From T-Shirts to Torah Table

Laurel "Dafna" Robinson7.28.21

In my role as “former Rosh Omanut (Head of Art),” I recently led a Camp Ramah Darom Alumni Association (CRDAA) virtual limmud (learning) program and taught about Hiddur Mitzvah – the practice of making each mitzvah as beautiful as possible.  The inspiration comes from a passage in Shirat HaYam (Song of the Sea) where the Israelites are reminded to glorify God.

Historically, the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah became the foundation and, in effect, the reason for all Jewish crafting of amazing ritual objects. From the dressing of Torahs with beautiful crowns, breastplates and mantels to ornate Torah pointers, Kiddush cups, Channukiot (Chanukah Menorah), as well as beautiful synagogue architecture. We have a very rich history of silver- and gold-smiths, ark carvers and synagogue painters that were able to make a living creating these objects as fulfillment of Hiddur Mitzvah.

Another layer to the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah is that Jews become more beautiful by performing mitzvot, and we do glorify God by performing the commandments in the most beautiful manner.

During all of my 20 years at Camp, I felt honored to work with amazing staff and campers and perform Hiddur Mitzvah, creating Torah tables, arks, tzedakah boxes, mezuzot, steel sculptures, candle-lighting station, and other pieces all over Camp. At some point, I realized that Camp itself is a mitzvah. We are commanded to teach our children to live in Jewish community, to share in Shabbat and holidays, to follow the dietary rules and to lead ethical lives. And so, to have the privilege of being Rosh Omanut allowed me to make Camp as beautiful as possible, and to encourage campers and staff to share in this process with me.

When I taught the CRDAA limmud session, the alumni were inspired to create something to use at Camp this 25th summer and had the idea of a sewing project. Now, I have expertise in lots of art media, but my biggest deficit is using a sewing machine. It’s one of the few power tools I don’t operate! Over the years I have learned that when confronted with your own limitations, get help from the experts. So, I called Deana Linfield, a longtime Camp Omanut staff member who knits and sews.

We all know how everyone loves their Ramah Darom t-shirts, so Deana proposed making a quilt with alumni out of old Camp t-shirts. In my longstanding Omanut practice of Hiddur Mitzvah, I suggested fashioning the quilt as a Mappa (table cover for reading Torah). And the planning began.

Many alumni contributed a piece of a Camp t-shirt with their name and Camp Ramah Darom years. Past and present Camp tzevet (staff) members designed artwork to be incorporated into the Mappa. Penny Goldstein, Rosh Omanut for Machzor (Session) Aleph 2021 and a staff member from the early years, created several colorful squares. Susan Lubliner, a former Camp staffer and an amazing calligrapher, added a lovely square with a turtle, and I made various block prints to balance out the piece.

After our limmud program, Camp alumni mailed their personalized shirt squares to Deana. In consultation with her 87-year-old mother, Marilyn Diamond, who has sewn quilts for over 60 years, Deana assembled all the elements together.

In honor of our 25th summer, the completed beautiful CRDAA Torah table mappa now resides in the Beit Knesset at Ramah Darom! We hope that this first CRD Alumni Association Legacy Project will be used every time the Torah is read this summer and for many summers to come.

About the Author

Laurel “Dafna” Robinson

For 20 summers, as Camp Ramah Darom Rosh Omanut (Head of Art), Dafna helped design, plan, facilitate and supervise incredible Judaic art legacy projects that have become integral parts of Camp.

Dafna works year-round as Chair of the Visual Arts Department at Georgia Southwestern University in Americus, GA. She teaches drawing and painting and supervises artists, including several who have collaborated on projects, such as glassblowing and the steel structures, around our campus.

If alumni wish to participate in creating additional t-shirt quilt mappot or have another legacy art project idea, please email alumni@ramahdarom.org and let us know!