Renewed thanks to Idelle Hammond-Sass for donating her time and creativity to make AARC’s yad, and to Emily Eisbruch and Clare Kinberg for writing this article in the Washtenaw Jewish News.
Many thanks to AARC member Idelle Hammond-Sass for creating a beautiful new Yad for our congregation. Yad, literally “hand” in Hebrew, is a pointer used by the Torah reader to keep the place while reading. Below is Q&A with Idelle about the Yad.
EE (Emily Eisbruch): Idelle, how did you come to create a new Yad for the AARC?
Idelle: My creation of a new Yad came about after Rabbi Michal had given me the existing Yad to repair; it had broken at the hand end. I tried to fix it but it came back bent and on the verge of breaking again. The problem was that it was made by electro-forming, a process that deposits thin layers of silver over wax. The wax inside prevented me from attempting to solder it. Many Israeli pieces are made this way. The chain on the new Yad is from the previous one.
EE: So when the attempts to repair the existing Yad were unsuccessful, you offered to create a new one?
Idelle: Yes, I offered to make a new Yad for the AARC and Julie Norris generously offered to cover the materials. I donated the design and labor. I hope this way we have something unique and local from the group rather than a piece that we would have picked out of a catalog or mass produced.
EE: What were your inspirations as you created the design for the new Yad?
Idelle: I did a little searching online and in books on Judaic art for examples of Yads. I also was reminded of my Bat Mitzvah Torah portion (Ki Tisa) which included the construction of the Mishkan/sacred space. I love that we have constructed our own Mishkan, both figuratively and metaphorically.
Thinking about making a Yad for the congregation I was drawn to use the leaf and branches on the Tree of Life, as in our welcoming logo, and to reflect the tree motif we are working on for the Torah Tapestry. I also had a long piece of heavy triangular sterling tubing that looked perfect and asked a few Torah readers to hold it and give me feedback on the shape. Barbara Boyk Rust, Deb Kraus and Harry Fried all agreed it was also easy to hold and handle which is important as it was to be used by small and large hands.
EE: Tell us about the process of creating the Yad.
Idelle: I sketched and kept changing the design right through the crafting of the piece. I was working hard to finish in time for the High Holidays and decided to use 14k gold to accent the sterling. Both ends were cut at an angle to allow a Star of David to be placed on one end and a pointer on the other. The star was an inherent design possibility in the triangle tubing and I cut a piece off and backed it with 14k and soldered that to one end.
EE: What was the most challenging part of creating the Yad?
Idelle: Creating the pointer was the most difficult design solution to make on this piece. I strive for asymmetrical balance and did not want a ‘literal’ hand at the end, so the branch continues and a gold leaf points the way for the reader. Each leaf is made by hand and the leaves and triangle wire that forms the branch is soldered on separately, each one added till it visually “works”.
EE: How did your previous Judaica work inform your work on this project?
Idelle: Before making this Yad, I have made numerous Mezzuzot, including one design I call “12 elements” for the 12 tribes, and a Menorah that has multiple pieces called “Sparks of Renewal” which was exhibited at an exhibit at the Janet Charach Gallery at the JCC a few years ago. (I have also made a sterling Tzedakah box for another exhibit. Both are in private collections.) I have been able to make other Torah pointers as commissioned gifts.
EE: How does making a Yad compare to making jewelry?
Idelle: A Yad is on a much larger scale than most jewelry, and it takes quite a lot of time to solder larger pieces and make them work visually and technically. Sterling silver is soldered near 900 degrees with an air/gas acetelyne torch.
EE: What are your reflections related to making the Yad?
Idelle: It was a rewarding process and one that also gives back to my spirit. While soldering on the branch, I sang Ahava Rabah. I share my gratitude for the opportunity to make this special piece for our community.
EE: We understand that your husband Dale was also involved?
Idelle: Yes, Dale made the beautiful box to hold the Yad. It is made out of cherry wood, which is the same as our Torah table
EE: Idelle, we appreciate your sharing this story of the creation of the Yad, and we thank you so much for this wonderful gift to the AARC, which has already become a treasured object and which symbolizes a beautiful and meaningful connection between our congregation and the Torah.
To learn more about Idelle’s artwork, see her website at http://www.idellehammond-sass.com