A special event at Temple Beth Am March 22

Join Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest for the dedication of a new chuppah and the opportunity to meet Anita Diamant. The theme for this special event on March 22, 2013 is “Shabbat Under the Canopy”. This evening will be a lively spirited celebration.

In Jewish tradition, a chuppah is a canopy, under which a couple stand during their wedding ceremony. As a gift of the heart, a dedicated group of women at Temple Beth Am have created a custom-designed handcrafted chuppah. It symbolizes a home that the couple will build together, a place that is welcoming and secure.

Anita Diamant is a prizewinning journalist and author of numerous books about contemporary Jewish practice, as well as four bestselling novels, including “The Red Tent”. A woman for our times, Anita will be the temple’s special guest, courtesy of the Dr. Morton M. Axler Speaker Series and the temple’s Sisterhood. Following a festive dinner, Anita Diamant will share her thoughts in a personal, free-form conversation hosted by the synagogue’s own Rabbi Judith Kempler.

The public is invited to attend, reservations are required for dinner. The service begins at 6:00 p.m., dinner at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $20 per person for dinner. Sponsorships are available for Wine & Cheese reception with Ms. Diamant at 5:00 p.m. All information is available at www.tbam.org/shabbatcanopy or by calling (305) 667-6667 ext. 149.


The chuppah that the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Am created for our congregation has truly been a labor of love, cooperation, and community. Each of the women brought a unique talent and skill to the task; each put in time and effort to bring a design to life in the form of a ritual object handcrafted in fabric.

It all began when Temple caterer Sarah Davidoff (and Sisterhood Board Member) reported that
brides, while discussing wedding plans with her, often expressed surprise that there was no Temple
chuppah. The Board agreed that providing one would make wonderful Sisterhood project,
whereupon Sarah (who was married under a hand-embroidered chuppah her mother made)
“volunteered” her mom Judith Davidoff to chair the committee. And once Fiber-Artist Nancy
Billings was recruited as Artistic Co-Chair, the “Chuppah Project” was born.

The Committee held a Temple-wide design competition. Using strictly anonymous judging, the
Sisterhood Board selected the top three entries, ranked them by preference, and sent them to our
clergy for the final selection. Judging was no easy task—any of the top three would have been a
fine choice. In the end, artist TRACY ELLYN was named winner of Sisterhood Chuppah Design

The women who translated Tracy’s design into fabric art were Nancy Billings, Margie Buchbinder, Judith Davidoff, Susan Golinsky, Elizabeth Janowitz, Natalie Kleinberg, Marlene Kohn, Phyllis Meyers, Marcia Reisman, Lily Serviansky and Jackie Zucker.

The Symbolic Meaning of the

Tracy Ellyn explained that her design was inspired by “the joy of life” (le bonheur de vivre) that permeates much of Henri Matisse’s work. This modern French artist, whose brightly-colored dancing figures are easily recognizable, often spoke of le bonheur de vivre, a phrase he used to title a 1906 canvas. Tracy’s Matisse-like figures express not only the joy a happy couple feels on their wedding day, but also the sense of joy she experiences whenever our Beth Am congregation gathers. She also decided to give the Hebrew word echad (‘One’) a prominent place in the circle-like center of the chuppah, and to use elements in the composition to express an overarching “One-ness”.

Rabbi Terry Bookman selected the two quotations for the chuppah: “And they shall become one” from Genesis 2:24 (which includes the word ‘One’); and half of a midrashic verse from Genesis Rabbah 8:8: (“Never the two of them without God’s Presence”). Sensitive to the need for a gender-neutral chuppah, our Rabbi omitted the first part of the midrashic verse (“No man without a woman, no woman without a man”). Tracy also reworked her original male and female figures to make them a gender-neutral couple.

These two phrases worked perfectly with Tracy’s decision to made “One-ness” the symbolic
motif of her design. ‘echad’ is the most important word of the Sh’ma—Judaism’s central
prayer. Under the chuppah the couple becomes “One” joined in marriage before ‘echad’ (Adonai Echad, “The Lord is One”) of the Sh’ma. The kiddush cup the couple holds aloft in celebration mirrors the single vessel both will drink from as they are joined as One. Their family, as it grows, will be One unit. Their coming together joins each of their extended familes into One newly connected family. And on and on and on.

Tracy explained that “the circle has been the ultimate expression since ancient times, and for
cultures throughout the world, of unity, wholeness, eternity, perfection, the life cycle, . . . and
everlasting love. . . . To that end, I utilized the symbol of the circle throughout.” The chuppah is
bordered by what seems an endless number of circle-like shapes. The not-quite circular central
area echoes these shapes, as does the outline of the large ‘echad` within it whose overlapping letters merge them into One.

Finally, the chuppah is accompanied by two needlepoint ring pillows for use when children are
to be included in the ceremony.

By Molle Grad

Dedication of Handcrafted Chuppah at Friday Night Service

Festive Mediterranean-Style Dinner
& Conversation with author Anita Diamant and Rabbi Judith Kempler

Location: Temple Beth Am
5950 N. Kendall Dr.
Pinecrest, FL 33156

Date/Time Friday, March 22 6 – 9:00 p.m.

Contact re Press Release: Michelle Cohen (305) 667-6667 ext. 149

Website Information: www.tbam.org/shabbatcanopy

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