The healing power of ‘Stitch and a Prayer’ blankets is helping many

Photo+info%3A+From+left+to+right+are+Karen+Yoffie%2C+Carol+Berkin%2C+Reva+Davis%2C+Candy+Zemon.+Elaine+Spielberg+and+Sharon+Schneider.+Not+pictured%3A+Shirley+Gorman+and+Lynda+Kress.+Photo+credit%3A+Art+Zemon%0A

Photo info: From left to right are Karen Yoffie, Carol Berkin, Reva Davis, Candy Zemon. Elaine Spielberg and Sharon Schneider. Not pictured: Shirley Gorman and Lynda Kress. Photo credit: Art Zemon

BY MEGAN RUBENSTEIN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

One stitch at a time, a group of United Hebrew Congregation members is working to lift the spirits of fellow congregants.

“A Stitch and a Prayer” consists of about 15 women who come together to knit and crochet lap blankets every Tuesday afternoon at the synagogue. The blankets are given to congregants who are facing physical, spiritual and emotional challenges.

The group began last year when UH members Elaine Spielberg and Shirley Gorman were asked to head the United Hebrew Caring Committee. People were starting to gather again after isolating because of COVID, and the thinking was why not knit and crochet together, at the synagogue rather than alone at home.

Spielberg and Gorman put an announcement in the temple bulletin and brought together a group to meet each week to create the blankets, with a healing prayer patch sewn on each. Some members of the Stitch and a Prayer group are new to knitting and crocheting while others have been at it for a while and know their way around the needles.

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“People love the blankets,” UH Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg said. “They are especially touched when they learn that a fellow congregant made it, and love the prayer on it. I hear all the time that many who receive them find comfort with them and enjoy using them even after they’ve recovered.”

Even some members of the group have received blankets in their times of need. Candy Zemon, a mainstay of the group and lead crochet teacher, received a blanket when she had her hip replaced.

“I didn’t understand how magical it was until last year when I had my hip replaced and a blanket was made for me,” Zemon said. “It was unbelievably touching.”

The group’s “healing powers” are not limited to other congregants only through the creation of the blankets. The camaraderie within the Stich and a Prayer group also has proved to be healing to its own members.

“We’ve all really bonded as a group. It’s healing for all of us,” said Reva Davis, another of the group’s founding members.

When the group meets each Tuesday in the Kaplansky Commons in the center of the synagogue, the atmosphere is anything but quiet. Lots of kibbitzing, laughter and stories are shared as the ladies help each other perfect their skills.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these women,” group member Karen Yoffie said. “The camaraderie is so nice, and everyone is so helpful.”

All of the women agreed that the group has a positive impact on them. Each mentioned friendships they have created and the community they’ve built.

“It is amazing to have so many like-minded people together when you know everyone is here for a reason — for their kindness, their generosity and their commitment to helping others,” Spielberg said.

She also brought up how valuable the support within the group is. Most of the women are in their 60s or older, so many of them have similar life experiences that allow them to connect.

“I think we’ve all had our struggles and, as you get older, you realize just how important that support is,” Spielberg said.

Sari Levy, membership engagement manager at United Hebrew, joined the staff after the group had already formed. However, she quickly noticed the impact that group members have on each other and on the temple community.

“It’s obvious how special the group is in how it has grown,” Levy said. “Everyone really shows up every Tuesday. This group is the Caring Committee’s biggest constant.”

The group’s designated closet holds 28 blankets. Opening the closet door releases an explosion of color and handcrafted care. When the UH clergy does a hospital visit, they’ll make sure to choose a blanket that suits the people that they’re bringing it to, Levy said.

Zemon said, “I’m just grateful for the group. I really am.”