Blog – Advah Designs
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Podcast Interview about Indian Handloom Communities with Smita Paul of Indigo Handloom

I felt so lucky to talk to Smita Paul for the Weave podcast today. Smita is the founder of Indigo Handloom, which works with over 500 weavers in rural India to produce beautiful, handwoven textiles using ancient techniques. Founded in 2003, their work helps to revive the traditional textile arts of kahdi (hand-spun yarn) and handloom weaving while supporting community development in rural India and working to reduce the carbon footprint of textiles.

I first met Smita a few years ago at a trade show in New York City, where I was looking to source fabric for a line of Jewish prayers shawls I was designing. In a sea of crappy mass-produced polyester fabrics that lined the trade show, I distinctly remember sitting down at Smita’s booth and opening up her book of gorgeous fabric samples and immediately thinking: this fabric has soul. I’m honored to have worked with Indigo Handloom several times over the past few years to create a handspun, hand-dyed, handwoven fabric for these prayers shawls - and I get so much feedback from my customers about holy this cloth feels.

In this podcast conversation, we discussed how Smita went from working as a journalist to founding Indigo Handloom, the challenges that weaving communities in India are facing, how she works with both emerging designers and large brands to build out a market for handwoven fabric, and much more. Give it a listen and then comment below to let me know what you think! 

Indigo Handloom website

Handwoven Prayer Shawls

(The video and all photos below provided by Indigo Handloom.)

Indigo Handloom Weaver

dyeing yarn indigo handloom

Indigo Handloom Tunic

Smita Paul




March 27, 2018 by Sarah Resnick

The power of ritual objects in this time

These are dark, scary times. As many of us are grappling with fear and despair, and as we re-commit to the sacred work of organizing and resistance, our rituals and our faith become even more important in keeping us whole.

This past week, I was moved by stories people shared with me about what a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) means to them in this moment, and I want to share some of their powerful words with you today.

"I feel blessed to be part of a community that feels strongly about continuing the work of social justice, and that seeks to do so while also strengthening the sacred pools we draw from in doing this work. I currently work representing Central American, Afghani, Iraqi, Syrian, and other families who are detained at the border unless they can prove that they should be candidates to seek asylum here in the U.S. For families that are Muslim, they are often detained for months until a judge makes a final decision in their case. I have decided to place a request for the Ahavat Olam tallit, as the thought of an unending love encircling us is what I, and the families I work with, most acutely need."

-- Jenna Pollock, Texas

"As I look toward a season of resistance and feel frankly pretty anxious and depressed about it, I've been thinking a lot about ritual as a nurturing center for the action I take toward tikkun olam (repair of the world). Your bright yellow woven Sunrise tallit is pretty much exactly what I've always wanted and never seen before--a daily davening reminder that the sun keeps rising, that we keep rising. What a privilege, to have a physical reminder of our capacity and duty to carry more light into the world."  -- Cecelia Raker, Massachusetts

"The watery blues of the Tzedek tallit are reminiscent of the prophetic voice of Amos who tells us that 'Justice shall be revealed like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.' How appropriate that this tallit crafted in the spirit of justice should be reflective of water as the fight for clean, sacred waters continues in Flint, Standing Rock, and all over the world. When I wrap myself up in this tallit, I remember the warm waters of the mikveh and feel recharged. "   -- Kendra Watkins, North Carolina

As we rise together, and keep rising, I hope that color and cloth and community will keep reminding us how to stay whole. If you have a story to share about what a ritual object has brought to your life in a difficult time, please reach out to me.

I feel grateful that the tallitot I create can be part of your spiritual and activist lives in this way.

January 30, 2017 by Sarah Resnick

Choosing a Wedding Officiant for your Jewish or Interfaith Wedding

Up next in our series about Jewish wedding traditions and alternatives is a discussion of how to find an officiant for your Jewish or interfaith wedding.  Curious to learn more about the wedding guide we created with Ketuv Ketubahs?  Sign up below to download our free 36-page guide about planning a Jewish wedding!  


Choosing a person (or multiple people!) to officiate your wedding is one of the most important decisions you will make in the wedding planning process. This person will likely meet with you several times before your wedding, getting to know you both and crafting a ceremony that sets the tone of your wedding, welcomes family and friends, and celebrates your unique relationship.

Photo by Stak Studios

While Jewish couples often choose a rabbi to marry them, couples may also be married by cantors, community leaders, or anyone else they choose! Many interfaith couples choose to have their wedding co-officiated by clergy of their respective faiths.

Before you choose an officiant, think together about the kind of wedding you want, and what kind of person will help craft this experience. Comfort is key. Choose someone who will work with you to create the wedding of your dreams, and not someone who will insist on following traditions that you may or may not want to include in your wedding. Wherever possible, meet your officiant in person, get a sense of how they think about creating a wedding ceremony, and go with your gut about whether it’s the right fit.

There are a number of great resources for couples looking for rabbis or officiants for their Jewish or interfaith wedding. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Ask your recently married friends
  • Contact a local synagogue to see if they have referrals for your area
  • Approach a close friend or family member and ask them if they’d be interested in officiating your wedding. The Universal Life Ministry or The American Marriage Ministry are among the many resources that will help with ordination. Remember, just because you won’t have a rabbi officiating doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate Jewish traditions. This handbook can help!
  • Check out resources like Unorthodox Celebrations and InterfaithFamily who offer free customized referrals to clergy in your area

Looking for more information about planning your Jewish wedding ceremony? Our free 36-page guide is chock full of helpful information, traditions and adaptations!  


