Author Archives: Roz Weitzman's World
Bubie and Saidie Weitzman lived at 475 Major Street in Toronto, a tall 2-storey row house with a not-so-small storage place on the first floor in the hallway, under the staircase that went upstairs. Cleaning, getting rid of the Chumetz (any non-Passover foods and dirt) and changing over to Passover dishes and pots and pans was a ritual before Passover. When I was 7 or 8, it was my job to help my Bubie get out the Passover dishes from under the steps in the small storage place with my little brother. The space was too small for her to get into and besides she had a bad leg. It was always wrapped in white bandages to cover the gangrene in her leg, the scourges of untreated diabetes.
Aaron and Bubie Weitzman were devoutly orthodox and lived that way until my grandfather passed when I was 10 years old. With coal in the basement and ice in the icebox, it was a comfortable life. Bubbie always sat on a wooden box in front of the kitchen counter. She had a wooden cutting board that pulled out from under the counter and she always wore a white apron, slicing, dicing and cooking with her leg up on another wooden box.
Passover was a big event. At their house long tables were set up for all the people who would attend. They held big Passover Seders with Zaidie leading the prayers, always smiling because of his family being together and the 2 of his grandchildren who has been born by that time.. The Seders wouldn’t begin until the men had returned for synagogue and the meal wouldn’t begin until late into the evening.
The two first nights of Passover honour our escape from bondage in Egypt and the story was retold during each and every, very long Seder. At one point, I would recite the Four Questions in Hebrew. I had attended Jewish school on Sundays at the synagogue at Allan Road and Eglington Avenue for several years so could do it well…all along, my grandfather Qvelling! That was a highlight of the Seder for me. Kosher sweet Manishewitz wine would be drunk in crystal glasses and the red wine would be dropped in our plates like the blood of our forefathers. Each of the 10 drops represent the 10 plagues.
It was always so exciting for the children to steal the Afikomen (the one piece of matzo that was separated from the rest) from my grandfather when he left the table to wash his hands. We would hide it and after the meal we would auction it off so that he could finish the rest of the Seder with the promise of a new bike or a gift of money (no money could be exchanged at the time but the promise was always kept!) Throughout the Seders it such a joyful time, with all the Passover Seder songs that everyone knew the words and the melody for, singing along in unison.
Traditions Carry On:
Celebrating religious holidays with family was a must – and my grandparents passed on this tradition to my daughter and I. Every year for Passover in my Bubie’s honour, I make Egg Noodles with no Chumetz (wheat flour or leavening), the same recipe that she used all those years ago. And I honoured my grandparents with my own long tables for Seders, dressed with white table cloths, the best china and silver, welcome any friends and family who may not have a seder to go to. Including many Gentile friends to celebrate the Pesach (Passover) together.
My shopping for all the ingredients for my own Seders included boxes and boxes of Matzo, eggs for the eggs and salt water, and briskets for the main course, and egg yolks for the huge pot of chicken soup, and boiling the matzo balls, and chicken livers for chopped liver, and Charoses made with apples, walnuts, honey and red wine, carrot tsimis with knedlach, along with many other delicacies. I would joyfully commiserate with Jewish women all over the world, in their kitchens, doing the very same thing to keep the traditions of Passover for the generations to come.
History: My grandparents, Aaron and Sophie Weitzman, Orthodox Jews, came from Warsaw, Poland to escape the pogroms, and for a better life. The streets of Canada, it was said, were paved with gold! They first settled in Montreal in 1920, where an affluent and influential branch of my Zaidie Weitzman’s family still live. An uncle whose last name was Crystal was a judge and a son became a politician at that time. Then the moved onto Toronto in 1922. My father, Lou Weitzman, and my Uncle Jack were both born in Canada. My grandfather sold newspapers and magazines at the corner of Yonge and Dundas Street and after a few years, opened a Dry Goods Store at 22 Walton Street next to Yonge Street. (About 10 years ago, Walton Street closed and became a part of the Delta Chelsea Hotel).
My grandfather would take orders from the affluent neighbourhoods close to Yonge Street. Rosedale was one of them, residents were Gentile and it was my father’s job, as a handsome athletic teenager to deliver the orders by bicycle. Young boys would throw stones and racist slurs about his being Jewish.
As a little girl less than 4 years old, I would sit on the counter of my grandparents’ Dry Goods Store, looking ever so cute in one of the beautiful lacy, frilly, fancy dresses that my mother sewed for me, mixing the beans up in their bins, much to the dismay of the Zaidie, although ever so proud of his little granddaughter.
