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Jul 28

A new genre of Judaica out of Africa

When the Klei Torah silverware was stolen from Temple Israel in Hillbrow, the first progressive synagogue founded in South Africa, the two sister progressive synagogues in Johannesburg, Beit Emanuel and Beit David, joined forces to form a communal project for funding to replace them. The project was initiated and driven by Beit Emanuel’s Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked.

The project was intended to honour Temple Israel for the foundation work that the synagogue has done in the community.Temple Israel, a beautiful Art Deco building in the historical heart of Hillbrow and a heritage site, this year celebrated its 80th anniversary.torah for website

Friends in the community felt after the robbery that it would be very sad to open the Ark and show Torahs that were bare, especially during such a commemorative time.

Kevin Friedman from Beit Emanuel, who works with the jewellers Frankli Wild, was asked to replace the stolen Klei Torah as a special commission for the 80th birthday celebrations and to bring a symbiosis between the Jewish faith and Africa.His brief was to create a brand new genre for Judaica out of Africa.

Kevin has been involved with his beadwork project since 1989, pushing the boundaries of design including Judaica (for example beaded chamsikas), and loved the idea of including beadwork in the new look Klei Torah.

During the six week project Kevin worked closely with Rabbi Shaked who gave the project invaluable input, wanting the work to be strongly African by incorporating primary colours.

The chair of Temple Israel, Reeva Forman, says: “The new Klei Torah pieces are the perfect symbol of the religious, spiritual and emotional connection tying up the Torah and Africa. They represent Temple Israel perfectly, showing the connection between us and our outreach programmes.”

Kevin put some concept designs together in a sketchbook and worked out the proportions and sizes needed.

He made three sets of Klei Torah, including breastplates, yad and rimonum, all embellished with traditional Ndebele beadwork patterns fused to silver plated metal.

The result is impressive and when the curtains of the Ark open to reveal the Torah scrolls, they are exquisitely dressed, befitting of the 80th anniversary of this historic Temple.

Kevin can be contacted at kgf@frankliwild.com