the bride had contacted her shortly after her wedding to say how much she loved the card.
* This post has been shared on All Seasons, The Weekly Link Up, Made By You Monday

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Birthday Cards for Dads

A new customer spotted my work online and contacted me to see if I could make a birthday card for her dad's upcoming 70th birthday. His hobbies include following Manchester United F.C., swimming, walking and Pilates and he loves Bazooka bubble gum, she told me. It was definitely the first time I had been asked to feature bubble gum on a card!
Dad's favourite hobby is walking in the countryside, so I have shown him against a background of rolling green hills. He has a rucksack on his back. I added a big red number 70 in the top left-hand corner of the card, followed by some Bazooka bubble gums, the Manchester United club crest and a football. A silhouette of dad doing some Pilates can be seen to his left, along with a swimming towel and goggles.
My customer left the most wonderful review in my Etsy shop:
"Wonderful job. Lisa finished it very fast and went to great effort to ensure it was delivered on time. She did a superb job, we all loved it. The likeness was amazing and the card was fantastic. Thank you!"
This dad was turning 75. I made a birthday card for his wife earlier in the year. He likes watching Formula 1 and cricket, his son told me, and he is very keen on building Lego models. He is also a fan of Emmerdale, a television soap opera set in the heart of the Yorkshire countryside.
I have shown him with some Lego in his hand. A television screen behind him has the Emmerdale opening title on it. I added the number 75 to mark his age, the red Formula 1 logo - apparently its red colour represents passion and energy - and a racing car, and finally, a cricket bat, ball and stumps. The bat looks a bit wonky in this photo but I straightened it up before I sent the card out!
"I'm sure my Dad will love the card" his son wrote to me.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

May and Jack

May graduated from university earlier this year and celebrated her 21st birthday the very next day. Her auntie asked me to make a special card to mark both occasions. May studied economics, loves the theatre, loves to sunbathe and her favourite food is stir fry, she told me. She also requested the number 21 somewhere on the card.
I have shown May wearing her graduate cap, or mortarboard, and tucking into a plate of her favourite stir fry. A stage with red curtains, along with drama masks, represents her interest in theatre. Below that an economics book, the subject she studied at university, and the badge of the university she attended, mark her academic achievements. Finally I added a big yellow sun because her auntie says that May likes sunbathing!
Jack was turning 20. His auntie asked me to create a card based on his interest in music, specifically drum and bass. This was a tough one for me since I'm not even sure what drum and bass is, so I cut out a big number 20 for the centre of the card and added stars and colourful music notes. I also included the logo of the company he works for, Keakie. Keakie is a platform that uses a bespoke AI engine to tailor cultural audio content to its users.
Whatever that means.
Photo credit: Gesher Theatre

Whilst I am on the subject of theatre in this post, some time ago I went to see a Hebrew production of The Kite Runner, Rodef Ha-Afifonim, at the Jerusalem Theatre. Though I have lived in Israel for many years now, I still prefer to see productions in my native English language. However, my youngest son saw this production on a school trip and declared that we should see it too. He's at the age that everything is "boooring!", so when he says something is good, it really must be good!
The Kite Runner is essentially a story of coming of age, loss and redemption set in Afghanistan, a country that has been in a state of political, social and religious turmoil for more than a century. The book and the play span the turbulent years from the overthrow of the monarchy to the era of the Taliban.
The production of The Kite Runner that we saw at the Jerusalem Theatre made wonderful use of props. The stage was dark but clouds were carried on sticks, cars made of steps and a steering wheel on a stick, trees were made of actors and those sticks, and so on. The acting was imaginative and emotive.
I am so glad we went to see it.

* This post has been shared on The Weekly Link Up, Made By You Monday, Make It Pretty MondayWordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) and Inspire Me Tuesday.

