Creating the Star of David Pendant
by the artisans of the Munay Rumi Cooperative and Partners for Just Trade
Text and Photos by Yochi Zakai
In spring 2009 I staffed the Resonating Change Fair Trade tour for Green America, a three week tour to 11 cities in the midwest with Peruvian artisans Ayedee Riveros and Evangelina Pizarro. The message they delivered was powerful: Fair Trade empowers individuals to overcome cultural, social and even personal barriers and improve their lives. Ayedee and Evangelina’s stories resonated with the audiences and helped people comprehend the imbalances that most Americans realize exist but haven’t necessarily digested. The audiences were particularly surprised to hear tales of labor abuse, prior to starting a cooperative, such as Ayedee working two weeks to knit four sweaters and never being paid, and Evangelina working 12 hour days, 6 days a week in a jewelry factory to be paid only $75 a month. Fair Trade provides both women with a living wage and a better life.
After Ayedee and Evangelina shared their stories with audiences, we shared with them the wonders of the Green Festivals, riding a Ferris wheel and bicycle for the first time, and visiting dedicated Fair Trade groups across the country. Eventually, it was time to say goodbye. Taking care to build the personal connections that are roots of the Fair Trade system, our farewell was only temporary as I planned to visit their cooperatives that following summer.
In Lima the energetic staff of Bridge of Hope, the World Fair Trade Organization’s affiliate in Peru, greeted me. They showed me to the simple workshop of the Munay Rumi Cooperative, where I was reunited with Evangelina and met cooperative members Sonia Anahue, Silvia Vargas, and Ernesto Alca.
They showed me everything that goes into producing their beautiful sterling silver jewelry. I was amazed to learn that these artisans purchase silver unprocessed, the same way it comes out of the mines. They use a blowtorch in a simple foundry to create silver wire and plates.
The wire is then twirled or plates cut to make earrings and pendants.
Perusing their catalog of items, I was keeping an eye on what I could bring home for my family. There were Incan crosses, the symbols I had seen etched into the stone of the palaces at Machu Picchu, nature symbols, and plenty of Christian crosses, a testament to the Presbyterian Hunger Fund’s involvement in promoting Fair Trade among their member churches. No judaica, or Jewish items, were in sight.
So what was a good Fair Trade-minded Jewish boy to buy? The options were limited, so I asked the Munay Rumi Cooperative (which means “Beautiful Stone” in Quechua) if they would be willing to use their artistic creativity and create some new designs for me. I showed them pictures of two traditional Jewish symbols, the star of David and the hamsa, a palm-shaped amulet originally used by middle easterners as a defense against the superstitious evil spirit, or evil eye.
Six weeks later, after several rounds of small refinements with the help of friends at Fair Trade Judaica, we had several variations of hamsas and stars of David that I was ready to bring home to the family. Our friends at Partners for Just Trade, a Green Business Network member already importing Munay Rumi’s jewelry, happily agreed to carry the Star of David Pendant as their first piece of judaica.
After paying Munay Rumi a fair wage for their work and accounting for importing costs, the star costs $18. By good fortune, $18 is the exact amount of the numeric value of the Hebrew word for life, and a common amount given as a gift or donation.
Many months after the Resonating Change tour, the Fair Trade circle was completed as I returned from Peru with a hamsa that my Jewish mother is proud to wear and a set of samples ready to show to synagogue shops.
Take a look at Munay Rumi’s items available for purchase from Partners for Just Trade and please be in touch with us if you’d like to bring Munay Rumi’s jewelry to your community.
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