Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."

By Bernard J. Shapiro
Photo by JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE<br>The Israel quilt
Those few of you who are native Houstonians will remember the Shapiro cousins, Armand, Bernard and Doug. We were a close-knit group and hung around with a whole generation of young Jews growing up, during the 1940s and '50s, in the Riverside area (Highway 288 goes over my original house now). Of course, we grew up and went our separate ways.

Armand became a successful businessman and financier, making millions of dollars. I had a multifaceted career as bookseller, pro-Israel activist, editor and writer. I was sort of the Don Quixote of the group. My impossible dream was that the Jewish People would wake up and prevent a Second Holocaust. They haven't yet.

Doug was the scientific genius of the group. We all first became aware of this when he was expelled from Bellaire High School for a science experiment gone terribly wrong. His brilliance took him to Harvard, where he earned a medical degree. After practicing in Washington for three weeks, he became bored and went to London and got a Ph.D. in animal behavior. Doug traveled the world doing research on coral reef fish. He stayed on a small facility (its main inhabitants were large iguanas) off the coast of Puerto Rico for about a decade, where he discovered a sex-changing coral reef fish.

Wanting to see civilization again, he took a job as head of the biology department at Eastern Michigan University and then became a drug researcher at Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Houstonians have benefited greatly from his work.

Now, a new creative genius has entered the Shapiro family. Charlynn and Doug were married about a decade ago. Charlynn has developed over many years a remarkable ability to design and create quilts of phenomenal beauty. In her words, she described the Israel quilt she made for me:

"One day in the early summer, my husband, Doug, was talking on the phone to his cousin, Bernard. Bernard asked him something about my quilts. Doug mentioned it to me, and before I knew it, I was lying awake at night, trying to figure out how I might make a quilt for Bernard. I knew from Doug how passionately he loved the Jewish people and Israel, the Jewish homeland. I decided to start sewing."

"Although I had no plan or pattern, I knew immediately what some of the blocks would be: the dove with an olive branch (we all hope for peace, don't we?), a rainbow, the Exodus, Pesach, Chanukah, Shabbat, the two blocks that refers to 'the land of milk and honey.'

"The quilt also needed to have blocks signifying some of the customs, festivals and celebrations unique to the Jewish people.

"Included are blocks of chuppah, Sukkot, a Bat Mitzvah and a Bar Mitzvah. Fruits, wheat, the Israeli flag and the Hebrew aleph bet symbolize the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). The 12 colored stones represent Jacob's sons: the 12 Tribes of Israel. The front of the quilt is full of vibrant color. (Whoever saw a white fig?) All of the blocks were completed before I decided how to put them together. The back of the quilt shows a small view of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

"It took seven months to complete, including research time. On a trip to New York, I found a Judaica store, where I bought a set of Hebrew flash cards. Unfortunately, one of the cards was missing. Doug's son Aidan, who is studying Hebrew in college, helped me identify which letters should be included (consonants only).

"Another trip to New York, and I found the bees for the beehive. After the quilt top was completed, I learned from a website that, in ancient times, honey was made from dates, not honeybees. I decided to leave it as it was (artistic license).

"I named the quilt 'Lâ'chaim' - to life. It was the most original and fun quilt that I have made so far. Now, I am really inspired to do more quilts with a Jewish theme."

I have encouraged Charlynn to make a similar quilt to give to a Jewish or Israel museum, so that the general public can enjoy her work. From the photo, you will note that the quilt is a traditional American style. In Israel and at quilt fairs nationwide, there are many quilters using the quilt to paint a picture, much like artists using oil or watercolors. There are many abstract designs. I find the structure, discipline and concentration on one theme a major plus for Charlynn's quilt. To me it outshines all of the modern innovations and is true to the original spirit of the quilt.

If you would like to reconnect with Doug and Charlynn, call 734-395-5983 or email I can be reached at the Freeman Center, 713-723-6016.