Folk Art PA

Susan Leviton

Jewish Calligraphy and Papercutting
(Practising Spirituality)

Susan Leviton’s interest in traditional Jewish papercuts grew out of years of creating hand-illuminated ketubot for weddings, births and other Jewish rites of passage.  She is also an accomplished vocalist with a passion for researching and performing a capella Yiddish music. She lives in Harrisburg.

"Discovering historical Jewish papercut art means you connect to a spiritual sensibility that was once part of everyday life.  The challenge when making a papercut is that everything has to be connected.  If not, a piece will fall out.”

“Traditional papercutting is an egalitarian craft – all you need is the paper and a knife.  But, Jewish papercutting is not solely decorative.  The words or images in the papercut refer to text either from the Torah, from the Psalms, or from a traditional Hebrew blessing.  The papercut also serves a ritual function.  Whether at home or in the synagogue; whether personal or communal, the papercut is tied to a life cycle event or an observance in the Jewish calendar.”

This example includes the traditional Hebrew house blessing in the center, with an English translation in one of the surrounding rings.  The inner ring depicts the seven biblical species growing in the land of Israel (wheat, barley, pomegranate, dates, grapes, olives and figs).