Book project launch: Into a Jewish Holiday Year with Yoga

In January of 2021, I was tagged by some friends into a Facebook thread from the illustrious Delia Sherman, on behalf of a friend looking for a graphic designer to help produce a self-published book with some Hebrew in it. Since that’s totally my niche, I was pleased when the co-author reached out to me the next day for some more information. That was my introduction to yoga teacher Sharon Epstein, her rabbi Tara Feldman, and their book project, which would become a labor of love for me as well: Into a Jewish Holiday Year with Yoga: A Workbook and Guided Journey for Body, Mind, and Soul (2021; ISBN 979-8-9850271-0-5; USD $19.95).

The ikar, or kernel, of the book is that these two delightful and insightful women have teamed up to structure a yoga experience around the Jewish holiday cycle. For each of 12 holidays, they had put together some basic introductory context, then drawn out a deep underlying conceptual theme, and matched it with a set of yoga poses to literally embody that theme. They also provided a guided meditation and some journaling prompts to round out the internal experience of each holiday.

Mind you, I have spent a total of about 2 hours on a yoga mat in my life, but I have a visceral appreciation for the rhythms of the Jewish calendar. We are souls and we are bodies. Bringing together the spiritual and the somatic brings depth to both perceptions. It was a real gift to get to be a part of this project and help Sharon and Tara activate its full potential.

Over the ensuing 10 months, the book format went from an 8″ square gift book to a 6×9″ paperback and finally to an 8.5×11″ workbook. Still, I had a clear vision all along for the cover art: a 12-spoked color wheel that would encompass the 12 holidays covered in the book.

In terms of the typefaces, I started with a classic Adobe pairing of Minion (serif for the body copy) and Myriad (sans-serif for the display type), including Myriad Hebrew for the few Hebrew words interspersed. Fortunately, however, once the authors realized I could handle the Hebrew easily, they decided to work more Hebrew back into the text, and we ended up choosing Shlomo for a more calligraphic feel. We also added an informal script face, John Benson’s Caliban, into the mix to enhance the display elements in English.

As part of the production process, I walked the authors through joining Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, so now I have that under my belt. We learned that Amazon lets you opt into a free ISBN assignment that can only be used internally to Amazon (since perpetuating their own monopoly is what they’re all about). But when I sought some advice from another friend, experienced Amazon author Zahara Schara, she strongly recommended investing in a real ISBN registration with R.R. Bowker, which allows you to exist in the real world of Books In Print and be found and sold in places outside the Amazon ecosystem. Note, however, that Bowker now charges $125 for a single ISBN registration, whereas you can purchase a block of 10 for $295 and use them as you need them (indefinitely—they never expire). As a frequent collaborator with self-published authors, this need has come up before, and I’ve often thought that I should go ahead and register that block of 10 ISBNs. Thus it came about that Schultz Yakovetz Judaica is now a registered “micropublisher” with R.R. Bowker, and Lev Shalem Yoga is its first official imprint. :-D

We had targeted November 1, 2021, as our publication date (just in time for a very early Chanukah 5782). After many, many fun and fruitful hours of Zoom meetings, page proofs, revisions, and a final Shehecheyanu blessing, we tied up all the loose ends in time to hit Publish on Sunday, October 31.

By the afternoon of November 1, the book had hit #3 on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” in Yoga, and #5 on their Best Sellers list in the Jewish Life category… nestled in between Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. This is incredibly august company to be in.

I’m very proud of this project, and grateful to the chain of friends who brought these two dynamic Jewish women into my life. PS: It goes without saying that this book will make the perfect Chanukah gift for your favorite Jewish yoga enthusiast. Order your copy now… or if you’re anywhere near Great Neck, NY, contact Sharon Epstein for a signed author copy.

Want more? You can “like” the book’s Facebook page, or join the Lev Shalem YOGA Facebook group (tell them Erica sent you).

Free Printable: Grade K-1 “My Book About Chanukah”

Here in Northwest Indiana, my kindergartener is the only Jewish kid in her class. As many of you have no doubt experienced, that makes her the go-to for educating the class on Jewish holidays – even at age 5.

Yesterday, her teacher asked if she would read a book about Chanukah to the class this morning (fully remote of course). No problem, we thought; we have several wonderful books on hand, we’ll pick one out. However, looking them over at bedtime quickly made it clear that there wasn’t one among them that she could read fluently by herself.

So what does Mama do? Get up Friday morning and put one together! I tried to approach it through the lens of what she would tell the class about Chanukah from her perspective.

