Sue Winner is no stranger to simchas. An Atlanta bridal consultant in the 1990s and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Budgeting for Your Wedding,” she undertook a grandiose and magnificent 17-plus year project of a personal family nature consisting of four, 7-foot needlepointed panels, forming a chuppah, and an elaborate companion “roof” covering.
“I set out to create something that would be passed down in my family for generations to come.” And that she did.
There is more to the story. What Winner touches, she elevates. As a leader/volunteer, she was president of Brandeis Women’s Group and served on its National Women’s Committee.
The title of president suits her well, as she served as president of the Sandy Springs Society, the second Jewish president in 30 years. During her tenure (2018-2019), she was credited with bringing master violinist Itzhak Perlman to the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center in a rare appearance.
On a very personal “hands-on” level, she remains a volunteer for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) where she has spoken for six children in court. “I really get more out of it than I give, … seeing them through difficult times, attending school conferences to show that someone cares.”
Winner’s nimble fingers have been involved in a lot of colorful and creative gifts. Her children and grandchildren have her custom-made tallit bags and pillows. In 1988 she worked with Dave Alterman and Norman Diamond (since-departed Ahavath Achim leaders) to create needlepointed Torah covers for the synagogue’s 100th anniversary celebration that are still used today.
She also knits scarves for the homeless and Holocaust survivors, and needlepoints heart panels for hospice patients.
The Birth of the Chuppah
Winner remembered a conversation with AA’s Rabbi Emeritus Arnold Goodman about the value of ethical wills and her desire for Judaism to be important to future generations. Goodman impressed upon her, “G-d created the world in six days and on the seventh day, He rested. Since then, rabbis say, ‘G-d has been making marriages. Marriages are made in heaven but made good here on earth.’” The gist of this is emblazoned on the chuppah top she designed.
To create her chuppah vision and the base canvas, Winner enlisted the help of Leah Maziar, and Pat Jones, both of whom had helped with the Torah cover project. Winner had some rough ideas that she wanted to include: peaches, blossoms, ovals, and blue ribbons to tie together her vision of Jewish life. She recalled, “What I got back in Pat’s design were well-researched rich sentimental depictions of Jewish life events – challah, tzedakah boxes, tefillin –amid the holidays. Pure joy!”
The Finished Design
Each panel is 7 feet wide and 18 inches high. To the top left are captured Passover and the high holidays; second down are Chanukah and Shabbat; third down are Sukkot, tefillin and Purim; and on the bottom are a bride and groom and the Jewish home they create.
Three of the four Winner children have married under the chuppah; but not all had all components complete for their ceremony.
As if that’s not enough, Winner created its rectangular roof top covering that has to be positioned upside down as the bridal party looks up. She needlepointed diamonds to separate the rows of ancestors dating back to 1899: Brina Schwartzman’s union with Mayer Garsh. And yes, blank rows remain for future generations.
Winner elaborated, “There were logistical considerations like Velcro attachments so it can be pulled apart. … In terms of the panels, each has curtain rod sleeves and earth magnets, screws on all sides because they have to be able to be taken off the wall for use at weddings!” Interior designer Marni Ratner had the panels framed in Lucite by A-R-T & Associates.
Husband, retired pediatrician Dr. Jon Winner recounted, “Sue quietly needlepointed as we sat together reading or watching TV at night. I am very proud of the beauty that she creates, … but she is not done yet. She’s always looking for another project.”
They tease each other. She said, “For my birthday he bought me opening night Braves tickets, about which I could care less. So, the next year I gave him an artsy recreation of our ketubah.
She has earned her place in Atlanta as an artisan and woman of valor.