, Miriam Dym
About Rachel Berger
Rachel Berger is a graphic designer and Miriam Dym is a visual-systems artist. Rachel and Miriam met as fellows in the 2020 cohort of LABA East Bay in Berkeley, California. LABA is a Jewish house of study and culture laboratory which uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue, and study. Since then, they have collaborated on a range of projects. In 2021 they received a Berkeley Civic Arts Commission grant to work with middle school students to explore the past, present, and possible futures for the city of Berkeley.
Mappa is a tablecloth, ritually dyed with a pattern of wine stains. We find creative tension between the invitation to create an object for mass distribution and the values of Shmita—sustainability, rest, resource consciousness, anti-consumerism. As we started discussing ideas for our submission, Miriam asked a series of questions:Can we have culture without things?Can a used object become a prompt for a new ritual?Can our “object” result in fewer, rather than more objects?Can a ritual object be a set of instructions?We embraced this paradox. Rather than creating a new object, we have created a ritual that infuses an existing object with the spirit of Shmita.We started by taking a fresh look at an object common to so many Jewish homes: the pure white tablecloth, reserved for Yontif. Why do we treat the inevitable stains from a festive night as blemishes to be removed at all costs? What if we celebrate them instead? Stains are evidence of wonderful things colliding—knee and grass, tongue and popsicle, wine and cloth.In Hebrew, Mappa (מַפָּה) means both tablecloth and map. A stained tablecloth is a memory map—bearing the traces of generations of celebrations. Mappa honors the Shmita by encouraging a shift from resource-intensive purification rituals like bleaching and hot water laundering to a resource-conscious beautification ritual using natural dye. We offer a recipe for creating your own Mappa, a stain-receptive tablecloth to make Yontif meals more restful, joyful, and responsible.