With all the stress placed on wearing a face mask when leaving home during the COVID-19 crisis, some Atlanta Jews with a sewing machine or other creative talents have found a way to use their skills and resourcefulness to help save lives and ensure good health.
From the novice to the more experienced sewer, several Jewish Atlantans are hand-crafting face masks not only for their own use, but are also donating them to hospitals, senior living facilities, family and friends who need them.
Susan Big used Jewish-themed fabrics saved from prior quilting projects to make four dozen face masks that she donated to Berman Commons assisted living facility. She was responding to a March 31 eblast from The Auxiliary of The William Breman Jewish Home asking those with sewing skills to create face masks “to help residents and staff stay safe” at Jewish HomeLife facilities. The Victory-from-Virus masks effort included instructions for making the masks and a pattern.
“Making the masks was not just an act of tzedakah, as charitable giving, but was also acts of tikkun olam, repairing the world,” Big said, adding that she was sewing “with love, hopes and prayers, casting spells for good health.”
Big also makes masks for a new group, Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals, for which face mask collection and distribution is coordinated for volunteers to help provide face masks for Emory, Grady and Piedmont hospitals, among others.
Cheryl Miller said, “What sprung overnight, long before we were advised to wear face masks ourselves” was finding others from her synagogue Temple Emanu-El and the Peach State Stitchers group who wanted to make face masks. The vast majority of PSS members are Jewish.
After making them first for family, Miller wanted to donate to first responders. Initially she and her friends couldn’t find hospitals who wanted them, “but we kept making them, knowing the tide would turn – and it did.” People told friends, some of whom were doctors and nurses who wanted the fabric masks for second-tier workers to leave the professional masks for the first-tier workers.
Miller made 12 masks to hand out to grocery clerks during senior hours at her local Kroger. She told the AJT she has worked “several hours a day for five weeks, giving out about 70 masks.”
One recipient of Miller’s masks was Dr. Mitzi Rubin of WellStar-East Cobb Family and Geriatric Medicine. “Miller’s fully-washable masks were used mostly to supplement face mask quantities for staff at work when other disposable paper folded masks were in very short supply,” Rubin said.
Instead of making cotton masks, those with large stashes of kippot sitting in drawers or boxes from family simchas use these traditional head coverings to make face masks.
Tech consultant Nathaniel Lack made over 200 kippot masks that he calls “kipp-offs,” using kippot saved from his children’s b’nai mitzvah. Following CDC guidelines when making computer house calls to clients, he uses his kipp-off only once, disposing of it after work.
Without using any pattern, artist Eve Mannes uses kippot accumulated through the years to make face masks. She said an “artistic fashion statement” is made with her face mask creations, which she gives as gifts to family and friends. A former gallery owner, Mannes designs fashionable clothing, handbags and appliqued jackets. Mannes said she has turned her creative juices into fabricating masks where appliques, sewn letters, veil from hats, and other miscellaneous objects are adhered to the masks.
Inserting a coffee filter inside the mask may offer more protection. In this serious time, Mannes said whoever “is gifted a mask from me can use it to their liking including post office, grocery store visits, or simply taking a walk. They are for fun and stress relief.”
Tallit maker Meg Fisher responded to a request on Facebook group Jewish Moms of East Cobb to fulfill requests for handmade face masks. The child of a Temple Kol Emeth friend, who needed specialized care at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida, inspired Fisher to make and send 28 masks to the hospital in the child’s honor.
Flora Rosefsky is a collage and mixed-media artist and a member of the Peach State Stitchers, www.FloraRosefsky.com.