When Morley got big enough, about 3 years old, we would go outside to play on the grass in the front of the house on Major Street. Morley was always a troublemaker even when he was small. He would pick up the chestnuts that had fallen from the huge chestnut tree out front of their house and throw then at passing cars or people on bicycles and even aim for me! He and I always came home with a collection of chestnuts hidden in their outer rough cover. Inside were the smooth and shiny
There were many Sunday dinners at my Bubbie and Zaidie’s house, and after the meals, we would all sit glued to the TV set, watching the Ed Sullivan Show after dinner. On one of those nights in 1964, The Beatles performed for the first time in North America. That still is a historical moment for the music industry!
I was given 1 pound of shelled red skin peanuts. Only problem was they were 1) raw, and 2) they had the skins on.
Searching Google, the answer was to roast them. Well, I knew they would burn quickly and I am not good at roasting small things that need to be watched constantly. So I asked my Chinese friends how they cook them. The answer was: Dry fry them in a fry pan or wok, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 5-10 minutes, or until they are cooked. (no oil/no salt) Brilliant!
The problem came: How to get the skins off without spending a lifetime rubbing each little devil between your fingers. Tried Google to no avail. No suggestion was quicker. When cooled, I put them in a large ziplock baggie and waited for another Chinese friend in the morning, who would show me what to do.
While I waited, I pushed down on the peanuts in the bag, rubbing them against one another. That worked but I was still left with a mess of skins in the bag together with the cleaned peanuts. He told me to bring the peanuts and a flat basket and meet him outside in the courtyard.
We dumped the peanuts onto the basket, rubbed the peanuts a little more. Then we shook the basket over the plants, while blowing the skins away. More than brilliant! How perfect!
Good for the plants, no fuss/no muss cleanup for me. Voila! Skinned peanuts.
On a rare and beautiful weather winter’s day in downtown Toronto, Arlene and I made our way to deliver our stitched canvas panels to Temma Gentiles, the visionary and tireless volunteer of the project, TorahStitchByStitch.org. We met this great fabric artist and had a lovely chat, telling her how we came to do the stitching and what it meant to us.
It was wonderful to meet the genius behind the project, who works tirelessly to make everything run like clockwork. There’s so many stages to the project that require thousands of emails every month. Everything from seeking out volunteer stitchers, preparing and sending out the kits, assigning helpers to give a hand during the stitching phase, binding all the finished panels, and preparing and printing a book that documents all the stitcher’s works. With many events in the planning stage to display the works, this project is coming around the corner to the finish line!
I received this email message from one of the volunteers and excitedly found out that, YES! my panel has been accepted: “Just a quick note to thank you for your completed canvas. We are glad that you enjoyed this stitching project and found it so meaningful.
Your canvas is quite lovely and the lettering is strong and vivid. The border and the pastiche at the bottom add to it’s beauty. Yasher koach!”
You can see recent events, scanned panels and slide shows by clicking on these links to the website:
http://torahstitchbystitch.org/events-activity/summer-2017-collection/ and http://torahstitchbystitch.org/events-activity/previous-slide-shows/
Contact TorahStitchByStitch.org to volunteer to stitch a panel.
As you can tell, I am beaming with pride to be a part of this great stitching of the Torah scriptures and look forward to seeing it all hanging on a wall in some auspicious place!
I chose to do the stitching because the connection to Judaism and wonderfully creative project appealed to me so greatly. It felt like important work and really enticed me to want to complete this.
My illumination has some deep significance for me because of my connection to China through educational consulting and Chinese food cookbook writing. I chose to depict a Chinese gold yuanbao (pronounced ‘you-an bao’) which is an ancient form of gold or silver currency used until the 19th century in China because I did the stitching while I was in China and my verses refer to the retribution that was paid in many forms, with a lot of silver and gold.
I am proud of this work – that my stitching can be part of a larger global community of people who did this project together. I feel blessed that I was able to be included and my heart was touched by the feelings that it evoked in me about my treasured religion.
My goal for the past several months has been learning about watercolours. To continue achieving my goal, I completed this colour mixing chart this month to get to know my colours. It wasn’t quick – that’s because I have 30 colours.
Over the summer I had a great art fix with a new bunch of Daniel Smith watercolour paint tubes. I actually didn’t know where to begin choosing colours so I called on my watercolour Facebook friends for advice. I already had 6 tubes of DS that I had used in a Craftsty online class I took about watercolours and really loved the way they painted. I was eager to graduate to the artist quality paints from the Winsor & Newton Cotman paint set I had received from Kelly Medford’s class in Rome last year. This set was great to start and very easy to learn to use and carry around with. But after a year of using them, it was time to move on. At the end of the discussion I had a long list of ‘must have’ colours, whittled down to 24 more.
I found out that the colours you choose for your palette really depends on the type of painting you do. I haven’t stuck to one kind of painting (flowers, landscapes, still life) and am trying them all, so I just chose the colours that appeal to me the most. Since my new palette has room for more paints and moving them around, in the long run this choice is likely to change.