I made it 8 pages to fit on 2 letter-sized sheets. Adobe’s Acrobat Reader should let you print this on the “Booklet” setting to come out right for folding, but just in case your printer software isn’t up to the task, I also made a PDF with the pages already doubled up (you still have to print it double-sided though).

Little one was very pleased and read it perfectly on the first try. Note that she is (of course) a fairly precocious reader for Grade K, but while I’m no literacy specialist, it would probably work well for any early readers.

I set the type in Futura Book. The illustrations are courtesy of Adobe Stock (#179419911).

Happy Chanukah!

 

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Free Printable Friday Night Prayerbook (Condensed Edition)

This past weekend was the Arisia science fiction convention, which is put on each January by several hundred of my closest friends in Boston, MA. I attended almost every Arisia from 1999 to 2014 (after which I moved back to the Midwest). In 2006, since all my geeky shul friends were attending the convention anyway, I started organizing a Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service at the convention hotel. Those of us who were on the synagogue board borrowed a large (and heavy!) crate of assorted prayerbooks from Temple Beth Shalom of Cambridge every year to make the service happen.

This service, I am happy to say, is still going on, organized by Terri Ash (of Geek Calligraphy) and her family. But for 2017, Terri wanted a pamphlet-style siddur containing only the prayers for Friday night, that could be stored from year to year just for Arisia. But we weren’t aware of any existing siddur that fit our needs, so, what do we do? Build our own (based on the extensive resources available at the groundbreaking OpenSiddur.org website). She asked “Who wants to help make this happen?” and of course I said “Here I am!”  Continue reading

Website launch: Training Insight

Who doesn’t love a good referral? In this case, Dianna Sanchez was so happy with her new site design, she referred one of her neighbors to me for some website work.

Training InsightChristine McKay runs her own consulting practice, Training Insight, doing custom training and computer setup for financial software (specifically QuickBooks and Sage Timeslips) in Cambridge, MA. She’s been in business for many years, which is great for her clients. On the downside, her website www.trnginsight.com hadn’t been updated since 2004, and it was time for an overhaul. (Skip to the end of this post for the before-and-after slideshow… because, also, who doesn’t love a good before-and-after?)

Christine already has an established visual identity that is serving her well, and she wasn’t looking for rebranding or significant changes to the look of her site. What she mostly wanted help with was search engine optimization, in order to enhance her site’s reach and visibility to potential new clients. However, I told her that SEO would be best served by some structural adjustments to her site: Continue reading

Invitation design: Watercolor theme

Back in September 2015, one of my dearest friends back in Boston contacted me about doing invitations for her oldest daughter’s bat mitzvah in November of the following year, for Parashat Lech Lecha.

Maya is a budding artist, and the celebration was going to have an art theme. In March 2016 they sent me a draft of Maya’s design concept (shown right; click to enlarge). It’s always helpful to have a client with such a clear vision of what they’d like to achieve!  Continue reading

New website project launch: DiannaSanchez.com

On Friday, I officially launched my latest website project: an author website for children’s book author Dianna Sanchez, whose debut novel A Witch’s Kitchen is forthcoming in a month from indie YA publisher Dreaming Robot Press. Check out the site!

Backstory: Two months ago, I put out a call to the Universe (via Facebook) for some freelance work. Among the respondents (and there were a few, thank you, Universe) was an old friend from my MIT circles who needed a spiffy new website to go with her first book’s upcoming publication. She had set up a starter website back in April, in WordPress, but it was… rudimentary. (I’d say “basic” but that word has acquired problematic cultural overtones in the last ~5 years.) I never took a screenshot of it, but now I wish I had for posterity, because like most people I love before-and-after stories!  Continue reading

SCOTUS Angels update: Nonviolent (gun-free) edition

At last writing, I had recently released the original SCOTUS Angels design and promised (after many inquiries) to create a nonviolent, gun-free version.

