Family traditions take over The Museum of Jewish Montreal

Every year The Museum of Jewish Montreal brings together a cohort of dynamic Jewish individuals who are curious to dive into individual projects centred around Judaism. Each micrograntee receives funding, mentorship, and professional development workshops. The program “provides an accessible entry point to connect with Jewish life both for the participant and for the public.”

Here at Niv, we are thrilled to feature a small peek into two of the participants’ projects. Sarah Deshaies honours Chrismukkah and the holidays with a podcast, and Claire Sigal embroiders familial pasts.

Sarah Deshaies

Photograph courtesy of Sarah Deshaies.

Chrismukkah Party is an audio documentary about two very different holidays celebrated under the same roof.

While Christmas and Hanukkah honour distinct events that happened thousands of years ago, their close arrival in the early, dark days of winter mean that many families end up twinning the two.

With an increase in intermarriage in an ever-secular society, some Jews are setting up trees next to their menorahs and adding carols to blessings.

Chrismukkah Party is a new, festive, podcast that delves into the rituals and traditions that interfaith families have created in order to celebrate together—from Chrismukkah cocktails to December advent calendars to Magen David tree toppers.

Photograph courtesy of Sarah Deshaies.

I am a Montreal-based writer and radio producer who grew up in an interfaith family. Hanukkah and Christmas have gone hand-in-hand forever. But as my peers form interfaith families of their own, I have questions about integration, cohesiveness, representation, and the happiest time of the year.

In the podcast I learn how other interfaith families have adapted to the holiday season. I meet a rabbi, a social worker, and a community worker who are there to support those families when they have questions like: To tree or not to tree? How do I talk about this with my kids? Is it wrong to combine Hanukkah and Christmas?

Available soon on Apple, Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts.

Chrismukkah Party is created and hosted by Sarah Deshaies, with the support of the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

Claire Sigal

I often find myself singing Yiddish songs about the pains of sewing while embroidering or
mending. Often, these songs are “Di Dray Neytorins,” about three garment workers who are worked to death in factories, or “Rivkele Di Shabbesdike,” a contemplation on the same fate.

My great-grandmother was a garment worker in Montreal working in such factories. Needlework for me has become a salvation rather than a burden. Like my great-grandmother, I also cross-stitch and embroider textiles for my loved ones and for my own home.

We can recalibrate our relationship with the needle. I made a historical embroidery pattern for those in attendance [of the presentation] to stitch a mile in their ancestor’s thimble. I described, while stitching, how the needle was used as a tool of abuse in the past, but also how it decorated the home and what these decorations meant. While we stitched, or simply listened and relaxed, I gave some background on the history of the garment workers’ union, their literary involvements, their communities, and families.

Photograph courtesy of Claire Sigal.
Photograph courtesy of Claire Sigal.

My pattern draws direct inspiration from the tefillin bag my great-grandmother made for my great-grandfather on the occasion of their engagement. It was traditional to give your fiancé a tefilllin bag when engaged. When I created my own version (to share with you!), I followed the geometry I found my great-grandmother’s embroidery held. Each flower is placed in relation to a point on the Magen David. I felt how magical it was to walk in my great-grandmother’s shoes; to reason through an embroidery project the way she did.

Pattern of Magen David with flowers image courtesy of Claire Sigal.

This embroidery has a Magen David as the central motif, surrounded by flowers. Backstitch, French knots, and satin stitch are worked with 6-strand cotton embroidery thread to illustrate the Magen David and its accompanying flowers.

Materials and equipment

Loose Leaf paper

A pencil


Embroidery needles (Clover, DMC, or another high quality brand, none will be costly.)

Textile to embroider on (I suggest a canvas bag or another semi-heavy fabric, if you are not using a hoop. Do not use any stretchy fabric.)

6 inch hoop (optional, suggested for beginners)

Thimble (optional, highly suggested for all, on your middle finger)


DMC 6-strand cotton embroidery floss:

DMC 368 LT Pistachio Green, 1 skein

DMC 3755 Baby Blue, 1 skein

DMC 744 Pale Yellow, 1 skein


Option 1: Trace the design directly onto the fabric by putting the pattern, then your fabric over a bright window.

Option 2: Trace the pattern onto loose leaf paper. Poke holes along the lines of the pattern with a sewing needle or the lead of a mechanical pencil. Put this poked design over your fabric (it has to be a light colour or it won’t show) and then insert the lead of the mechanical pencil through the hole to mark the fabric with a dot. This is a make-shift form of pouncing to transfer images. Look up pouncing art for more information.


Stitch visuals courtesy of Claire Sigal.

The central Magen David motif, flower stems, and leaves are done in backstitch with all 6-strands of the embroidery floss. If your needle eye seems too small for all 6 strands you can use 3 strands.

The flower petals are done in satin stitch with 2 strands (out of 6) strands of the embroidery floss.

The eye (centre) of the flower is a single French knot done with 3 (out of 6) strands of the embroidery floss.

*Another option is to use 3 strands for all stitches by using half of the floss (3 or 6 strands)


Thread your needle by licking the thread flat between your teeth and tongue

Use an arm length of thread

Pull fabric taut with a hook or use sturdy fabric and keep it tense with your fingers

Separate threads when needed by pulling them away from their accompanying thread gently 

Use high quality needles (Clover or DMC) and all natural fibres

You are highly encouraged to use a thimble on your middle finger

Never embroider for more than 2 hours

Do not let the lack of immediately perfect results get to you, embroidery is a skill that comes with practice

Header image design by Orly Zebak. 

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