We welcome Rachel to the Kol Emunah masthead! The blog graphic is a detail of her work Immersion: Loss. From time to time, we will be featuring a Shomrei artist on our blog in both the masthead and on the featured artist page. If you are an artist at Shomrei or know one who would like to be featured, let me know.
Vintage tallit, cotton, ribbon.
Many ceremonies have been written using a mikveh for new and inventive rituals.
“Immersion: Loss” is a spiritual mikveh and is to be used when getting to a mikveh is not possible or desired. Its use marks that time in life when you are faced with the knowledge that something important has ended. Prayers are recited that ask, plead and thank God for the strength and understanding to emerge from the loss renewed.
Rachel grew up in Syracuse, NY surrounded by women who were always making things: knitting a sweater, sewing a quilt, beading, weaving. She followed in their path and now holds a BFA in ceramics from Syracuse University and a MFA in ceramics from Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Crafts.
Rachel worked in clay for ten years and then after the birth of her second child turned to fiber and quilting techniques to further her exploration of Jewish ritual objects.
It was at this time that she began searching for a new woman’s tallit. When Rachel wore a tallit for the first time it felt uncomfortable, like she was wearing her father’s overcoat; a little too big, too masculine and not belonging to her. Using history as a guide, Rachel created tallitot that are inspired by the four cornered robes worn by priests in biblical times and designed using vintage apron patters from the 20th century. Her tallitot are a combination of history and tradition with modern ideas of Judaism. They are not just a piece of fabric to hold the four tzitzit. They are a means of connecting her story as a woman with her story as a Jew.
In addition to her tallitot, Rachel is also working on a series of “Spiritual Mikvaot”. She has taken the idea of a mikveh, and created a ritual object made from fabric. These pieces are used in ceremonies to mark life-changing events such as illness/healing, aging, relationships and reproduction.
Rachel has shown her work at The Jewish Museum in NYC, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, American Jewish University, Hebrew Union College, the Society for the Advancement of Judaism and Temple Emanu-El in NYC among other places. Her piece “Fringed Garment” is in the permanent collection of The Jewish Museum. In addition, she has lectured and given workshops at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, PA, Temple Adath Yeshurun in Syracuse, NY and Brandeis House in NYC.
Her work has been featured in the book 500 Judaica as well as American Craft Magazine, Lilith Magazine, Hadassah Magazine and Zeek. Rachel is on the executive committee of the Jewish Art Salon in NYC.
Rachel is married to Andy Ely and they have three children, Siona, Pacey and Avital. She and her family have been members of Shomrei for 5 years. She is VP for Membership and co-chair of “Art On The Walls” at Shomrei Emunah.