Art, Culture and Religion

Jewish crafts for the festival of Shavuot

Tell the children that the Jewish populations of Poland and Russia used to observe the custom of hanging elaborate paper cut-outs in their windows during Shavuot (originally a harvest festival). This is called shevousim. These pieces of art were made largely by men. The cut-outs made delicate lace-like patterns, often depicting motifs such as candelabras, flowers, birds, stars and animals, with a particular focus on those creatures that Jewish tradition associates with God: lions, eagles and stags.

Ask the children what these animals could have represented (lion – strength, stag – speed, eagle – weightlessness, other birds, like peacocks, doves, roosters and storks – joy). Show the children a few pictures of shevousim, which you can find in the attachment. It is also worth mentioning that traditional folk Polish cut-outs were inspired by shevousim.

The kind of crafts made in this exercise were also made for the Shavout festival, but because they are much easier to create than those pictured, they were mostly done by primary school pupils. These were called royzelech, which means rosettes.

materiały, niezbędne do wykonania wycinanki

MATERIALS

  • attachment 2.1, the examples of shevuosim
  • 2 sheets of A4 paper, one white and one coloured
  • scissors
  • glue

Step 1

Cut out a square – fold the paper sheet diagonally so that one of the shorter sides lies along the edge of a longer side. This will create a triangle which you should cut off from the rest of the sheet to create an even square.

Step 2

Keep the square folded into a triangle, and fold in half again. Unfold it. Holding the triangle by the resulting fold line, fold the right wing of the triangle diagonally (as shown in the picture). Do the same with the other wing of the triangle. Fold the resulting figure in half along the fold line. This should make an arrow shape.

Older children should be able to fold the square themselves. If using this lesson with younger children, it is best to complete the folding beforehand.

Step 3

Now each child can cut out any shapes they like along the sides of the folded paper, remembering to not cut the “arrow” all the way.

Step 4

After the children have cut out their shapes, they should unfold the square and glue it to the coloured paper as a backing sheet. The artwork is now complete.

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