Lotty's Lace Tablecloth

Lotti Gross lives in Vienna, Austria and dreams of becoming a master lace maker. While she learns the trade she begins work on a lace tablecloth for her wedding chest. She decides that she will use the cloth every Friday night to welcome the Sabbath Queen. Her plans are derailed when the Empress Elizabeth sees the cloth and insists on buying it for her Sunday palace receptions. When the Empress hears about the Sabbath Queen she wants to know who her rival is. With twists and turns, the tension builds until a clever compromise is reached. The tablecloth is used to serve more than one queen and subsequently turns into a family heirloom, handed down from one generation to the next.

What's the Connection Between Lotti's Tablecloth and the Jewish Tradition?
Judaism is more than a religion. It's a way of life. The Sabbath day is the ultimate example. A day of rest from the workweek, it is the world's first official social institution. In decreeing a "Day of Rest" God acknowledges that work is hard and everyone needs a break from it. By establishing a set day for the much needed rest, Judaism also reveals the necessity for a framework in which to live. Arbitrarily choosing a different day of rest each week won't work since consistency is a much-needed element. Preparing for an established day of rest builds up momentum. It makes the day special and gives it a special aura. Consequently, Judaism has taken to the metaphor of referring to the Sabbath Day as the "Sabbath Queen." It is this metaphor that turns "Lotti's Lace Shop" into a Jewish fairytale.

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you describe Lotti? What kind of a person is she?
  2. What about the Empress Elizabeth? What do you think of her? Does she have a heart or is she a selfish, wicked queen?
  3. Why is the lace tablecloth so important to Lotti?
  4. Do you have special things at home that you use for the Sabbath?
  5. What other things can you think of making that would help create a special Shabbat atmosphere at home?
  6. Judaism is built on the principles of Torah, Avodah - work, and Tikun Olam - making the world a better place to live. Which principles are stressed in this story and how?
  7. Where is the Sabbath day first mentioned? Does this same source have any
    other lifestyle suggestions?

Create Something Special for the Sabbath
Build on question 6 and have a crafts day tying in with lace. Here are some suggestions that you can have your students make:

  1. Create your own Sabbath Sidur. Make copies of the important prayers associated with welcoming the Sabbath and have your students put them together in booklet form. Encourage them to create a special cover for the Sidur. You'll need heavy paper, pencils, crayons and watercolor paints for this. Buy small pieces of lace and have the students make lace bookmarks for their Sidur.
  2. Make a Challah cover. Buy cloth napkins, small lace accessories, paints suitable for drawing on cloth plus other trimmings that can be glued on to cloth.
  3. Create Sabbath Napkin Rings. Have your students make a set of festive Sabbath napkin rings using gold corrugated paper, small lace trimmings, silver paper for drawing and cutting out a Star of David, plus other creative accessories.

Play Guess the Object
There are many objects connected to the Sabbath. Wrap each one up in paper and place all the papered covered objects in a box, and then play this game. Taking turns, have a student in your class close his/her eyes and take out one of the covered objects. With eyes closed and blindfolded, the student unwraps the object, feels it from every angle and then guesses what it is. Once the correct guess is made the student opens his/her eyes and explains the object's function during the Sabbath.

Create a Class Play Around the Story "Lotti's Lace Tablecloth"
Pick out your best "writers" and have them help you write a script based on the story. Then have tryouts for the parts of Lotti, Mrs. Muller, Lotti's husband Ruben, the Empress Elizabeth, her maids, the new Empress and her maid. Use the rest of the class to create the scenery and collect the props. Once the play is written, hold rehearsals. Set a date for "Opening Night" and invite the parents to attend.

Connect Lotti's Tablecloth to a Genealogy Search
Ask your class who has special objects used on the Sabbath that have been handed down from one generation to the next. Explain what these objects could possibly be.
Tell your students to become genealogy detectives by sitting down with their parents or grandparents and ask questions about the object. Once they have the answers they have to write up a story about the object showing how it's been in the family for many, many years. For those who do not have such an object, tell them to use their imagination and write up a fictional story about an object with a Sabbath connection.

Create a Family Tree
Sketch the outline of a family tree. You may want to refer to a genealogy book or website (e.g. Avotaynu, JewishGen) for guidance. Make enough copies of the tree and hand it out to your class. Have them fill in the names of relatives associated with their precious Sabbath family heirloom. Once again, have them sit down with their parents or grandparents for help in this assignment. For those who do not have such an object, have them create a family tree based on their fictional story.

Shabbat Around the World

We Jews are a diverse people, with communities all over the world creating engaging Shabbat customs.

You can learn about them through my unique,
digital-story / lesson-plan series that
It Gets You and Your Students Involved!