A number of people have been asking about the small, thin boxes that have been added to many of the doorposts, beginning with the dedication of the Bonnie and Donald Dwares JCC in May. These decorative cases and tubes are mezuzot, which have marked the doorposts of Jewish homes since biblical times. Inside each mezuzah (singular for mezuzot) is a parchment scroll containing the section of the book of Deuteronomy which mentions that Jews should “write these words [the Shema statement that there is but one, unique God] on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.” When you are in the administrative wing, you may see the mezuzah scrolls themselves, rolled up in plastic tubes that form the cases.
The Hebrew letter shin a usually appears on the outside of the decorative case. This is the first letter of the Hebrew word Shaddai, which means Almighty/God. This word is also an acronym for “protector of the doors of Israel.” The case itself has become an object of artistic expression and can be of nearly any material, as you can see when you walk around the Dwares JCC.
The Jewish Alliance deliberately selected mezuzot that reflect some of our values. For instance, some contain embroidery by members of a workshop for the elderly conducted by Lifeline for the Old/Yad Lakashish in Jerusalem, which renews the sense of purpose and self-worth of the elderly people who find creative work there. The designs are Ethiopian, which recall that many Jews came to Israel from Ethiopia, primarily in 1984 and 1991 after enduring many hardships.
Those designs, as well as the designs of the wooden mezuzot with hand-painted acrylic colors, feature the seven species of the Land of Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, dates, figs, olives, and pomegranates). They remind us of our connections to the land of Israel.
The shin is stylized at the top of most cases in the lobbies. The rainbow design reminds us of everyone’s common descent, as told in the Bible, expressing the value that no one has a better lineage than any other person in the world.
Between the lobby and the administrative wing is a pewter mezuzah (pictured at the top) on which the words of the Shema are etched into the mezuzah cover. This mezuzah was donated by Alliance staff to express our appreciation to Jeffrey K. Savit, the first CEO and President of the Jewish Alliance. The case was designed by a female metal smith who was inspired by a 2010 Birthright trip to Israel which deepened her connection to Israel and to Judaism.
For more information about the mezuzot placed throughout the Alliance, contact Larry Katz at firstname.lastname@example.org.