Eight years ago, a group of woman in our congregation decided that they wanted to add an activity to our annual Mitzvah Day. Each of these women loved to knit and wanted to direct their craft toward the fulfillment of a mitzvah. They set up a table at Mitzvah Day and spent the day knitting caps for premature babies. By the end of the day, this group not only produced a respectable number of baby caps, they started a program that continues to be one of the strongest mitzvah programs in our congregation.
Our HCRJ Knitzvah Group has been meeting on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month for eight years. Their mission is to knit for a cause, and over the course of eight years they have knitted blankets for shelters, scarves and hats for the homeless, nests for bird habitats and lap blankets for our members who find themselves for extended stays in the hospital.
Little did they know it, but our knitters were weaving a social tapestry that included faith, community, health and social justice. What started as a knitting circle was rapidly becoming a central part of the mitzvah arm of our congregation.
In 2013, our devoted group of knitters took on the ambitious task of knitting 300 lap blankets for the residents of Seven Acres for Chanukah. The project was so large that the HCRJ Knitzvah Group enlisted the help of knitters from congregations all over the city. Together this knitting collective not only accomplished their goal of knitting 300 lap blankets, but they singlehandedly wove together a network of friendships that transcended the walls of our individual congregations.
This program was so well received that the knitting of blankets needed a new mitzvah to fulfill. This new project would come to be known as “Misheberach Blankets,” which would bless every member of HCRJ if they ever found themselves in the hospital for an extended period of time.
This past year the Knitzvah Group decided to broaden the reach of their efforts into the realm of social justice. Inspired by the words of the Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr. last Yom Kippur, the Knitzvah Group ventured into Houston’s Fifth Ward to teach elderly women in that community how to knit. Photos of our communities knitting together may be found on page 6 of this bulletin.
According to some recent studies, the knitting of our Knitzvah Group may be doing more than healing the world; it might also be healing themselves. According to Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind/body medicine and the author of “The Relaxation Response,” the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga. The focused repetitive movements of knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
As it turns out, being part of the Knitzvah Group is a blessing to the health, the soul and the world at large. What other group can claim so many benefits! We are proud of our knitters and all the mitzvahs they continue to fulfill.