Studying how to mix paints to make attractive colours, I have found out that the 3 other paint mixing charts I’ve made have been so very helpful to use in my painting. Besides being helpful, the orderly esthetic of a finished chart appeals to my senses–somewhat like a work of art in and of itself!
Writing about the making a colour chart is my way of documenting it for myself for the future, and helping others to make their own colour charts!
You Will Need
- Sharp pencil & eraser
- Permanent marker
- Your watercolours, pans and tubes
- Your choice of paper
- Water container
- Paint brushes, one large (perhaps size 8) and one fine (perhaps size 2)
- Large white ceramic plate
- Small white ceramic plates
- Squeeze bottle (optional) to activate your paints for the pans
- Paper towel or cloth to wipe down your dishes.
Measuring Is the First Step
- I like to use a quilting ruler (but of course any ruler will do) because it’s got Metric and Imperial measurements, is see-through and has lines on the ruler, all helping with accurate measuring.
- I also like the Metric measures because when you have to use a calculator to divide the size of the paper by the amount of colours to get the size of the boxes that you paint in, you get an answer that’s in metric too.
- Jenny, in her blog post describes in great detail how to measure and draw out you chart, which is also the way I draw it out. Don’t forget to take your border measurement on all 4 sides into account.
- I also add a column to the far left and the top row to write the names of the colours.
Draw Out Your Chart
- Use a sharp pencil to measure how far apart the lines will be by ticking off the lines at the left side of the page and the right side. Then repeat with the top and bottom sides of the pages.
- Draw the first line by matching up the two ticks at either end, and using the ruler’s edge as a gauge to keep the lines straight. A see-through ruler is helpful to keeping the lines straight because you can match up the lines on the ruler to the edge of the paper or another line that is straight already.
- Write the names of the colours in the left column and at the top.
Put Your Paint in Order
Having grappled with the order of the paint colours before, the best way is to arrange your paints according to the ROYGBIV order. http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/ROYGBIV . Unfortunately I have a few out of order but it’s okay!
Call Me Crazy
On a whim, I decided that to be neat in my painting (because I knew it would be hard to paint in such small a squares without mixing the colours), I would mask out the space between each square to keep it between white.
It was fast because I used it directly from the bottle but definitely not in perfect lines. Oh well, art isn’t perfect! Using a fine brush to draw the lines, I thought, would take much more time.
I learned after a few lines that it was best to always keep the bottle held at a 45° angle. The angle keeps the air from flooding into the tip of the bottle and making a big blob when you put the tip to the paper. And have a paper towel or cloth nearby to wipe up the tip.
As it turns out it wasn’t so crazy as I didn’t have to focus on make the boxes so neat.
Painting Your Chart – Saving Paint and Time With My Process
I diverge from Jenny’s instructions here to save paint and time once the chart is graphed out.
1) In a small dish start with the first colour (horizontal or vertical doesn’t matter) and mix a juicy pure colour mixture with your large brush. Save time by using the paint straight from your tube (if you are making your own pans).
2) Around the outside of the large dish, deposit a small drop of the colour for each of the other colours (if you have 24 colours, you need 23 drops around the outside. If you have 18 colours, you need 17 drops, if you have 12 colours, you need 11 drops. Get the idea? Then paint the colour in the box over top of the name of that colour on the left side and at the top.
NOTE: if you paint the colours down the side and across the top, you don’t have to paint the mix of the same colour which makes a white diagonal line through the chart.
Paint swatch of the name of the colour in the left column and across the top.
3) Dip your small brush into the second colour right in your paint palette and load it half the consistency of water to paint as the first colour.
4) Add a same size drop of the second colour to one of the first colour drops on the big dish, mix together and paint in the right box on the paper. This will make a 1:2 ratio of first to second colour for every mix down the side of your paper. The swatches going down in the bottom half of your chart will have a 1:2 ratio and the swatches going across the top half of your chart will have a 2:1 ratio.
NOTE: If you wish to CHANGE the ratio, change the amount of colour you put on your brush. For example if you want 1:1, use the same size drop of the second colour as the first colour. Then you only need to mix the bottom half of the chart under the diagonal.
5) Clean off the dishes and brushes. For my chart this was the most tedious part of the project. Get clean water.
6) Repeat #2, #3, #4 and #5, painting the swatch of name of the colour in the left column and at the top. Then continue until you have all the colours mixed and painted.
Once the whole thing’s dry, erase the pencil lines and remove the masking fluid. Note the difference mixes down the diagonal and across the diagonal.
Take away for me:
I have a whole lot of beautiful colours.
Some are pure; some don’t mix well because they themselves are not pure. I got a lot of mud mixes with them.
Some are great for landscapes; some are ‘bubble gum’ colours.
Some are surprising like Buff Titanium, which is a beautiful colour on its own or mixed with other pigments.
