Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Take cover

David Bogner recently noted that first grade siddur parties (i.e. mesibot siddur, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) can be somewhat stressful for the kids.

But he forgot to mention that siddur parties are even MORE traumatic for the parents.

Because, you see, siddur parties obviously require siddurs, and siddurs naturally require - {glances nervously from side to side; makes the universal hand motion for “come closer”; and continues in a frightened whisper} - siddur covers

{cue: blood-curdling scream}

What’s so scary about siddur covers?

What is it about those simple fabric book-covers that makes otherwise well-adjusted adults cry?

To answer these questions, let’s follow the Ghost-of-Siddur-Parties-Past back in time:

(Scene: A typical Israeli religious elementary school – circa the early 1980’s)

The first graders are set to receive their siddurs in a few weeks, and someone has the bright idea of having the sixth grade girls embroider the siddur covers.

And as if this plan isn’t bad enough, one of the other staff members decides that, when possible, it would be “just lovely” to have the first graders’ own big sisters make their specific covers.

Which – to make a long and extremely painful story short means that poor Miriam ends up with an unfinished siddur cover, while many of her classmates hit the jackpot with gorgeous works of art.

Ah, good times, good times…

Fast forward some 15-20 years later:

(Scene: A typical Israeli religious elementary school – circa the late 1990’s)

The first graders are set to receive their siddurs in a few weeks, and someone has the bright idea of having the mothers come to school one evening to decorate the siddur covers.

And as if this plan isn’t bad enough, one of the other staff members decides that it would be “just lovely” to have the mothers use puffy paint (i.e. tzivei tulip, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you).

Which means that the poor CTO ends up with, well, this:

IMG_3243 Admittedly, the illustration could be worse, but there are no words to describe the text…

Fortunately, with the exception of one teacher (who had the kids decorate their own covers), the rest of the Shiputzim kids’ teachers ordered premade covers.

Which means that – so far – I haven’t had the chance to ruin more than two siddur covers…


Please feel free to share your own siddur cover traumas in the comment section.


The latest Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Susan B. for including my Levi post.


  1. The school that i went to always gave out a regular siddur with no fancy cover. Sorry no trauma stories from me.

  2. sorry, I don't have a trauma to report either. The teachers made the gold paper covers for the siddurim. Eventually, those do fall off. But I do remember that when I was in Israel as a little girl, there were fabric covers, (this was way before Booksox were invented)which must have been homemade.

  3. I feel like you've been following my posts on FB! For the eldest we sat for two hours in a classroom cutting gluing embroidering. (One mom did all of Kever Rachel in embrodiery...)

    This time for number two I embroidered the name, and "tuliped" the rest...not too bad...but not so great.

  4. OMG! My baby is 19, my oldest is 26, and yet you have just had me relive the 4 major traumas of my life all over again! If my efforts with Tulip paint weren't bad enough, one teacher decided to get creative with styrofoam peanuts! Ever try mosaic-ing Kever Rachel in styrofoam? Oh, the humanity!

  5. YW - Back in my day, we didn't even have siddur parties. :-) Instead, my parents bought me my first siddur (a Shilo Siddur, of course).

    Ariella - I don't have a trauma to report either.
    The traumas seem to be limited to Israeli schools ... :-)

    Safranit (Safra-knit) - When the second-to-oldest Shiputzim child's teacher announced that she always hated decorating HER kids' siddur covers and so she was ordering premade (and pre-decorated) covers for the class, I nearly hugged her... :-)

    Miriyummy - Hmm. You know, I think the trauma is the key to the whole thing. All these years, I've been wondering who's to blame for this siddur-cover-decorating idea. But now I know. In all likelihood, it was the brainchild of an Education Ministry official who was trying to drum up business for his brother-in-law, the psychologist... :-)

  6. The very sad story of a certain Siddur cover from the "early 1980's" has been getting some retelling around here this week also. I LIKE embroidering Siddur covers! and am always frustrated that the teacher orders pre-made ones. I decorate it around the printed picture, as I am still not recovered from the trauma of an undecorated cover. Don't worry, the blame always goes to the school for the idea and not to the "decorater".

  7. Miriam - the trauma of an undecorated cover
    IIRC, it wasn't completely undecorated. After all, there was a smattering of stitches, and so perhaps "decoration-challenged" would be a more accurate description...

    And I'm VERY glad to hear that you don't blame the eleven-year-old (!!) in question... :-)

  8. Oh, the traumatic memory this brings back

    Though I gave up entirely on the text after drawing a pitiful version of the kotel (I failed art in school for good reason) and simply handed the siddur to my son's teacher and lied completely, saying i couldn't write in hebrew..... this right after filling out all sorts of paperwork in hebrew ;)

    One must learn who the other artist mom's in the class are, become their fiend and have them do your child's cover for you. It works when you show them the results of your first failed attempt and they feel pity for your child

  9. wow! we should form a support group! our 6th child just had his mesibat siddur, and b"h they had bought covers, as did 4 others. but my bhcur...(the day of the recent mesibat siddur my husband whispered 'remember the siddur cover?' and we both shuddered at the memory of the trauma.. )(and said bchur is now a mifaked in the army so it was a while ago) i believe they sent a note home 'make a cover for the siddur' ? or something. asked around and found out what was expected of me ...! ( in grade school the art teacher would finish off my projects behind my back.. ) i have apparently suppressed alot of the details, but it did involve *tulip* and toothpicks to remove said tulip and a hunt for a store that sold ready embroidered siddur cover.
    was suprised and relieved to hear that we're not alone in this.
    miriam i hope you feel a bit better knowing that although you are missing out, art-challenged mothers are being spared this trauma.

  10. Anonymous - Why didn't I think to play the new olah card?? After all, it was only about six months after our aliyah when I ruined, um, decorated the CTO's siddur cover. And as the picture in this post proves, it would NOT have been a lie for me to say that I couldn't write in Hebrew... :-)

    Faith/Emuna - we should form a support group!
    was surprised and relieved to hear that we're not alone in this.
    I imagine that there are hundreds - or even thousands! - of traumatized parents just. like. us. all across the country... :-)

  11. What an interesting insight into Israeli life! However your post might be a strong deterrent against making alyah.

  12. Ilana-Davita - LOL! :-) (Although it does seem that most schools have switched to premade covers...)

  13. Sorry to come late to this.
    I remember one child only, for whom we had to decorate the cover.

    Well, we did not know what we were getting into, but I had some urgent work that night, so I sent my husband!

    Everyone took pity on him, and the most artistic person there, made the siddur cover for my daughter. so it turned out OK in the end

  14. Keren - Great story! Shavua tov and chodesh tov!


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