Patchwork Perspectives: The Memphis-Israel Quilt

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Story by Melinda Lejman, JCP Israel at 70 Coordinator

Update: The Memphis-Israel Quilt” will be on display at the JCC between August 9th and August 23rd.  We’d love for folks in the community to stop by and see it! 

I have a quilt that I kept on my bed as a child. The quilt was handmade by my grandmother, and displays a geometric floral pattern seen often in quilts of its kind. The background, a vibrant yellow, has faded over time, and some of the flower petals, a mix-matched design of varying fabric, are coming up around the corners.

I keep the quilt folded in my closet, too afraid to let anyone use it. But every time I steal a glance, while reaching around it for another blanket or set of sheets, I’m momentarily connected to my childhood and warm memories of the woman who made it especially for me. While she’s been gone for over fifteen years, that quilt keeps her with me, and I will one day pass it along to my children, although they’ve never known her.

I know another quilter, a grandmother like mine, who shows love through her quilts. A Russian immigrant to Memphis, Sofia Zamuel has lived in our community for 35 years. I met with her recently to talk about a project we’re coordinating at Jewish Community Partners as part of the Memphis Celebrates Israel at 70 Campaign.

“Patchwork Perspectives: The Memphis-Israel Quilt” is a community art project being launched this month with opportunities to participate through February. We’re asking everyone, from professional artist to kindergarten cutie, to create an artistic impression on one of the quilt’s squares that reflects their connection to Israel, whether it’s a drawing, a painting, a poem, or incorporates mixed media like collage or embroidery. All ideas are welcome. The final product, a beautiful, eclectic quilt, will be unveiled at the JCC’s annual Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration.

As Sofia took me through her home, layer upon layer of quilts tucked away in almost every room, I noticed the many framed photos of her grandchildren. “Your grandchildren are beautiful!” I told her. Her eyes lit up at their mention. “I’m in love with them,” she replied, and she laughed when she told me how many quilts she has tried to send home with her grandkids, and how they each found their way back to Sofia’s house. “They tell me they have enough!”

Luckily, her enthusiasm and good nature have made her the perfect quilter for this project. “It was really divine intervention that brought this project together,” says Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, the Community Impact Director at JCP. Sofia’s mother had just passed away, and during a shiva call, Bluma couldn’t help but notice all the quilts around her. Then an idea started forming. “We had been brainstorming for weeks about what kind of community art project we wanted to bring to the campaign,” she said. “We all feel this is the perfect fit.”

From kids, to adults, to seniors, we want everyone to participate, if they feel so inclined. No level of artistic ability is needed. Much like the quilt, this campaign has been a multi-textured and beautiful tribute to Israel through our My Israel Story series, the events we’re planning, and much more. We welcome your perspective, so get in touch and join the celebration.

Melinda Lejman is the Project Coordinator for the Israel at 70 Campaign. Contact her at to learn more about the campaign or to get involved. Individuals and organizations are welcome to participate. Follow the Memphis Celebrates Israel at 70 Facebook page here. 

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