(New York Jewish Week) — Among the 6,000 knitters descending on Times Square this week for a major fiber arts convention is a first-time attendee from Israel who hopes a shawl she made can counteract anti-Israel sentiment in the knitting community.
A mother of seven and a grandmother of two, Liza Rodrig, 48, is something of a handicraft and fashion icon in her own country. She has been on Israeli television, boasts a significant social media following and has even had her work featured on a virtual runway during Tel Aviv’s Fashion Week.
But Rodrig has never before been to Vogue Knitting Live, an extravaganza of fiber arts that features fashion shows, demonstrations, exhibits and a marketplace of luxury yarns and craft tools. She decided to make the trip after Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked southern Israel and plunged Israel into despair.
Armed with knitting needles and a deep belief that the craft “heals and fills the soul,” the Tel Aviv native began developing a new design soon after the attack. “The October 7 Shawl” is made of a cashmere-merino wool blend and mohair, knit into an elongated, triangular form that resembles the State of Israel. The shawl features a Star of David motif — and a seven-color gradient moving from black to to salmon to pink to white.
“I found myself choosing dark colors that slowly lighten — then I realized that this is what I want: to convey the message of what happened in Israel,” Rodrig said. “Oct. 7 — we didn’t think we would be able to get up from it — and how, little by little, optimism returns and therefore the colors become brighter.”
Rodrig will be showing off her design at an open house about Jewish knitting during Vogue Knitting Live as well as in a series of Zoom sessions in which knitters can create their own Oct. 7 shawls together as part of a community. (The events are organized by “Beautifully Jewish,” a monthly podcast on Jewish material culture from Tablet Magazine that this reporter co-hosts.)
Her participation in the trade show is welcome for Jewish knitters who say they have felt isolated and hurt by the reaction to Oct. 7 in what is typically a warm community, one that engages widely on social issues, not just on matters of skeins and stitches.
“I was stunned by the initial lack of support by the knitting community, which historically has been quick to jump on social issues,” said Sue Blumberg of Larchmont, New York. She said some community members posted online “anti-Israel rhetoric without ever acknowledging the atrocities of Oct. 7. … and I was so angry at the growing visibility of antisemitism in what had always been my safe haven, the knitting community.”
Instagram, the visual social network where much knitting conversation takes place, has been rife with fighting and disinformation over the Israel-Hamas war. Hateful comments piled up on posts that ordinarily would have drawn feedback about new patterns and projects. Some Jewish knitters decided to skip major events such as the NY Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York, out of fear that they would face emotional, verbal or even physical conflict. The dynamic has left lasting scars for some longtime knitters.
“Knitting had been a place I went to to buoy my spirits, lift up my heart. Right now, knitting feels equally fraught, equally painful, and that has been a hard place to find myself,” said Simone Heymann of Portland, Oregon. “It has been hard to feel so unwanted, so hated, amongst people I thought were ‘my people.’”
The division was not an online-only phenomenon. In Brooklyn, Lauren Gottlieb was part of a local knitting group for years and was stunned when members of her unit, all aware she was Jewish, didn’t text or call after Oct. 7.
“We just all watched a pogrom on TV! In 2023! I am not religious at all, don’t believe in God, but I am culturally Jewish — these women were at my son’s very small bar mitzvah but yet nobody thought to ask if I was OK,” she said.
Gottlieb will attend her sixth Vogue Knitting Live this year — this time wearing an indelible mark of Jewish pride. “I will be sure I wear something off-the-shoulder to show off my new ‘We Will Dance Again’ tattoo,” she said, referring to a motto adopted by survivors of the Oct. 7 Nova music festival massacre in Israel. “It’s, to me, the way others wear a Jewish star necklace.”
Now, Rodrig’s scarf could become a shared symbol for the Jewish knitting community. Having struggled as a student with dyslexia, she discovered that her intelligence and creativity knew no bounds in the world of sticks and strings after her mother-in-law taught her to knit 20 years ago. She soon started designing her own knitting patterns and eventually launched Liza Wool, a home-based knitting, sewing, weaving studio and school.
Liza Wool is a partnership between Liza and her husband, entrepreneur Kfir Rodrig. The pair met two years after Liza’s first husband died in a tragic accident, leaving the young widow alone with their daughter. When Liza met Kfir’s mother, the gentle tapping sounds of her knitting needles drew Liza to learn to knit — and from there, her relationship with Kfir, and knitting, took flight. Within a year the two were married and by 2022, Liza’s knitting-lesson business outgrew their living room and into a boho craft oasis in their backyard.
The upgraded space is made up of a series of connected wood-paneled rooms – one for weaving, one for sewing – leading to a homey chalet lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with a wide array of colorful textured yarns. Rodrig’s colorful designs adorn dress forms around the room.
“Everyone who comes to our school feels that they are cut off and are in a kind of village, even though it is in the center of Ramat HaSharon,” Rodrig said, referring to the central Israeli city where the family lives.
