By Lesley Machon
(AJNews) – Grades 6-9 students at the Calgary Jewish Academy are learning terms such as yarn over, turning chain, and single stitch as they practice a new set of skills. In an effort to connect their collective cultural traditions to a personal sense of well-being in the world, Jewish students are bringing textile art out of Bubbe’s lap, and into their own hands.
As they work the rows of each emerging creation, their brains build stronger connections between left and right hemispheres. Crocheting creates new neural pathways, and is associated with improved social-emotional skills, the ability to down-regulate from agitated states, and the management of ADHD symptoms by improving focus. Overall, studies on this topic have shown intriguing positive correlations between states of calm and time spent crocheting. Some of these benefits are being experienced by students right now, in their very own classroom at the CJA.
Jodi Eichler-Levine, Jewish professor and professional knitter, speaks about the way that creating something with your hands “can be understood as a religious practice and have an intimate connection to religious identity.” To Echler-Levine, craft traditions are an important part of what it means to help maintain Jewish ways across the generations.
The art of crochet originated in the 1800’s and was used by many of our ancestors to improve their sense of shalom within the kehilah and their own neshamot. Working with fabric to calm the mind is something crochet artists discovered long before tech or apps. Completing each row provides a sense of accomplishment similar to the satisfaction of levelling up in a video game, but without using screens.
Boys and girls alike signed up for this class, so crocheting is no longer just for elders. Young Jewish teens have taken an age-old hobby and turned it into an opportunity to connect, relax, re-centre, and make things like dishcloths (and maybe eventually, kippot!). Each completed row connects to the timeless nature of textile art in Jewish culture – l’dor v’dor.
Lesley Machon is a humanities teacher at Calgary Jewish Academy.