Susan Shender

St. Louis, Missouri USA

Susan Shender, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri.  She is a retired architect and had a practice for over thirty years.  Susan started Sukkah Soul with the design of the sukkah kit in response to the study of Jewish texts and sources.  For Susan, text study leads to visual and spatial concepts and interpretations.  Various Judaica designs along with a pendant series based on Jewish sources and photo-Hebrew are the result of study.  Travel and study continue to inspire more projects.  Susan honors her design teacher, Professor Leslie Laskey, with her work.

Susan’s work has been published in the New York Times, the Chicago Sunday Tribune, Hadassah Magazine, and Tablet Magazine among other publications.  Her work has been included in various art exhibitions.

Sefirotic Shabbat / Havdalah Shleimut Set

Size, Materials

 7 pieces include:

  •     two candlesticks and wine cup for Friday night
  •     wine cup, spice holder and Havdalah   candlestick for Saturday night
  •     and a dish

Each wine cup exceeds the 4 ½ fluid ounce Halachic requirement.

  •     Cast bronze
  •     Pieces range in height from about 7” to 8”
  •     Each piece has 3 sides, each side is about 2-1/4” wide
  •     Dish has a 6-3/4” diameter and is 1-1/2” high including the legs.

Description of Project

The Unity of Shabbat

The Exile of the week is over on Shabbat.  On Shabbat that which is partial finds its whole if we are willing to enter all the lost spaces inside of ourselves and receive what is missing.

We make Havdalah on Saturday night to mark the separation between Shabbat holy time and weekly not-yet-holy time, but the emphasis is on unity, integration, not separation.  The Shabbat, in its welcoming and in its departure, is a unity experience.  

I created the Sefirotic Shabbat / Havdalah Shleimut (wholeness) Set to emphasize the integrative experience of Shabbat.  Instead of a distinct Shabbat set and Havdalah set, I saw an opportunity to design the sets as one to convey the feeling of wholeness. The triangular shapes are influenced by traditional notions as common as the three Patriarchs and as esoteric as the Kabbalah’s Sefirotic system imagined as three sets of three plus one.  The triangular pieces stand on their own as evocative forms and also nest nicely demonstrating the integrative quality of one.

The 19th century master of Polish Hasidism known as the Sefat Emet:

‘In every place where God dwells there is shleimut (wholeness).’  

–  from ‘The Language of Truth: The Torah Commentary of the Sefat Emet’ with translations by Dr. Arthur Green

Each piece increases in height to form an upward spiral, from the Shabbat candlestick to the Havdalah candlestick, to express the fulfilling experience of Shabbat.  

New & Ancient Simultaneously

The cast bronze, a 5000 year old method, is intended to have a ‘new-ancient’ sensibility, a fresh way of looking at ancient ideas.  It can feel as suitable to the times of Abraham, Moses, and the Maccabees as well as to the 21st century.

The Sefirotic Chuppah

Size, Materials, Where Installed

Standard size:
Footprint: 8’-3” x 8’-3”
Height: 7’-1”
Cedar wood
Fabric netting
Plastic and metal connectors

Installed throughout the USA by customers during 11 years of sales

Description of Project

Through the language of the Sefirot, G*d is expressed in ten manifestations or emanations, as it were, like kindness, strength and beauty.  All of these manifestations have avenues of connection to one another.  We imagine these energies in triangles forming triads of relationships.

The chuppah design is inspired by the diagonal connections shown on many illustrations of the sefirot.  Each emanation is connected to others and all are connected to Tiferet, beauty, in the center.  While the diagonals illustrate the connections between the sefirah, the diagonals of the chuppah design offer stability to the structure.  

Kabbalah Mezuzah Case

Size Materials

Cast bronze case for a door jamb installation includes two screws.
6-3/8 inch high, 1-3/4 inch at widest, 5/8 inch at deepest
A 10 cm scroll fits nicely.
Signed, limited edition of museum quality

Description of Project

Words and writing are central to Jewish identity. 
The ancient hand that carved and wrote were the inspiration for the Mezuzah case.
The Mezuzah case shape is the letter Vav. The Paleo-Hebrew letter Shin is on the mezuzah. The five diamond shapes refer to the Kabbalah’s Sefirot and the 5 Books of Torah.
The Upper & the Lower and the Vav

‘Now, come and see the power of the righteous: they can unite all the sefirot, harmonizing the upper and the lower worlds.’ 

    – Daniel C. Matt, The Essential Kabbalah, Castle Books, New Jersey, 1997, p. 79 

The Vav 

The up and down letter in form linking heaven and earth, called the or yashar, the direct light, straight up and down in form, the holy ‘And’ in content, the world stands on And: Me and you, You and God, it’s an And world.

When we cannot find the ‘And’ we are lost. There is no We without ‘And,’ above all there is the connection in form the upper and lower worlds.

We are taught the upper worlds will not respond until the lower worlds bestir themselves.

Shin Paleo-Hebrew

The shin stands for Shaddai, a name for G*d, and is typically on a mezuzah case.  

New & Ancient Simultaneously

The piece is made from cast bronze, a 5000 year old method, and is intended to have a ‘new-ancient’ sensibility, a fresh way of looking at ancient ideas.  

I imagine it to feel as suitable to the times of Abraham, Moses, and the Maccabees as well as to the 21st century.