When I picked up my daughter (age 12) up from Sunday school last week, she got in the car, handed me a plastic cup wrapped in aluminum foil, and stated flatly, “It’s supposed to be a kiddish cup.” I turned it over, thinking about how it couldn’t even serve its purpose, as liquid would get caught under the loose foil that hung inside the cup. Trying to not be overpowered by the feeling of parental guilt that I’m supposed to keep everything my kids bring home, I asked her if it was okay if we threw it away (the plastic wasn’t even recyclable per our city recycling program). She shrugged and said okay. Over the years, my kids have brought home countless items from Sunday school. They have almost all been decorated with puffy star-shaped stickers, and they have all been thrown away. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), my kids have no attachment to the items, as little care or thought was put into making them. It is a sad thing to witness, because my kids love making crafts and art. I don’t think I’m the only parent who feels this way.
When Hazon proposed their ritual craft making project to the Gendler Grapevine Project board in 2016, we were thrilled. Through this project, they have developed Betzalel’s Workshop, a step-by-step guide (available for free on our website and theirs), which provides teachers with instructions on how to implement meaningful ritual craft making projects. They explain how to felt a kippah, design and decorate a challah board, whittle a yad, and make a kiddish cup out of recycled glass bottles, in addition to other activities. These activities give kids new skills, and some of the projects require that the students go outside the classroom and explore the synagogue property. Connections are made between tradition, place, and activity, and the result is a tangible, meaningful product that can be used at home.
Rabbi Gendler has a long tradition of adding purpose to ritual-based activities. He likes to make connections between the holiday that is being celebrated and the actions we take to prepare for it. Below is a photo of my daughter with Rabbi Gendler (her great-uncle). He was teaching her how to roll beeswax candles for Hanukkah. Every year when we are lighting the Hanukkah candles, she recalls this activity from many years ago: her first ritual craft making project.