Israeli architect collaborates with French design empire to create a crystal mezuzah 

Israeli architecture and interior design aficionado Irma Orenstein collaborated with a luxury French glassware company to create a new, bespoke mezuzah.

 Irma Orenstein (photo credit: RON KEDMI)
Irma Orenstein
(photo credit: RON KEDMI)

When elite Israeli architect and interior design specialist Irma Orenstein couldn’t find a high-end mezuzah case (that holds a parchment scroll inscribed with Biblical passages and is attached by Jews to their door jambs) to match the house of one Israel’s richest inhabitants, she decided to create a bespoke mezuzah on her own.

Now, this prestigious Jewish item has been created for the boutique retail market in collaboration with Lalique, a French glassmaker, founded by renowned glassmaker and jeweler René Lalique in 1888. Lalique is best known for producing glass art, including perfume bottles, vases, and hood ornaments, since the early 20th century.

What does Irma Orenstein’s client base look like?

Orenstein’s clients are at the high end of the Israeli and international market. When she designed the home of Israeli-Canadian billionaire businessman and philanthropist Sylvan Adams, she was missing something. 

“It was born out of necessity,” Orenstein told The Jerusalem Post in an interview about the mezuzah. “Part of my design concept is to bring all the values of the relevant content worlds for each unique home.” She explained that “when I designed Sylvan Adams’ house, a beautiful penthouse where everything is custom-made, including the lighting fixtures, I needed to find a mezuzah.”

 Irma Orenstein, hard at work with her handmade mezuzah. (credit: RON KEDMI) Irma Orenstein, hard at work with her handmade mezuzah. (credit: RON KEDMI)

Orenstein said that she literally “looked everywhere... I asked friends who are more connected to the ultra-Orthodox world than I am.” But she gave up, and decided to create one of her own. “I designed this mezuzah because I couldn’t find one relevant to my design. It was born out of necessity and love.”

“If I don’t find a beautiful accessory that I’m looking for, I produce one on my own,” she said.

Orenstein added that her personal background has a lot to do with this design. “I grew up in Tbilisi [Georgia] and came to Israel later on in my life. I combine gold, an artifact that I grew up with [in Georgia] with crystals, yet always give the designs a modern interpretation. This melting pot that exists in Israel is what inspired me to create the special mezuzah.”

Orenstein is the name and talent behind an impressive collection of exclusive residential properties in Israel and overseas. Located in Tel Aviv, her Irma Orenstein Architecture & Interior Design Studio was established in 2002. She specializes in providing architectural and design services to prestigious apartments, penthouses and luxury buildings, as well as many unique commercial projects.

Her exemplary portfolio showcases diverse properties as far afield as London, Vienna and New York as well as many locations in Israel. She also works closely with the foremost Italian furniture makers to design “haute couture” stairways, lighting fixtures, furniture, tableware and accessories in accordance with the demands of each specific project. 

Orenstein’s design work has been shown internationally and was selected to be presented at the START Art Fair 2018 which took place at London’s Saatchi Gallery. She was also a keynote speaker at the London Design Biennale that year.

“The crystal mezuzah captivates with its curved lines that catch the light,” Lalique’s website says, describing the new collaboration object with Orenstein. “While it is produced at the Lalique Manufacture in Wingen-sur-Moder Alsace, its design comes from Tel Aviv.”

The mezuzah is available in two different sizes, in clear crystal with a nickel or gilded finish with green or blue stones. The regular size costs €900 and the larger version costs €3,600. Orenstein disclosed that she is in the midst of creating a special edition of the mezuzah according to the 12 tribes of Israel, while each piece will include a different color of gems, according to the make-up of the hoshen, a special item of clothing that the high priest wore in the Temple.

The evolving mezuzah

The mezuzah, which has different Jewish elements engraved inside and outside, is hand made in a special factory in France. “I designed the mezuzah but also dealt with the engineering development,” Orenstein explained. She added that “because I love engineering, I sent them [Lalique] the exact plans of how to produce the mezuzah.”

“I’m so proud to collaborate with Lalique, as an Israeli architectural artist,” Orenstein said. “Lalique, which is one of France’s cultural institutions, used to work with the French royal family, so creating a mezuzah with them is all the more exciting,” she voiced with satisfaction.

Orenstein articulated that the religious and even ultra-Orthodox community has slowly changed its preferences regarding design: “The religious Israelis and Diaspora Jews I meet as clients want beauty in their homes and businesses. As opposed to two decades ago, the same people don’t just want their homes to be functional. More and more wealthy ultra-Orthodox families want their values for modern beauty incorporated in their homes.”

 Intricate mezuzah details (credit: RON KEDMI) Intricate mezuzah details (credit: RON KEDMI)

Lalique already hosted a launch party for the mezuzah in France and is planning on hosting similar ones in Israel, New York and London.

“The people at Lalique were overwhelmed with the amount of feedback and requests for orders of the mezuzah,” she said, explaining she hopes that not only Jews will order this new piece of Judaica, but also Evangelical Christians.