It took 10 women three years and hundreds of pieces of fabric to produce a colorful, biblically inspired 12-foot art piece that will take center stage today at Congregation Beth Shalom. The tapestry, completed a couple of months ago, was created in memory of Rabbi Kenneth Bromberg, who served Congregation Beth Shalom from 1982 until his death in 2002. It will be dedicated today, which marks the anniversary of his death. "We wanted to do this because he taught a lot of people in our congregation," said Randi Kraus, an accountant in Clearwater who helped lead the group. "There was nothing physical in the sanctuary that was dedicated to him. It was inside of us, but we wanted to have something physical."
The tapestry, which hangs on the large, white wall of the sun-filled sanctuary in the synagogue, is called The Goodness of the Promised Land, from Deuteronomy 8:3 to 10.
The passage describes the land of Israel, a good land with streams and springs coming from plains and hills, a land filled with the seven species, where the Jewish people will lack nothing, said Rabbi David Weizman of Beth Shalom.
Many techniques were used in creating the tapestry, including fabric painting and dyeing, beading, applique, embroidery and crochet, Kraus said.
The women, members of the Sisterhood of Beth Shalom, typically met twice a week.
"I became very aware of why sewing circles are so popular," said Johanna Bromberg, a member of the group and wife of Rabbi Bromberg. "It combines the participants' artistic abilities along with the companionship and the intentions of everyone working together."
The project was considered a "hiddur mitzvah," a biblical commandment that is enhanced by extra beauty, Bromberg said. The tapestry, in this case, enhances the synagogue experience.
None of the women had made anything this large before, which was the biggest challenge, and they had to make decisions such as what to do by hand and what to do by machine.
"Pooling all of our talents is how we were able to complete it," Kraus said. "Although we worked together wonderfully, it was combining our visions and talents that made it a cohesive project."
The tapestry includes pieces of tallit (Jewish prayer shawls), including the one Rabbi Bromberg wore when he prayed.
"It was the most amazing thing to watch it go from a concept to a sketch, to a picture, and then to be put into fabric," said Batya Bar-Av of Clearwater.
Another purpose of the project was to raise money to bring speakers in for more adult education, said Nan Shane, 72, of Palm Harbor. The group sent out cards with a photo of the piece asking for donations.
The tapestry also enabled the Sisterhood to win the Hiddur Mitzvah Award, an honor given periodically by the Women's League of Conservative Judaism for Judaic projects or works of art.
Others involved were Jeanette Brownstein, Roni Igel, Julie Robbins, Sharon Rophie, Valerie Ross and Judy Zimlin.
The tapestry project will live on in other ways, too.
"I gained a group of friends that I think will last a lifetime," Shane said. "It was a wonderful experience, spiritually and educationally. We all learned different things."