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Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

I know it’s been a very long time. Too long. It’s not that there’s been little happening, or little thought about what’s been happening – at home, in community, in Israel-Palestine, or in the world …. It’s just been a period in which Jewish study, or at least theorizing applied tikkun olam, has been a challenge. It’s as if I’ve been holding my breath since Passover, waiting to see what might follow from the Annapolis “summit”, trying to find a way back into enthusiasm after the challenges of Purim and Pesach.

One significant project since falling into the abyss of sharmouta has been a new endeavor: a “Minyan Project”, in which I’ve tried to use knitting to repair my own links broken by that video. The challenge of sorting out a route to relationship even with the most outrageous of Hebron’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish women led me to my knitting needles and crochet hook. I’ve been busily engaged with, inter alia, working out the extent of Jewish community through the medium (conceit?) of the minyan, the “ritual” (or ritually-acceptable) community of the many streams of Judaism. For weeks I’ve been making Jewish headcoverings – countless kippot (traditional, rainbow, lace, etc), snoods, even a streymel (Hasidic fur hat) and sheytel (Orthodox woman’s wig), in the effort to explore the breadth of the Jewish community and its relationship to “cover”. I figure the best way to try to bridge the enormous distance I feel from those involved in the traditional streams is to investigate them textually and materially. There’s no way to know the final form this project will take, but at present it feels like a path forward from sharmouta block.

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Friday, March 21st was Knit for Peace Day, a relatively new event for a number of socially-concerned knitters (knittivists) around the world. Initiated by Randy/KnitforPeace, an American knitter living in Sweden, Knit for Peace Day is an opportunity to commit both the work of spirit and hands to the pursuit of peace. She found time to reflect on:

  1. a lasting solution in Israel, where everyone can live in peace and dignity”;
  2. religious freedom for Tibetans;
  3. an end to the war in Iraq and an honest restructuring of the Iraqi; infrastructure;
  4. an end to the misery in Darfur; and
  5. understanding within my family for different views and different ways of doing things.

All of these found their way onto my list, along with a few others regarding local concerns as well, chief among which were wishes for the continued reduction in the number of homicides in my city, and care and reconciliation within the Democratic party (Clinton and Obama campaigns), so that eventual unity and electoral success can be achieved.

Friday was also the Jewish holiday of Purim, so my knitting time was also devoted to thinking creatively about the relationship between the Jewish holiday of Purim and peace (a few recent essays on Purim violence and traditions certainly stimulated me), and ways to promote the pursuit of peace in the American Jewish community. Much creativity will be needed in this endeavor, so I’ve been working on variations of “co-existence leaves” for the TikkunTree Project.

I also worked on a felted “Peacetaschen” Hamentaschen cookie. I’ll have more to add about Purim and the Peacetaschen shortly.

It’s especially gratifying to have knittivist colleagues in the virtual needlework community. I recently had the pleasure of stumbling into the sub-community of knitters for peace. There’s Ravelry’s “Knitting our way to Peace” group (moderated by Hanane of Knitting Our Way to Peace), which carries on a stimulating conversation about matters of religion and religious practices, peace, and ways to use our skills to promote peaceful thoughts and action. Another Ravelry member, Sophia, recently initiated the 198 Countries Peace Project, looking to join the flags of the 198 countries of the world; I’ve volunteered to make the Israel & Palestine Flags, which I plan to join – at the hip, like Siamese twins, which is how I see the two communities (if you are interested, you can read more here). I’ve already charted the pair of flags and the way I plan to unite them. I’ll be using Peace Fleece yarns (of course). (the project still needs volunteers for some of the countries, so join in!).

In addition, I’ve been fascinated by the range of ways in which activity of needlework has become a spiritual ritual for so many. Tallit (prayer shawls) are not a part of our family’s practice, but I’ve always been impressed by others’ beautiful examples. Ministers Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo have embarked on a prayer shawl ministry, and Wren Ross uses knitting as a special meditation ritual that creates a tactile prayer. Ross chose the seed stitch for her Seeds of Intention Scarf (see her book Changing Patterns)

because of the symbolic value of seeds. Lao Tzu said, ‘To see things in the seed, that is genius.’ Seeds promote growth. I wanted the stitches to be seeds for self-love and compassion with the reminder that gardens, knitting, and people take time to develop. We need to fertilize and water ourselves with patience, kindness, and insight and not expect results instantaneously.

I begin the ritual of making the Seeds of Intention Scarf by washing my hands. This is my transition from the daily grind of endless ‘must do lists’ to the sacred time of quiet reflection. Next, I light a candle to welcome inspiration. Then I take my […] yarn from its embroidered bag, place a clean white cloth on my lap, and begin to knit. Slowly. Each stitch is a seed of intention for something I want or need. If I am feeling anxious, I may knit an affirmation such as: I am secure and connected to myself and others with compassion. If someone I know is ill, I wish that person good health through my stitches. I knit to support qualities in myself that I want to cultivate: kindness, hope, clarity, and love. This knitting meditation kept me balanced and centered during the entire writing process.

Though I’m somewhat uncomfortable with creating a special ritual for my own tikkunknitting. I’ve been thinking about the way in which my knitting can reflect my personal expression of tikkun olam. I share Ross’s interest in the symbolism of stitches, and have been thinking about patterns that might, beyond the work of the TikkunTree Project, express my commitment to a just peace in Israel. I envision Hebrew and Arabic prayers for peace across the boundaries of my knitting, or the flora and fauna of Israel-Palestine traversing hats, sweaters, and more. I’ve also been working with teenagers in my Reform synagogue’s Confirmation Academy (post-bnai mitzvah program), attempting to teach tikkunknitting – to help them make a network of connections between the work of their hands (the new knitting skills they are learning), heart (the impulse toward tikkun olam, to engage in repair of their world through social action), and heads (decisions about materials and people to knit for).

There’s more discussion about “Hands-On Spirituality” here.

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There are days in which my ambivalence about this world of virtual community is settled for me, when there’s contact that lets me know other minds are really out there, that I am somehow travelling in others’ ripples (or vice versa). Last week I was jolted out of a nasty funk when I was tagged by Toby of Judaica Journal for the You Make My Day Award. As I understand this honor (novice that I am), I’m to “tag” 10 of my favorite blogs (and post a comment on their blog to let them know that they MAKE MY DAY). This is a challenging task since there are so many blogs out there, the informational sites and blogs I visit often do not accept comments, and my interests are quite diverse. Here are some of those who make my day with some regularity:

Others are linked on the sidebar at right, and also on my other sites: The TikkunTree Project, and A Tikkunknitter’s Miscellany.

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