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Threads of Eternity

Esther Teichtal

Chana Gamliel designs parochos that adorn shuls around the world. And those threads close the circle of her own family legacy

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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We meet in her quiet office on an even quieter street. Chana Gamliel is young. Unassuming. Her face, bedecked in a saffron satin scarf, radiates a warm, optimistic energy.

I look around, expecting to be shown around a fully equipped art studio with piles of fabric and photos on the walls, but instead, Chana turns on a large computer screen “It’s all here…” she says simply and launches into what will turn out to be a two-hour tour of her breathtaking portfolio.

Designing adornments for the House of Hashem is a job Chana doesn’t take lightly. And she sees Hashem’s Hand clearly in getting to where she is today.

“My great-grandfather, Yitzchak Ben-Chaim, was a rav and a Torah scribe in the small Moroccan town of Ksar El-Kebir,” Chana tells me. “He was also a shochet, and he’d slaughter his own cattle, so he could write his sifrei stam on their hides.”

Rav Ben-Chaim’s wife passed away when his youngest son was still an infant, and the child — Chana’s grandfather — was taken to another city, where he was raised by an older brother who was a secular Jew.

Chana’s grandfather grew up in a comfortable home and became a successful fashion designer in Morocco. “When things became difficult for the Jews there, he moved to Montreal and started afresh. He built his own textile and fashion factories, and my father, too, was in the business.” Nowadays, when she channels her artistic spirit into designing beautiful Torah mantles, Chana sees it as the closing of a circle. The rerouting of her great-grandfather’s legacy to where it rightly belongs.

 

Chana’s own family, in Montreal, Canada, was at first unaffiliated. But when her mother became religiously observant, her father graciously went along with the change. “I was enrolled in an Orthodox kindergarten,” Chana explains, “where every week we had a mock Kabbalat Shabbat, lighting candles and making Kiddush. I loved it. When the year ended, my mother thought it would be such a pity for me not to enjoy the Shabbos candles anymore, and so she began lighting them herself.”

Chana attended Hebrew Academy, and then went on to attend a Bais Yaakov seminary, Be’er Miriam. Inspired by what she learned, she decided to continue her Jewish studies at the world-renowned seminary in Ofakim. Beforehand, she complied with her parents’ wishes and spent a year studying liberal arts in Marianopolis College.

When she finally got to study in the seminary of her dreams, Chana grew close to the principal, Rabbi Dr. Lionel Cohen and Rabbanit Piltz, wife of the rosh yeshivah of Tifrach. “I was thirsty for Yiddishkeit! For me, every shiur of hers was like Maamad Har Sinai.”

“That sounds like quite a transition,” I probe. Chana laughs. “Yes, it was! My art college teacher was a Buddhist… this was quite a change! But I was tremendously inspired from the start,” she says. “In my arts program, all the titled lecturers were so full of themselves. Suddenly, here I was hearing shiurim from phenomenal teachers such as Rebbetzin Heller, Rabbi Chanoch Teller, and Rebbetzin Tarshish, and their humility was such a contrast.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 592)

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