As Passover approaches many people are no doubt wondering what is ahead in world with the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus? Regardless, people of faith have always turned to the spiritual and eternal to find comfort and strength in uncertainty.
One person approaching this difficult time of uncertainty with faith is San Francisco artist Aimee Golant. This past February Golant reached out to this reporter explaining her artistic goal. Saying it simply, she seeks to foster more peace in the world. Yet she understands that in order for that to happen it must begin locally right at home. As she told the Jewish News of Northern California, “I needed to turn towards our community to heal some of the polarity there.”
People by nature are very complex and even in very solid social circles where family, tradition and faith are upheld continuously, there are divisions. In Judaism there are distinctions if not always a divide between what is referred to as “orthodox and non-orthodox” Jews. In everyday terms this means people who are very observant in religious practices and those who are less observant. Or, perhaps to express it in another way, they are more secular in approach. Some might even refer to it as a divide between conservative and liberal approaches to religious observances.
While Golant notes that she is less strictly observant than more orthodox-conservative minded people, she sees a need to at least try to mend this division.
The uniqueness about Golant as both an artist and practitioner of Judaism is the fact that she is a 6th generation metal-smith artist whose father is of the Cohen ancestry line. She is also the granddaughter of a Holocost survivor.
For those unfamiliar with Judaism, the surname of Cohen is associated with the priestly tribe of Cohanim going all the way back to the ancient scriptures found in The Bible.
What is even more unique is that Golant and her sister are the last in their family of the Cohen line. The priestly aspects assigned to the Cohen name and ancestry has held a significant role and meaning in Judaism. In the priestly role those in Cohen line are the ones that provide the liturgical duties, the blessings to the people.
Golant’s inspiration to follow this goal of fostering peace within her community began when she had series of vivid dreams about a client who made a request. The client asked Golant to make a special bracelet, one with a special blessing inscribed on the inside, called The Priestly Blessing. Traditionally, only those defended from Aaron (the Cohanim) would administer this blessing. Nowadays, as Golant noted, many Jewish parents bestow this blessing upon their children after lighting the candles on the sabbath eve – Friday Night.
While Golant has made many sacred pieces, from Menorahs to mezuzahs over the years, this special bracelet was definitely out of the routine. Recognizing the unexpected significance, Golant realized providing this bracelet with a special blessing inscribed was actually a prayer asking, seeking and bringing to the person the inner sense of peace that is a gift from heaven.
Keeping in mind the bracelet she made is no ordinary piece. Golant set out to accomplish this with the utmost care. It was designed and made according to Jewish law and customs. This special bracelet is not to be treated as just another trinket to wear. With its blessing inscribed on the inside, the bracelet has a specific and special purpose, like an amulet. It is a sacred piece to be cherished.
Golant sought guidance from Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi and his wife, Chani (of Congregation Chevra Thilim in San Francisco), and Rabbi Yehuda Ferris and his wife, Miriam (of Chabad Synagogue in Berkeley). “My goal is to create more partnerships among the Jewish people,” she said to me.
Illustrating the distinctive lines between Orthodox Jews and Non-orthodox, Golant said. “Many Orthodox Jews believe that since about 1990 we have entered into the Messianic Age.”
“According to the Orthodox, during this Messianic time, there are special rules that apply, Golant said. Some of the new rules include the growing strength of women as leaders in our community.” For some who have received the prayer-blessing bracelets by Golant’s clients, the idea of a ‘Wonder Woman’ figure comes to mind, as reported in the J-News. “With the internet in this era, said Golant, there is greater openness now between Secular-Orthodox-Non-Jews than ever before.”
“One example of this openness, Golant explained is my new found Orthodox friends in Israel, who are sharing Judaism with humanity via the Noahide Laws. These ‘Laws’ Golant mentions are basically those upheld and detailed in Jewish tradition. This is the covenant after the great flood between the Creator and Noah, his children and descendants as mentioned in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 9.
Speaking further about her Orthodox-practicing friends in Israel, Golant said. “They are more open to sharing Judaism with non-Jews and they are open to discussing G-d, philosophy etc. with me— a secular Jewish Woman.”
When Golant shared her thoughts about the sacred for this article, she pointed out that in the Jewish faith, people are very mindful of the use of the reference to the divine. It is not something to be written causally, especially on common things like a dollar bill “In G-d We Trust,” for example. It goes back to the 10 Commandments, of not taking the Lord’s sacred name in vain. Especially when praying or asking for blessing.
“So my ideas about sharing Torah, noted Golant – the Jewish Calendar, the Holy Days, Rituals and Ritual Objects with Jews and especially with Non-Jews is more in-line with this new Messianic Era than with past polarity.”
“I believe that in order for the Jewish people to be the greatest bearers of light, we must come together (Secular and Orthodox) and share our light with humanity. And, we do this, said Golant, in whatever way we can. My way is through the art and art objects,” she said. To learn more about metal artist and sacred object design maker Aimee Golant, visit her web site.