The soft sound of clacking knitting needles rings out, sometimes twice a day, every other Thursday at Congregation Beth El – Ner Temid (CBENT) in Broomall.
But this is no ordinary knitting club: The participants are knitting for the Hats for Israeli Soldiers project, a worldwide effort to help keep soldiers warm during the colder months.
Since the project started in July 2016, CBENT’s knitters have produced more than 175 hats, according to Sisterhood President Marilyn Bamash.
The hats are basic black ski caps in one stretchable size. After the hats are shipped to Israel, Channah Koppel, who oversees Hats for Israeli Soldiers, sews a label inside indicating that they were handmade. The hats are given to the soldiers with a personal note wishing them warmth and safety, Bamash said.
While the hats are of a relatively simple design, it’s hard to churn them out.
“The hats can take a varying amount of time to complete,” Bamash said, noting that participants have a wide range of experience levels. “I can do one in about 10 hours.”
About 35 different women have participated, with 15 to 20 people attending a typical knitting session. Depending upon interest, there sometimes are two sessions per day.
Knitters start as young as 12 and run a full spectrum of ages.
“Everyone pitches in and helps everyone else,” Bamash said. “It has nothing to do with age. We have some older people who wanted to learn how to knit.”
Elizabeth Mellman, 78, of Ardmore ranks as the group’s most prolific knitter, producing 105 hats on her own. Although she’s actually a member of Temple Sholom in Broomall, she enjoys the camaraderie with her newfound friends.
“It’s been so much fun,” she said, noting that she was honored by CBENT for her production. “I’ve had such a good time.”
Mellman was first taught to sew as a preteen by a neighbor she babysat for and is now able to complete a hat a day.
Aside from the hats, group members at CBENT have begun to branch out, adding scarves, blankets and sweaters to their repertoire and even sewing teddy bears. More than 100 items have been sent to a shelter in Jerusalem, Bamash said.
And members also have raised about $500 for the Dream Doctors Project, which started at Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital and features medical professionals dressed as clowns to calm children and adults in Israeli hospitals and elsewhere.
Bamash hopes to personally present those funds when she visits Israel in June.
To join CBENT’s knitting club — you don’t need to be a synagogue member — contact the synagogue at 610-356-8700.
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