'Am ehad'

The fruit of one woman’s passionate efforts, the Pendant Project’s mission of unity involves Ethiopian immigrants crafting jewelry for mothers of fallen IDF soldiers.

The pendant designed and created by the Megemeria students and given to the mothers of 72 IDF soldiers who fell in Operation Protective Edge, as well as the mothers of the three murdered yeshiva students. The words ‘Am ehad,’ one people, are engraved in Hebrew and Amharic (photo credit: Courtesy)
The pendant designed and created by the Megemeria students and given to the mothers of 72 IDF soldiers who fell in Operation Protective Edge, as well as the mothers of the three murdered yeshiva students. The words ‘Am ehad,’ one people, are engraved in Hebrew and Amharic
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Even though Marcia Klein calls herself a simple Jew from Jerusalem, she is a woman of action who took the initiative to build a project during the long, hot days of the summer of 2014, when war was raging in Gaza.
The project involved the Yvel jewelry factory, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem; Ethiopian immigrant craftsmen and craftswomen of the Megemeria School of Jewelry and Design, located within the Yvel complex; and the modern technology of Facebook. The result was 75 pendants, made to bring comfort to the mothers of the three murdered yeshiva students and the 72 IDF soldiers who fell in Operation Protective Edge.
Klein and I sit at an outdoor table in a Netanya café on a warm day during the intermediate days of Succot. With beads of perspiration on both our faces, she tells me how glad she is that the relative quiet of this past summer provided a breather from last year’s events. (Little do we know of what is to come.) The tone of her voice and the passion in her eyes show her commitment to Am Yisrael.
“I felt helpless last summer,” she recalls, “and that is a feeling I do not like. When I asked myself what am I doing for Israel in this time of war, I had no answer.”
She explains that she and her father made aliya from New York City in 1991, and that she has no children. Nevertheless, she felt empathy for the pain suffered by the mothers of the three abducted teens and the lost soldiers.
“I went to the funeral of the teens with 3,000 other people, but wanted to do something more for all the mothers,” she says, adding that she firmly believes that if people rely on their instinct in regard to an idea or desire they are passionate about, they can make it happen.
Her own job in this respect was to search for an answer as how to go about it.
Before the war broke out, Klein and a group of friends made a trip to the Yvel jewelry factory in Motza, just outside the capital. They had planned the trip and postponed it many times, yet in the quiet days of May, it suddenly worked out.
“We found out that Yvel not only made exquisite jewelry, but that the plant layout and design showed love, innovation and attention to detail,” she says.
Yvel (the mirror image of the name of its founder and CEO, Isaac Levy) is a firm with an international reputation.
Its creations are known for their unusual settings of pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, and careful craftsmanship. Alongside the clean and modern factory is a division called the Megemeria School of Jewelry and Design, founded five years ago by Levy to assist talented and motivated members of Israel’s Ethiopian community.
It was within the collection of jewelry made by the Ethiopian craftsmen that Klein found and purchased a beautiful but affordable pendant – silver, with a coating of 24-karat gold – with the words am ehad (one people) engraved in Hebrew and Amharic.
“Whenever I wore the pendant, people would remark on its beauty and the significance of its words,” she says. “I later realized that this pendant would be a meaningful and comforting gift to give to the mothers of the fallen. This would not change anything, but, I felt, it would help ease their pain.”
Her next step was to contact Levy to discuss the idea, and within a very short time he answered her email with a positive reply.
“However,” he replied jokingly, “if you continue to address me as ‘Mr. Levy,’ the price will go up.”
Klein had bought her pendant for $60, and wrote back that she could not afford to pay the full price for 75 pendants. He answered that he had great regard for her idea and asked her to make an offer.
When she did, he accepted immediately.
“I was surprised at his swiftness of action,” Klein recalls, “and he told me that he had been in business for a long time and was a good judge of character.”
Before finalizing the agreement, Levy told her he first had to clear it with the craftspeople at the school regarding whether they could make such a large number of pendants in a short time.
“They answered in the affirmative, and I laid out the money and sent a check,” she says.
The artisans got to work straightaway and made the 75 pendants, which Levy packaged individually, accompanied with lovely cards.
In the interim, Klein says she contacted around 50 friends and relatives from Israel and the US, and asked them to sponsor one pendant or more.
“Everyone responded positively,” she recounts. “The outpouring of interest and generosity was outstanding.”
People were happy to be a part of the project, she says, and gave her the feeling of what a caring breed of people the Jews are.
The next step was to distribute the pendants.
Klein was adamant that each one be delivered through a personal emissary.
She found on the Internet a list of names of the fallen soldiers and the towns they were from, and after much investigation and networking through friends and Facebook, she managed to locate each family. She recruited friends from throughout Israel to deliver the pendants to families living far from Jerusalem; for those living closer by, she delivered the pendants herself.
She also found two friends who were traveling to the United States, and had them hand-deliver pendants to the families of the two lone soldiers who fell during the war.
Before delivery, Klein took it upon herself to call each mother, wherever she lived, and tell her about the pendant, noting that many people had been involved in the effort. This part of the project took over six months, and there were many times she had to take a break from the intensity.
“The first time I had to call the mother of a fallen soldier, I was scared – and I knew that I had to call 75 mothers,” she remembers.
“Therefore, I wrote a paragraph to begin my conversation, and the words flowed from there. The reactions of the families were very positive, and all were very touched by this gesture. In working on this project, I met some truly wonderful people,” she says.
“There are a lot of people that have good ideas,” Klein reflects. “If you take the initiative and follow through, I believe that God will help.”