Things that have happened since then:

  • On March 8, Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder/president of Whole Woman’s Health and lead plaintiff on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, contacted me on Facebook to ask if I would consider directing the proceeds toward the Center for Reproductive Rights (the nonprofit law firm representing WWH to the Supreme Court), rather than my go-to of Planned Parenthood. I was happy to agree to this idea. Ten percent of the royalties from this design (both versions) will now benefit the Center for Reproductive Rights.
  • Also on March 8, Zazzle pulled down every product using the first design, on the grounds of copyright (really trademark) infringement. Alas!
  • On March 12, I released the gun-free version. In this edition, justice is being served with the tools of law (symbolized by gavels, scales, and books) rather than with weapons. I posted both designs on an art site called Society6, about which I had heard good things. However, their product selection is more limited than Zazzle’s (no bumper stickers! no plus sizes!), so I also went back and posted the new design on Zazzle. So far, it’s remained up with no copyright issues.
  • Tangentially, but not for nothing: On March 16, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the SCOTUS vacancy. (Side note: if approved, his appointment would increase the count of Jews on the Court to 4 out of 9, joining Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan.) Dear Senate Judiciary Committee: Approve or reject him as you see fit, but please, #DoYourJob and hold the hearings.

Anyway. Shop the collections:

 

Purim is coming! Have some music!

Mishenichnas Adar, marbin b’simcha.
“When the month of Adar enters, we increase in joy.”
— Gemara (Taanit 29b)

Quick primer: Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Adar. In fact, it’s the first day of the second month of Adar, since this year is a leap year — which, in the Jewish lunar calendar, means not just adding an extra day but a whole extra month (known in those years as Adar I).

The point is, it’s less than two weeks until the festival of Purim, when we celebrate the Persian Jews’ deliverance from persecution in the fourth century BCE, as detailed in the Book of Esther.

So I wanted to share some little-known Purim music collections… the perfect soundtrack for your hamantashen baking.

First, The Ramaz School in NYC (where I was the webmaster from 2011-2014) produced an album of Purim songs in 2012, featuring both students and faculty. The whole collection can be played or downloaded for free at web.ramaz.org/purim/index.html. Brush up on standards like Mishenichnas Adar and Shoshanat Yaakov, and enjoy some new and original compositions. Yasher koach to Ramaz for being leaders in Jewish education and music education, as well as service to the greater community.

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Second, I would be remiss not to point out the two Purim-themed operas by David Bass, The Coronation of Esther (2001) and its sequel Springtime for Haman (2004). The North Cambridge [MA] Family Opera Company hosts recordings of both operas:

Chodesh tov and shabbat shalom!

New project: SCOTUS Angels

Hi. This is Erica. Apparently I won the Internet this weekend, with a little Photoshop riff on a classic tableau.

“Once upon a time there were three brilliant women who went to the Supreme Court. Two Jewish, the other Latina. And now they work for me. My name is Social Justice.”

Posted by Erica Schultz Yakovetz on Saturday, March 5, 2016

Inspired by Dahlia Lithwick’s March 2 Slate article on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, my friend Laurie asked for a T-shirt of Justices Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor in a Charlie’s Angels pose. Saturday night, I released this:

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That’s the Notorious RBG in the center, with Elena Kagan at left and Sonia Sotomayor at right. The white jabots are based on the real versions sported by each of these amazing women.

Now you, too, can have that T-shirt, thanks to Zazzle. There are different variations for different background colors, so the product line is getting a little complex. I’m curating the full set at this link: SCOTUS Angels Collection.

I’m pledging 10% of my royalties to Planned Parenthood. UPDATE, 3/8/16: Amy Hagstrom Miller, the lead plaintiff in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, reached out to me today to ask if the proceeds could instead support the Center for Reproductive Rights (the nonprofit law firm representing WWH for this case). So, while the first $50 based on sales to date will still go to Planned Parenthood (my go-to, along with Medical Students for Choice and the ACLU, for my regular charitable support), I am happy to direct 10% of the future proceeds to the Center. Thank you, Amy, for your activism! And Happy International Women’s Day!

And after many requests, YES, I will be creating a nonviolent (gun-free) version in the near future. Gavels, law book, scales of justice. Something. Watch this space.

Chanukah song sheet (free downloadable)

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In honor of Chanukah starting tonight, I wanted to share the link to my free downloadable Chanukah song sheet (available on the “Ritual Materials” page of my Judaica site).

Everyone loves to sing at Chanukah parties (don’t they??), but no one can remember the words to anything more than one verse of Ma’oz Tzur. Now you can! This version, produced in 2011, includes all the Chanukah candle-lighting blessings (with transliterated Hebrew) PLUS the lyrics to 12 favorite Chanukah tunes, all on one easily-photocopied 8.5×11″ sheet (double-sided).

… Oh, and lest I forget, there’s also my ever-expanding Chanukah YouTube playlist.

Chag sameach, all. Now excuse me while I go start peeling potatoes!