She believes her family — the six kids still at home and yellow Labrador Retriever Lucas — who float in and out of the craft spaces contributes to the warm, welcoming vibe because “everyone feels the good atmosphere and all my students are a part of it,” she said.
That space turned into a respite after Oct. 7. With many Israelis turning to crafting to take a break from worry and bad news, Rodrig has had to add another table to accommodate all those who want to knit together.
Now, Rodrig is making her first trip to the Big Apple in 21 years, this time with a singular focus on the craft that saved her after the traumatic loss of her first husband. Her big dreams for the convention: meet knitwear design guru Shirley Paden-Bernstein, source new yarns for her shop in Ramat HaSharon and share her shawl with American Jews in need of support.
Though Rodrig’s new design is named The October 7 Shawl, she was thinking about the future when she designed it. Her journey to New York is meant to strengthen the American Jewish knitting community and give its members a way to wrap themselves in comfort.
”I asked for divine guidance on expressing the depth of my feelings,” she said, adding that the resulting design “mirrors the resilience of the Jewish community [and] encapsulates the journey from darkness to light.”
IDF Announces Major Eyal Shuminov Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in Gaza
i24 News – During a raid on Gaza’s Zeytun neighborhood, Major Eyal Shuminov of the Givati Brigade was tragically killed by an anti-tank missile.
The incident occurred when IDF forces identified a Hamas terrorist on the roof of a building and subsequently eliminated him.
Major Shuminov, a company commander in the Shaked Battalion (424) of the Givati Brigade, hailed from Karmiel and was just 24 years old at the time of his death. The IDF announced that he fell in battle on the 24th of Adar HaSphad (February 24, 2024).
His death marks the loss of 238 IDF soldiers since the start of the ground invasion in Gaza.
Following his death, Major Shuminov was posthumously promoted from the rank of captain to the rank of major. The IDF has extended its condolences to Major Shuminov’s family and pledged to continue supporting them during this difficult time.
The post IDF Announces Major Eyal Shuminov Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in Gaza first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Netanyahu: Cabinet Will Vote on Rafah Operation Next Week
i24 News – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed plans for a cabinet meeting next week to finalize the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) strategy for an operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilians from the area.
The decision comes amid ongoing negotiations with Hamas regarding the release of hostages held by the militant group.
In a statement posted on social media platform X on Saturday, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of reaching a new framework for the release of hostages and the completion of the elimination of Hamas battalions in Rafah. He underscored the necessity of a combination of military pressure and diplomatic negotiations to achieve these objectives.
“We are working to obtain another outline for the release of our hostages, as well as the completion of the elimination of the Hamas battalions in Rafah. That is why I sent a delegation to Paris, and tonight, we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations,” Netanyahu stated in his post.
אנו פועלים להשיג מתווה נוסף לשחרור חטופינו, וכן את השלמת חיסול גדודי החמאס ברפיח.
לכן שלחתי משלחת לפריז ונדון הערב בצעדים הבאים במו״מ,
ולכן בתחילת השבוע אכנס את הקבינט לאישור התוכניות המבצעיות לפעולה ברפיח, כולל פינוי האוכלוסייה האזרחית משם.
רק שילוב של לחץ צבאי ומשא ומתן תקיף…
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 24, 2024
The prime minister’s announcement signals a significant escalation in Israel’s approach to the ongoing conflict, with plans for a potential military operation in Rafah gaining momentum.
Netanyahu concluded his statement by reaffirming the government’s determination to achieve its goals in the war, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive strategy that combines military action with diplomatic efforts.
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IDF Chief of Staff: Fighting is Key for Negotiating Hostages’ Release
i24 News – In a recent assessment of the situation in the northern Gaza Strip, the Chief of Staff, alongside other military commanders, emphasized the crucial role of the ongoing fighting effort in negotiations for the release of abducted individuals.
During the assessment, which took place on Saturday, the Chief of Staff, accompanied by Major General Yaron Finkelman, commander of the Southern Command, and Lieutenant Colonel Itzik Cohen, commander of Division 162, discussed the progress and strategy in the conflict zone.
The Chief of Staff’s remarks shed light on the multifaceted approach being taken to deepen military achievements in the region. He highlighted the importance of returning to areas with improved intelligence to make more significant advancements, both tactically and strategically.
These efforts, he noted, not only target enemy combatants but also aim to dismantle infrastructure and clear territories to enhance operational effectiveness.
Addressing the ongoing negotiations for the release of abductees, the Chief of Staff emphasized the interconnectedness between military achievements and diplomatic endeavors. He underscored the pivotal role of the fighting effort in exerting pressure on Hamas, thereby potentially facilitating the release of kidnapped individuals.
“The fighting effort is the most effective action that helps those who carry and give in all kinds of places for the release of the kidnapped,” stated the Chief of Staff. “This is the lever we are taking down on Hamas, and you are taking it down very well.”
The Chief of Staff’s remarks underscore the complex interplay between military operations and diplomatic negotiations in conflict zones. While the focus remains on achieving military objectives, there is also a recognition of the broader strategic goals, including the safe return of abducted individuals.
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