As mainstays of a Jewish home, the ceremonial and ritualistic art and objects known as Judaica are often first viewed as having a certain aesthetic. “People assume Judaica is automatically kitsch,” says Ruby Zuckerman, who manages production at Judaica Standard Time, a design company that constantly modernizes these iconic objects to reclaim their place in the contemporary home. Founded in 2020 by David Kitz, Jesse Kivel and Michael David, the label works with artists and designers from different cultural backgrounds to expand the understanding and perception around Judaica.
Judaica Standard Time: ‘modernist design, handcrafted craftsmanship and cross-cultural connection’
In the years since, Judaica Standard Time has created Hanukkah cards, menorahs, Shabbat candle holders and mezuzahs – a decorative container usually attached to a home’s door frame, with Hebrew verses written on parchment – that resonate with both observant and secular Jews.
His list of collaborators includes some of the most relatable creatives in the American design scene, such as Bzippy’s Bari Zipperstein, musician Devendra Banhart, ceramicist Debbie Carlos and artist Mike Paré.
‘JST’s collection reflects the interests and concerns of the Jews we know today – we are interested in modernist design, handmade craftsmanship and cross-cultural connection,’ continues Zuckerman. “I think we’ve brought forward ideas about traditional Judaica by showing that we can be empowered to take something very old and bring it into the present moment while still honoring that history and past.” I feel that a lot of people express themselves through design in other aspects of their lives, but see Judaica as something untouchable or stuck in the past – so we like to push back on that idea.’
Modern Menorahs by Judaica Standard Time
Judaica Standard Time’s latest creation is a collection of modern menorahs, made in collaboration with furniture-making studio Sunfish NYC, just in time for Hanukkah. Consisting of a row of river rocks, simply displayed on a sapele wood board, which has been carved and carved by hand to complement the unique shape of each stone, the menorah also quietly nods to Isamu Noguchi and his restraint when at the manipulation of materials comes . Sunfish’s choice of stones as a motif is also symbolic in Jewish culture; in Hebrew the word for pebble is a homonym with the word for ‘bond’. Stones are also typically placed on top of the headstone by Jewish mourners as a symbol of love and respect.
‘We really strive to produce objects that don’t have to be thrown away when a certain holiday is over [and can] comfortable[y] be part of people’s homes,” concludes Zuckerman. ‘We want our pieces to be a seamless part of someone’s interior aesthetic, where they genuinely enjoy seeing their menorah or Seder plate all year round. In this way, Jewish identity can be more integrated into a personal aesthetic, and can be a source of enjoyment and pride instead of being pushed away when not used.’
She adds, ‘Our designers have shared that there is often a kind of stubborn confusion when they share that they are working on Judaica. Perhaps it’s some internalized or subliminal antisemitism, that we don’t automatically assume that something related to Judaism will be beautiful or well-designed. People are pleasantly surprised and very excited to see our pieces. It was nice to give people an excuse to reconnect with their culture.’
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