Sitting in her incredibly colorful shop in the breathtaking Samarian town of Etz Efraim, it is easy to see that Reuma has been creating beautiful things for her entire life. Her shop is adorned with her colorful creations, and her policy as a “chanut imun,” a store with faith, is a testament to her charitable and open-hearted nature. That’s right, Reuma leaves her shop unlocked, trusting that her customers will return later on to pay.
Reuma Zilberstein and her husband are proud parents of four, and grandparents of three. They have lived in Samaria for over 26 years, starting out in the early days of the settlement Hashmonaim, before taking part in founding Etz Efraim, where they have lived since its establishment.
Ever since she was a child, Reuma has had a passion for creating beautiful things. As a young girl, she remembers collecting random objects from all over, including rocks and leaves found on family hikes, and incorporating them in her pictures and artwork.
For many years, Reuma practiced holistic therapies and taught yoga to children. She was passionate about her work, but was always drawn to more creative endeavours. She began making mezuzot from wood. (A mezuzah is a case for a parchment inscribed with religious texts and attached to the doorpost of a Jewish house.) She soon began making other crafts, household items for Jewish life.
Something that Jewish people do first thing in the morning, as well as many other times throughout the day is ritually wash their hands. The vessels that we use are large cups, large enough to hold water for pouring three times over each hand. Ten years ago, Reuma, a lifelong artist and creator, decided to add vibrancy and color to this everyday act. She wanted to create a design that incorporated her passion for yoga with her Yemenite heritage, and so she designed the beautiful emblems that adorn her cups. Since then, her line has expanded to include several other beautiful household products, all elevated colorfully with elements from her Yemenite heritage. She even includes on some of the unique emblems various verses from the Bible. One of them includes the Hebrew verse from Psalms 1:3, which translates as, “And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season.”
Leaving behind her therapy career was not easy, but she soon found that she could apply her talent and experience in a whole new way. Her job is a highly social one, interacting with customers at the store, as well as customers and fellow vendors at trade shows and craft festivals. She told me of one woman at an art fair who kept on returning to her table and looking at washing cups. She could not decide between two designs, and seemed to be really troubled. Reuma decided to reach out to this woman – first asking her about herself, rather than about her purchasing decisions. It turned out, this woman was at a crossroads in her career. She was very unhappy in her job, but was scared of taking the plunge and leaving. It was clear to Reuma that this indecisiveness was affecting her everyday life, not even allowing her to do something as simple as choosing which cup to buy. Reuma told her to, “Just follow your instinct. Which cup do you love more?” The woman chose a cup, with Reuma’s reassurance that she could come back and switch it if she found she was unhappy with her choice. Reuma could see that a weight had been lifted off this woman, and she was so happy to have been able to make a choice. She later came back with the same cloud as before, and Reuma could see that the indecisiveness had returned. The woman wanted to switch the cup. “Do you love the one you chose?” asked Reuma. “Yes,” replied the woman. “Then why do you want to switch it? Hold on to that feeling of contentment from when you originally made the decision that you were confident with.” The look of peace immediately returned to the woman’s face, and she thanked Reuma, promising her to carry this valuable lesson with her.
Once a woman came to Reuma’s store and chose three beautiful items to purchase. She immediately asked Reuma for a buy-one-get-one-free discount, as she felt she was making a large purchase. Reuma, who is normally very happy to offer small discounts to loyal customers, felt that this situation was different. For the first time, Reuma asked a customer, “Why do you think you’re entitled to a discount?” The woman broke down and shared with Reuma that she was unable to have children. After many years of searching, she managed to find a surrogate, but the payments were very expensive, and even with this great financial burden, she needed to buy people gifts for the upcoming holidays. The two women cried, embraced, and Reuma gave her a huge discount, and told her to update her with the news of her future baby.
This is the kind of woman that Reuma is. She has a gift for helping people, with a magnetic personality that makes you want to open up to her. She has fused her gift of creativity with her abilities to help people, and makes lives more beautiful with her designs, as well as her kind and supportive words. She has the pleasure of working with her husband, who she lovingly described with the verse from Genesis 2:18, “And the Lord God said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.’” She believes that she and her husband each have their strengths and talents, and they work beautifully together to compliment one another.
People often tell Reuma that they feel her art adds good energy to their homes. Reuma attributes this to the fact that she makes every single piece of art with love, and she feels that that love is transferred to her customers. Her main goal is not to make money, it’s to make people happy.