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Calligraphy by Laurie Levin

Laurie Levin

Laurie Levin uses calligraphy on our life cycle commemorative certificates.

Driven mostly by curiosity, I’ve taken several community education classes over the years, my favorite being juggling (I mastered 3 ball juggling but never made it to tossing bowling pins or sabers). But the skills I learned in a calligraphy class more than 40 years ago were more useful, allowing me to provide a special, if largely unnoticed, service to Bet Shalom.

As part of the congregation’s celebration of life cycle events of baby naming and brit milah, Consecration, B’nai Mitzvah, Confirmation and conversion, members receive commemorative certificates. For more than two decades I have enjoyed the honor of completing the blank certificates from the URJ using a real fountain pen filled with ink. I carefully fill in the recipient’s name, the date of the event, and Bet Shalom’s name in English Italic script. I trust the rabbis to fill in the corresponding Hebrew lines.

Although these special certificates could easily be completed using a computer printer or a common writing utensil, I felt they deserved more personal attention than that. So I volunteered to continue the calligraphy tradition started by Elaine Robashkin early in Bet Shalom’s history when she could no longer do it. Except for a brief time spent recovering from a broken arm in 2005 (cycling can be a dangerous sport!), I’ve been using my calligraphy writing skills to complete yearly cycles of certificates since about 1997. I’ve worn out at least one pen and gone through several bottles of black ink in the process.

I had to look in four places recently before finding my own children’s certificates, and they’ve never asked me if they could have them. The great irony of my wanting to continue this work is that I know most people’s certificates are similarly tucked away, out of sight and mind. Despite this fate, I understand that the certificates remain important permanent markers of special times, likely to be rediscovered in the future.

Doing this small recurring task connects me to the congregation. Much of Bet Shalom’s strength as a thriving community derives from members volunteering to do any number of jobs, some very public and essential, others small and not so obvious. I’ve had the good fortune to hold some of those “big” jobs, chairing committees, serving on the Board and serving as the congregational secretary when we moved from Hopkins to our now not-so-new building. But it’s my enduring “little” job of making sure life cycle events are permanently commemorated with a hand-calligraphed document that continues to engage me. I look forward to continuing this tradition, providing a special, personalized service to our members.