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Jewish religious artifacts get an inventive, artistic twist with RAFT materials

Deborah Jacobstein proudly displays her
students' art works made with RAFT
materials!
Deborah Jacobstein, one of RAFT’s longstanding members, has found beautiful, artistic and highly innovative ways to repurpose RAFT materials like cork and matt boards, double sided sticky papers, die cuts, pill bottles, bottle top lids and many more into Judaica – artifacts connected to decorative Jewish ritual objects.

Cork boards give life to sandy floors in a miniature sukkah (a temporary hut created during the festival of Sukkot) while bottle top lids become the feet for many things. Ordinary white pill bottles transform into colorful, scented Havdallah spice bottles--these spice bottles are used at the end of the Sabbath to remind Jews of its sweetness. The list goes on!

RAFT inspired Tzedakah boxes
This art educator teaches students from preschool to eighth grade at Temple Emanu-El’s Religious School art program. Temple Emanu-El, one of the oldest Reform Jewish congregations on the West Coast, recently showcased the Religious School students’ artwork in celebration of its 150th anniversary.

With 219 art projects on display, these original Judaica artifacts born from a confluence between repurposed art and religion, ranged from the Kiddush cups (a wine goblet used during the Kiddush ceremony) to Tzedakah boxes (Tzedakah means charity in Hebrew and Tzedakah boxes are similar to piggy banks where one collects money for charity).

One of the Tzedakah boxes project made by her 4th graders was inspired by a RAFT find Deborah unearthed in one of the bins years back. She recalls, “I was pulling something from the bins to collect a bag of stuff for a dollar when I came across a paper house Christmas ornament. It cost nothing, maybe pennies so I threw it in with the other things and got the concept of making these Tzedakah box houses from that RAFT ornament! Though it cost pennies, it’s priceless and I still have it with me.”
Collage made from double sided sticky paper and RAFT die-cuts

But Deborah doesn’t believe in hoarding materials, instead she buys only when need arises unless “it’s really cool on speculation…I use things for a very long time! Someone at RAFT let me purchase some double sided sticky paper they had in reserve about 7-8 years back and I have been using it since then, little by little. It was an awesome find.” Many of her younger students’ art projects are based on double sided sticky paper.

Other students’ art projects like the Torah Zentangles (the Torah is the Jewish sacred book) were inspired by RAFT workshops. Says the resourceful artist, “I have taken three Zentangles classes as well as a workshop where I learnt the shaving cream marbled paper technique that I taught my first graders with which they made a paper Torah mantle covering.”

Torah Zentangle
Her students are very enthusiastic about the art classes as it doesn’t just teach art, but also stimulates their critical thinking and creativity. “Though I guide them on the basic concept as each project should be religious based, I am constantly surprised by what they produce. And some of the non-traditional art forms I have shared with my students have brought forth some great reactions. When I first taught Zentangles to seventh graders, there was pin drop silence throughout the duration of the class, they were so involved in it!”

Be it through workshops, Idea Sheets or even commonly found, inexpensive materials, RAFT has always been an inspiration to many RAFT members like Deborah who have in turn encouraged students to think creatively and critically. Do you have an inspiring story you would like to share with us? Email us or comment below.

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