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Circle game

A new Jewish calendar takes unconventional shape

Joni Mitchell would probably appreciate the new Hebrew calendar designed in part by Teaneck native Elisha Mlotek.

“And the seasons they go round and round,” she sang in her song “Circle Game.”

“We’re captive on the carousel of time.”

The roundness of time is reflected in the very name and shape of the new Misaviv — meaning circle — Hebrew Circle Calendar.

The calendar is round.

The illustrations — commissioned for each month of the calendar — are round.

And most disconcertingly, the grid of the calendar — the chart of days and weeks — is round.

Most calendars — actually, every monthly calendar except this one — move from left to right as the week progresses, and from top to bottom as each week goes by.

This one is a series of concentric circles sliced into six pieces. The weeks go counterclockwise around the circle. And the days go inward, with Shabbat at the center.

Jorian Schutz, 32, came up with the idea when he was living in Jerusalem. (He too has a Teaneck connection. His uncle Max Milians, a cartoonist and a consultant to this paper, lived there.) It was his second year in yeshiva, and the Boulder native was in his second or third time around the Jewish seasons there, “really experiencing for the first time the way the holidays become enriched by the previous cycle.

“I think visually. It seemed very natural the calendar would be a circle,” he said.

Mr. Schutz grew up in a family of calendar makers. Well, calendars and other products; his parents were founders of the Blue Mountain Arts publishing company, which publishes not only calendars but also books and greeting cards. It occurred to him to start his own publishing venture.

The Misaviv Hebrew Circle Calendar is the first product of his Deuteronomy Press.

He had become friends with Mr. Mlotek, 25, who now lives in Washington Heights, and is a member of Zusha, a trio that describes itself as a “chasidic soul band.” He brought Mr. Mlotek into the planning, and the two worked together on the calendar. They researched circular imagery in the Torah and Jewish liturgy and midrash, and they studied sources dealing with each Hebrew month.

They brought all their study together as inspiration for the artists they commissioned.

“In the Jewish tradition, time isn’t linear,” Mr. Mlotek said. “Time is circular, and we relive moments and review actions and we live in a constant state of returning. We are spiraling inward and growing outward.”

The calendar is not for everyone. “Some stores rejected it because it doesn’t have Shabbos times,” he said. “Some people rejected it because it’s not a planner. But it doesn’t have to be everything. People can appreciate that it’s an artistic expression.”

It does include both Jewish and American holidays.

“It’s exciting to turn the month and reveal a new piece of art,” Mr. Mlotek said. “A Jewish tool can also be creative and artistic. Can religious homes welcome that as well?”

“The circularity has its own message,” Mr. Schutz added. “It reminds people that there are cycles, within a month and within a year.”

He already is thinking about next year’s calendar. “Even if we don’t quite make a profit off of this, I’m interested in doing this next year,” Mr. Schutz said. “I really believe in supporting Jewish arts. This is art that engages with ideas from the Jewish tradition, though not all the artists are Jewish.

“For next year, the goal is to discover new artists. We’re even talking about creating a week-long seminary or kollel to join together and learn sources; to invite the artists as fellows, if you will, to inspire each other and to talk,” he said.

Why name his publishing company Deuteronomy Press?

In part, because he owned the deuteronomy.com domain “from a very young age, when I was a kid and there was a gold rush for dot coms. Before I was religious,” he said.

Today, he believes that “Deuteronomy represents the next iteration, the speaking of Moses, the voice of the people that participates in the unfolding of the divine. For me it signifies the possibility of our participation in that manifestation,” he said.

The calendar can be ordered from
circlecalendar.com.

Art from the Misaviv Hebrew Circle
Calendar by Frederico Parolo
(Elul) and Adriana Breccia (Iyar).

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