September 19, 2012
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Nix the New York Mets-themed judaica. Try MayaWorks on for size!

for The Brooklyn Paper

Preparing for a bar or bat mitzvah can be a daunting process. Apart from party planning and coordination, you need to stock up judaica for guests — atarot, talitot, and tons of kippot. The only problem for party planners is choosing among the hundreds of options (that’s not even counting the New York Mets themed swag). But if you’re looking for something that your guests will treasure for years to come, look no further than MayaWorks.

MayaWorks is a non-profit social venture that sells fair-trade judaica products that are handcrafted by local artisans in Guatemala. The gorgeous products, including three different types of kippot, come in 40 Maya-inspired designs using bright colors of the “traje” traditional dress. The products are made to order and can be shipped anywhere in the United States.

But the best part of buying your judaica from MayaWorks is the impact the purchases have on the artisans themselves. MayaWorks was created in 1996 in order to help women “transform their skills into a means of financial support” by creating a market for the traditional arts of the Mayan people. Over the last 15 years, MayaWorks has helped 125 low-income artisans earn over $2 million dollars from the sale of their handcrafted products. This income has allowed the artisans to send their daughters to school, provide nutritious meals for their families, and support economic development missions in Guatemala.

The project is the brainchild of Pat Krause, a former volunteer who discovered the work of Mayan craftsman back in 1990. Ms. Krause began taking suitcases of indigenous goods back to the U.S., selling them and sending the proceeds back to Guatemala. Within a few years, demand for the goods was so great that Krause formed a 501c (3) to deal with the proceeds. Today, MayaWorks employs 60 artisans to make kippot alone and sells almost a dozen amazing judaica products.

So, if you’re looking for beautifully made, socially responsible judaica, look no further than MayaWorks. You’ll never don a Mets themed yarmulke again.

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