Neutral Tint is anything but neutral – it’s a very strong back shade if you use too much.
All the purples are lovely. As are all the Quinacrodones.
*****Now to get painting more often!*****
P.S.> Your comments are greatly appreciated.
To say I am overjoyed would be an understatement. Almost 2 months to the day from when I started (August 6, 2017), I have completed my stitching. On September 16, 2017 I finished the script. Today, October 4, 2017, I finished the border and my illumination too.
Because I’m in China while doing this, I stitched a “yuanbao”, which is boat-like shaped silver or gold ingot currency used in Imperial China. Since the illuminations are limited to 5 colour choices and grey or silver isn’t one of them, I decided to keep it simple and make it gold using the allowed gold thread. I found the shape I liked, used an app to graph out the shape and went to work again!
The result is something to be proud of, while being very enjoyable to do! Thanks to the www.torahstitchbystitch.org organization for sharing this opportunity with me.
I have really enjoyed doing this. It hasn’t been easy because I had to redo a lot of the stitches to get it right. Here are the photos of my progress in the past month:
TaDa!!!!!! Today I finished stitching the last characters. Thankfully now I don’t have to ‘kill myself’ for not completing it within the 6-month time-frame that’s allotted to each of us!
And now it’s onto the illumination for the text, an optional choice in the stitching — but since I have lot’s of empty space, I’ll do one, even though it’s going to be a challenge to find the right colour combination. Stay tuned to part 3!
My friend invited me to a synagogue to see some wonderful needlepoint and to a listen to a presentation by her sister-in-law. I was immediately drawn to photograph the huge project hanging on the walls of the huge room in the synagogue.
Being an avid crafter all of my life, embroiderer, crocheter, knitter, sewer, quilter, scrapbooker, miniaturist, sketcher, painter and artist, it would come as no surprise that I was mesmerized by the project that was before my eyes.
Having never participated in Shabbat services (even when living two short blocks from a synagogue for several years) I do not consider myself to be religious in any way. But if a Jewish holiday is coming up, I always prepare a lesson and a craft or cooking activity in class about that holiday. I do possess knowledge of the religious and historical significance of most of the holidays and avidly cook traditional food that I serve during them. To me, it’s all about bringing family together to celebrate Jewish tradition, but not in the pure religious manner.
One spin off is being a part of something much bigger than just doing some cross-stitch. Imagine I’m part of a worldly group of thousands and cross-stitching the Torah in Hebrew, including: an agnostic Jewish woman, a Mormon fire chief, a Muslim immigrant from Turkey and a Mother Superior at a church in the English countryside to mention just a few.
During the presentation, I was enlightened to the Torah containing 5 books, being: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. What I had seen on the walls was only the first book. They needed more than 300 more volunteers. I was in!
Signing up to cross-stitch a portion really did surprise me though, but looking back, I thought it was inspiring, a way to go back to my Jewish roots, participate in a huge project and do my share, along with create something so meaningful and do some handwork, something that I hadn’t done for many years.
I was so eager to get into the work and dug right in. I thought it was good enough to baste the borders on the cloth! Then stitch, rip out, stitch, rip out for the first row and part of the second. Humm! So much ripping out and I was going to run out of thread. I hadn’t carefully read the instructions, helpful hints or tips and at first I thought I had failed. Well, failure is not a word in my vocabulary. So I decided that I’d better be a ‘good student’, I went to do my research.
After the first week of stitching and I have finished 2 complete rows (5.5 more rows to go)…and I think it looks pretty good!
My portion is Numbers 7:55-7:58. It is part of the story of an outsider from another country who has an affair with the wife of the Israelite leader at the time. This causes a war between the countries. The Israelites win and the punishment is that the outsider must pay retribution in the form of one silver charger of the weight of an hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering, one golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense, one young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year, for a burnt offering and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. My portion is short and leaves a large portion at the bottom of the aida cloth which is big enough for an illumination (illustration) for embroidering. Being in China while doing this stitching, I am thinking that I may embroider a yuanbao, which is ‘boat-like’ type of silver or gold ingot currency used in imperial China. Since the illuminations are limited to 5 colour choices and grey or silver isn’t one of them, I’d have to get creative!
If I don’t finish in 6 months I won’t kill myself, but I certainly will think about it…haha@!
For more information on how to sign up to stitch, or to visit the exhibit at Darchei Noam in Toronto, visit torahstitchbystitch.org (mention my name and they’ll mail you a kit).
Interesting reading about this delightful project at http://nationalpost.com/news/religion/the-stitched-torah-toronto-tapestry-project-inspires-volunteers-from-around-the-world/wcm/53889c37-86c3-40d2-91e6-1e4ae6062e83
Now here’s a recipe that sings fall! An amazing taste that can’t be better. Your house will smell like pumpkin pie.