Monday, 7 October 2019

The Jewish Community of Tapolca

After visiting Budapest for a few days, we chose to spend the second half of our holiday in the small town of Tapolca in western Hungary so that we could enjoy some of the Balaton countryside. My choice was based on the accommodation I found but incredibly, once we arrived in the town, I discovered that it had once been a Yiddish-speaking hub and home to a small Jewish community. I spotted a synagogue marked on the town map, which I of course had to find and, in the meantime began to do some reading.
I soon found out that the first Jewish families were permitted to settle in Tapolca in the middle of the 18th century, on the condition that they would not have children. Because of the hostility of the townsmen, most Jews lived in villages but, with the removal of the restrictions on them residing in the towns, settlement in Tapolca grew in the middle of the 19th century and the Jewish community organised itself. The majority of the Jews made a living from selling wines and allied products and, eventually, most of the businesses and industries in the town were in Jewish hands.
In 1840 the community formed a chevra kadisha, which is an organisation of Jewish men and women who see to it that the bodies of deceased Jews are prepared for burial according to Jewish tradition. The community also established charitable institutions, a school which opened in 1855 and a synagogue in 1863.
In 1868, as a result of differences of opinion between the Haredim (Orthodox) and Maskilim (moderates) at the Jewish Congress, the community affiliated with the Neolog (Reform) movement, which advocated integration into Hungarian society and changes in the religious way of life.
It was the 1863 synagogue, above, which I had seen on the map of the town and which we subsequently found. The synagogue's inauguration ceremony took place on 13th September 1863 and in 1905 it was renovated, serving the Jewish community of Tapolca until the town's Jewish population was transported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. The building became abandoned in the following two decades. In the 1970s it was transformed completely by a local industrial firm. The main body of the synagogue was converted to the performance hall of the Tamási Áron Cultural Centre and only the western facade remained more or less in the same state as it had been earlier.
In World War I, 29 Jewish men from the town were killed in action on various fronts. During the period of the "White Terror"  (pogroms instigated against Jews and radicals in the period 1919-21, which were implemented by right wing military elements, after the collapse of the communist regime), some Jews were held in the Zalaegerszeg concentration camp. 17 others were murdered by gangs who came to the town, and stones were thrown at the synagogue.
In 1930 there were 706 Jewish people living in Tapolca.
In 1939, following the publication of "Discriminatory Laws" which aimed at limiting Jewish participation in economic and cultural fields, the licences of Jews dealing in wine were cancelled. Only thanks to Christian friends, who put their names to Jewish businesses, were the Jews saved from total economic collapse.
In 1940, Jewish labour battalions were brought to Tapolca. These workers were conscripted to work on fortifications, together with other Hungarian citizens whom the authorities would not permit to join the armed forces. They worked on the local airfield.
On 17th May 1944, after the German occupation of the town, the Jews were confined to the ghetto which was erected in the area of the synagogue. Today, signs on two buildings, above, mark where the entrance was. The wealthy Jews were tortured by the Germans in order to discover the hiding places of their valuables. On 18th June the Jews were sent to the Zalaegerszeg concentration camp. and the following day they were transported to Auschwitz. The Jewish labour battalions remained in the town at the time of the expulsion.
After the war sixty survivors returned to Tapolca. With the help of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee they renewed communal life there, renovated the synagogue and cemetery and erected a memorial to the martyrs. However, they slowly began to leave the town, with some coming to live in Israel and others migrating to Budapest. To the best of my knowledge, there are no Jews living in Tapolca today.
My interest in this lost community was piqued and I wanted to know more. We talked to the guy at the local tourist office who told us about visitors to the town who arrive there to find out about their parents' and grandparents' roots. He then directed us to yet another synagogue, which I had not known about. I had great trouble finding it but, with the help of Google Maps, came across a small stone building which looked nothing like a synagogue from the outside. Until recently it was being used as a pub.
Mister Handmade in Israel and I were snooping around the building when I saw someone watching us. We quickly made our introductions and upon hearing that we were visiting from Israel, our "guide", Imre Attila Neszler, was happy to open up the building for us.
It turned out that this building was the first synagogue in Tapolca, used between 1813-1863. Imre, who owns the synagogue and whose project this turned out to be, has carefully overseen the renovation of it and proudly showed us the place where the Torah scrolls were kept and the location of the mikveh. When he has sufficient funding, he plans to make this into a small Jewish museum commemorating the community of Tapolca.
Another gentleman involved in the project, László Hangodi, has written a book about the Jewish community of Tapolca and Imre very kindly gave me a copy, albeit in Hungarian.
If any of my readers have any contacts who could help Imre and László move the project forward, I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Getting Married and Joining the Army

"Shana Tova U’Metuka" ("May you have a happy and sweet year") to all my Jewish customers and friends who have just celebrated the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. May this be a very happy, healthy and successful new year for you all and, in the words of the traditional blessing, "May You Be Written and Sealed for a Good Year".
"Our nephew is getting married" a friend wrote to me. "Would you have time to make a card for them if I get a picture of the couple?" Of course I'd make time!
I learnt that her nephew and his now wife are very young and adventurous and that they just came back from safari in South Africa. Therefore I showed them standing under the chuppahthe canopy beneath which Jewish marriage ceremonies are performed, and decorated it with a tiny flag of South Africa and an aeroplane. I added the flag of Israel amongst the flowers as well, since Israel is the couple's homeland.
The couple are dati, Modern Orthodox, so I gave the groom a big white kippah or skullcap to wear on his head. (In Orthodox circles, Jewish men usually wear kippot all the time, whether they are attending a religious service or going about their daily lives outside of the synagogue. Covering ones head is seen as a sign of yirat Shamayim, which means "reverence for God" in Hebrew.)
Rachel entered the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) around the same time as my eldest son. After seeing the card I made for him, Rachel's mum asked if I could also make a card for her daughter.
I have shown Rachel with her long dark hair hanging loose (in reality, female soldiers with hair that descends past the collar of the uniform shirt must have their hair in a ponytail) and wearing her olive green army uniform and turquoise beret. She has gone into the Israeli Artillery Corps. New recruits go through four months of basic training, in which they learn basic infantry weaponry and drills. At the end of the basic training stage the recruits receive their turquoise beret, symbolising their acceptance into the corps.
The Hebrew greeting on the card says Giyus Kal. "Giyus" means "recruitment," "enlistment" or "induction". "Kal" means "easy".
Mum reported back that Rachel loved the card! 

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