by Suzanne Labry
The Quilted Chuppah
A requisite part of Jewish weddings is a chuppah (also spelled huppa, chupah, or chuppa), a cloth canopy supported by four poles that is usually carried by wedding attendants to the location where the ceremony will take place.
The Hebrew word chuppah means “covering” or “protection.” And in a religious sense, it represents the presence of God over the marriage.
The chuppah also represents the home that the bride and groom will build together and it is suffused with symbolism. It is open on all four sides to recall the Biblical tent of Abraham and Sarah, which was open for hospitality, and suggests that the couple’s home will be equally hospitable to guests.
This “home” contains no furniture, because the foundation of a Jewish home is the people inside it, not the possessions.
Adele Nadine Traub is a Massachusetts-based quilter who recognized that a quilt, with its own suffusions of nurturing symbolism, would make an ideal chuppah for her sister’s wedding.
“I wanted to make something really special to give my sister at her wedding and I knew I would give her a quilt, but I wanted it to be more than that and, along with my parents, I came up with the idea to first make the quilt her chuppah,” Traub says.
“My parents helped me keep it a secret from my sister until the night before her wedding and then the next day my dad helped rig it. She was married under it and now it graces her home.
“I actually thought I was being original, but I totally wasn't,” she continues. “Someone just recently sent me the book they thought I had based the idea on: The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco. I only discovered that book when my friend sent it to me.”
The Keeping Quilt is a children’s story about Patricia Polacco’s great-grandmother, Anna, who immigrated to America from Russia as a child. The only reminders she brought from her former home were her dress and her babushka, or headscarf. When Anna outgrew her dress, her mother used it and the babushka to make a quilt, along with fabric from an uncle’s shirt, an aunt’s apron, and other articles of family clothing. The quilt was passed down through their family from one generation to the next and was used as Sabbath tablecloth, as part of welcoming ceremonies for new babies in the family, and as a wedding chuppah.
With a degree in Theatre Arts from Brandeis University, Traub works as a stage manager for a variety of musical, dance, and opera productions in the greater Boston area.
She did not grow up quilting. “I went through a phase where I knew I wanted to learn how to do something, I just didn't know what,” she says. “I took all sorts of classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education: pottery, tai chi, photography, and so forth. But then I took a quilting class and knew immediately that this is what I wanted to do. I took more classes and kept trying patterns. I was terrible at first, but my friends graciously accepted the baby quilts I gave them and I just kept quilting until I got better.”
Herfirst wedding chuppah was so well received that she later made one for the marriage of some friends. Those friends convinced her that she should make wedding chuppahs for a living, and so she founded The Quilted Chuppah. It is now a thriving business.
When making a wedding chuppah, Traub states: “The process varies from couple to couple. Some couples just tell me their favorite colors or wedding colors or home colors and I chose the fabric myself. One couple had members of their family send them fabric that they then sent to me. If the couple lives nearby, I will sit with them and a few pattern books and they chose the pattern. If not, they either look at my website and get inspired or I send them photos of patterns and they choose.”
Adele’s wedding chuppahs are a thoughtful combination of quilting traditions and traditions of the Jewish faith. Mazel tov to that!