Since 1991, Emily Rosenfeld has created mezuzot, Stars of David, Miriam’s and Elijah’s cups, candlesticks and other Judaica in pewter and silver. Both Emily and her Judaica have become beloved by thousands of Jews who find her work beautiful, fun, and inspiring. She lives and works in Massachusetts.
Where are you from? How was it growing up Jewish there?
I was born in St. Louis, then moved to Los Angeles when I was 11. I was raised culturally Jewish but my family did not practice. So from this very assimilated place, being Jewish was just who I was, not necessarily about other people or the entire community.
What is your art/design background? How did you wind up creating Judaica?
I was an English major who always worked for jewelers during college. It quickly became apparent that I wanted to make my living this way, too. I just jumped in with pretty much no training. Because my work has a very graphic element and has used representational shapes, people started asking me for Judaic images. It really is an interesting exercise for me to find my relationship with Judaism that before I started creating Judaica, I knew only culturally. Through my work I have learned about Judaica and Judaism. It has been a very meaningful journey.
What was the reaction to your Judaica? Which pieces are people's favorites?
The Judaic pieces—Stars of David and Chais—were immediately successful and there was a lot of excitement around them. My mezuzot are the core of what I do. I love the concept of the mezuzah, not only the religious meaning, which is powerful, but also as a beautifully designed object that holds, safely inside it, something sacred. Mezuzot are what I began making after the jewelry. They were so well-received and continue to be what I sell the most of.
How do you see the work you do as different from the Judaica you grew up with in your home?
In my home there was a traditional brass menorah, period. But what I saw around me often had a somber quality and reflected a traditional aesthetic I did not share. My work is both more contemporary than what I had seen and more playful. I want it to have an element of joy that is tangible and also for the work to be strong and reverent. I want to make traditional objects that reflect and celebrate a modern sensibility.
Do people buy your pieces mostly as gifts or for themselves?
That’s tricky. I think it is bought both ways. Often it seems someone buys something for him or herself or is given something and then buys it for others and keeps buying it for bat mitzvahs and weddings. My customers are so loyal, something for which I am extremely grateful.
In what other ways, besides making Judaica, do you express your Jewish identity?
I think it is through making my work that I most clearly express my Jewish identity…I just am Jewish. I feel my worldview is tempered by my heritage, my sense of community and its importance and my commitment to exploring and questioning ideas. I feel very culturally connected to being Jewish and my customers have embraced me so thoroughly. We are an extended family.
What has been your biggest challenge in making and selling Judaic pieces?
The Judaic pieces have come easily. The richly and deeply meaningful Jewish tradition offers such a fertile context from which ideas and pieces can emerge. I want to make work that has meaning to others; that is what is both meaningful and inspiring to me.
Emily Rosenfeld crafts in a converted factory filled with other artists in Western Massachusetts. You can purchase Emily Rosenfeld Judaica from ModernTribe.com.