Published February 8, 2008 in Volume 64, Issue 3 of the Arizona Jewish Post.
When Margery and Eli Langner were married in 1989, the two artists decided to design their own huppah, or wedding canopy, rich in Jewish symbolism, combining the words of the Baal Shem Tov with 32 flames--the number that corresponds with the Hebrew word for "heart." The huppah was so admired by guests that the Langners immediately created a new business, Original Design Huppah, and began making personalized huppot for clients around the world.
The huppah, a symbol of a couple's first home together, is a reminder of the tents of our nomadic ancestors. It is also a physical reminder of the couple's commitment to one another as well as a piece of Jewish artwork with special meaning to its owners. Creating a customized huppah can give a couple the opportunity to reflect on the history of their relationship and the places, objects and people that add meaning to their lives. For many of the Langners' clients, the huppah also serves as a family heirloom. Some couples incorporate the huppah into baby-naming ceremonies for their children or use the fabric to create a bris pillow. Others send their huppah back to be adapted for their children's weddings, sometimes having the names of each new family member embroidered onto the fabric. "It's like a fabric record of the important events that happened in the family," says Margery.
To add a personal touch, couples often incorporate pictures of family members or materials that have sentimental value to the bride and groom, such as a piece of clothing, fabric from a mother's or grandmother's wedding dress, or in the case of one groom, a square cut from his baby "blankie."
Jacob Friedman and Marcy Subrin, a Tucson couple whose wedding is coming up in June, have eight friends and family involved in making their huppah. Each person will help design a square with embroidery, hand drawings or transferred pictures. "It's a great way of having everyone's blessing for the wedding," says Friedman. The couple was drawn to the concept of a huppah that will become a lasting part of their home. "We decided it would be nice to have something to hang up in our home afterward," says Friedman.
Often, couples choose to combine personal elements with traditional Jewish symbols and verses, including images of doves, the city of Jerusalem or lines from the biblical Song of Songs. Friedman and Subrin's huppah, for example, will include the imagery of a Tree of Life.
The Langners each bring their own talents into the process of creating a huppah. Margery, a former schoolteacher who also trained at the Parsons School of Design in New York, typically discusses ideas with clients and works on the embroidery. Eli, who majored in drawing at New York's Pratt Institute, where he received a degree in fine arts, does the sketches. "It's a great joy" to be able to work so closely together, says Eli.
In addition to serving local clients, Original Design Huppah works with couples worldwide through its website, customjudaica.com. One of her most enjoyable experiences, Margery says, was where she met three couples for whom she had designed huppot. In each couple, an American businessman had married a Japanese woman who had subsequently converted to Judaism, and the couple wanted a huppah that blended Jewish and Japanese symbols.
The Langners also design religious artwork for synagogues, including Torah covers, tallitot, ark curtains and bris chairs. For Margery, creating the items is both artistically and spiritually significant. "I feel very honored and blessed to have the ability to make objects that get to be used in such an important and spiritual way," she says.
Margery appreciates the opportunity to become part of a family's process of marking important events and creating a legacy. "It really means a lot to me," she reflects, "because I become part of their family tradition."
For more information, contact Margery and Eli Langner at (800) 517-1965 or (520) 749-8111, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.