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JCF Blog

Symbolic Jewelry

Posted by: Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford on 1/4/2016
For my birthday last year, my wife gave me a special gift – a Star of David necklace. I’ve always worn a Jewish Star, but the one I had was old and the clasp kept breaking so when my birthday came around she decided to get me a new one.

As with all gifts that come from the heart, this one was special. My wife understood that wearing a symbol of our faith was particularly meaningful for me and it was clear that she put thought into the idea of the gift. Yet, there was something about this particular necklace that was more profound and moving to me than she understood at the time.

You see, the necklace has an unusual design. The star is comprised of two separate, unattached and individual pieces of silver in an unusual geometric shape.   When viewed separately, the two pieces are interesting and unique, but somewhat abstract.
However, when not held apart, the two pieces naturally fall into place to form a Jewish Star (see picture).  
I know that lots of creative pieces of jewelry are made in this way – hearts, pictures of couples, etc. Yet, something about this design was particularly meaningful. It occurred to me that this potentially divided Jewish Star symbolically represented the broken and imperfect world we live in. When we are all working together, in support of one another and our community, even if the separated silver pieces are tarnished and faded, it still makes a perfect star – or metaphorically a whole and repaired world.
Perhaps the message of this simple necklace, this symbol of our faith and our people, is that the perfection of our world is possible if we work together (each piece is meaningless by itself, but when combined it creates something perfect and beautiful).

The symbolism doesn’t stop there, however. I see in the design a message about one of the core tenets of our faith – we are not just individuals, we are part of a larger people, a larger set of values and beliefs.  As it says in our community ethical will, "We recognize that from our creation we were not meant to be alone, and that we need each other.”  

It’s core to our faith that we do things as a community. Even our religious services require a community of worshippers. This wonderful, symbolic necklace might represent the idea that we were truly meant to be part of something bigger. In essence that we as individuals are only completed when we are part of a broader Jewish community.

I love the idea that we are cannot be complete if we are alone – if we do not have a family to lean on or a community of support in good times and bad. It’s what I love about the idea of Jewish community.

Perhaps it’s just a necklace.  But I think its power lies not just with the religious symbol of the Jewish Star, but also in the metaphor of what’s possible when we embrace the idea of community and working together to mend our broken world.  

As we begin this new year full of possibilities, let us remember that we are stronger together than apart and that great things are possible in our community when we combine our talents and passions. 

Michael Johnston is president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford. 

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Thanks for sharing this story, Michael. What a beautiful sentiment to start off the new year.
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