Taking the Plunge: Immersing in a Mikveh Before Your Wedding

Today we're releasing the next installment in our series about Jewish wedding traditions and alternatives with an exploration of immersing in a mikveh before the wedding.  Curious to learn more about the wedding guide we created with Ketuv Ketubahs?  Sign up below to download our free 36-page guide about planning a Jewish wedding!  


Immersion in a mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath, can be a powerful act, often used to crystallize a “state change” in a person’s life. Fittingly, Jews throughout history have used the mikvah not only before marriage, but also during religious conversion, in the ninth month of pregnancy, and to usher in Shabbat and holidays. Bathers prepare for the mikvah by cleaning themselves thoroughly and removing any and all adornments, thereby eliminating barriers between one’s body and the water.

Photo from Mayyim Hayyim

Though some people express discomfort with the idea of mikvah, believing it to be coercive or shaming, mikvah is currently enjoying a kind of renaissance. Inspired by the symbolic weight of the mikvah ritual, and drawn to its powerful narrative of transformation, many women are reclaiming the practice in creative ways, and focusing on its potential as a space for female bonding. In fact, in Sephardic communities, the mikvah has long been a place for a community of women to convene before a wedding. On the occasion of a bride’s henna or noche de la novia celebration, her entire female network will often accompany her to the mikvah, filling its corridors with song and dance.

If you live in an urban area, a little online research will likely turn up a mikvah in your area. What’s more, many of these mikvahs now boast all the comforts of a modern spa, adding a note of luxury. But if you can’t find a mikvah nearby, or can’t imagine being comfortable in a traditional space, you have the option of performing the ritual in a natural body of water, like an ocean or a river.

Some mikvahs are more egalitarian and open to non-Orthodox Jews than others. It is worth calling your local mikvah beforehand to determine if it is the right fit for you. For example, Mayyim Hayyim, a mikvah in Newton, MA, is fully welcoming and inclusive to transgender and queer people, and also has a fully wheelchair-accessible mikvah.

Mayyim Hayyim offers these wonderful scripts for mikvah ceremonies for both brides and grooms. While mikvah is usually a solitary undertaking, this alternative mikvah ceremony from Rabbi Leila Gal Berner creates an opportunity for both partners to undergo the ritual together.

Looking for more information about planning your Jewish wedding ceremony? Our free 36-page guide is chock full of helpful information, traditions and adaptations!   

Talking with Ellen Zimmerman of Jewish Holidays in a Box

 A few months ago, I reached out to Ellen Zimmerman, founder of Jewish Holidays in a Box.  I loved her idea of putting together kits and games to make Jewish holidays more fun for kids and families.  Today, I'm excited to share our conversation with you.  If you're looking for a way to make a Passover seder more fun and engaging for the kids in your life, keep reading!  

Can you tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to start Jewish Holidays in a Box?   

The idea for Jewish Holidays in a Box started when our girls were young. I was leaning on the kitchen counter, peeling carrots on the morning of our Seder when I had an “aha” moment.

The Haggadahs we’d been using weren’t kid-friendly. And they didn’t truly tell the story of Passover, with its wonderful drama and symbolism. Dropping everything, I moved to the computer and started to draft a shorter, more descriptive Haggadah – even though the kitchen was nagging at me.

While there are now Haggadot that do a much better job, I felt that we could help families celebrate more joyfully. The idea percolated for over two decades, as we experimented with different activities. In 2011, we launched to bring these activities to life.

What kinds of resources do you offer on your website?  What age ranges are they good for?

While our Passover Seder Steps Follow-Along, Hanukkah Bingo Game, and Rosh Hashanah Bingo Game are designed for children from three to nine, they are fun to play with multiple generations.

Experts have told us that the bingo games are great for many children on the autism scale who are visual learners.

We also created downloadable e-guides for Shabbat, Hanukkah, and Passover to help families embrace the holidays with more joy – and give them the confidence to lead home celebrations. In addition, we offer blog posts and a robust Pinterest page with 35 boards and hundreds of holiday- and kid-friendly ideas.

Can you tell me a few of your favorite stories that you've heard from customers about using Jewish Holidays in a Box?

AJ, a busy mom of a 3-year-old, shared this: “When I opened my Hanukkah Family Fun Kit, I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief. My daughter’s Hanukkah party was already planned for me!”

About our Hanukkah Games Box, Estelle said: “If you have kids or planned nights with the grandparents, you need to get this NOW.”

We’ve also had encouraging responses from Jewish educators. A Chabad rebbetzin gave us a thumbs up on the bingo games, and a Reform rabbi told us that “The Passover Seder Steps Follow-Along is a solid winner . . . great look and feel to the game and it does the trick of teaching the steps of the Seder without becoming heavy handed.”

Another rabbi gave us this feedback: “I love the idea! I’m always looking for things to make the Jewish holidays accessible at home!”

How do your own grandchildren inspire the resources you create?

Our little guys inspire me beyond what I could have imagined!

Last year, we used the Passover Seder Steps Follow-Along, with its pathway featuring the 15 steps of the Seder. When we got to Shulchan Orech and collected the game boards before the meal, our 4-year-old grandson pondered, “Grandma, how will we know where to start again after dinner?” I couldn’t have gotten a better leading question for why there is a seder to the Seder!

They also taught me that you don’t have to play the games only on the holidays. When they want to play Rosh Hashanah Bingo in the spring, why not? 

Are the games and materials useful for synagogues?  

Yes. The Passover Seder Steps Follow-Alongs help congregations that offer second Seders. Our Hanukkah Blessings Tutorials have been a hit with Mother’s Circle members. 

And the bingo games work well for children pre-K to 3rd grade to play in religious school. Just this year, I led game after highly spirited game of Hanukkah Bingo with Sunday school kids and discovered that the spot of “caller” is the most coveted!

March 27, 2016 by Sarah Resnick