Matanyah: An Artist on a Misson (Shlichut)
Rav Meir Zvi Turkov overlooks the creation of high-quality ornaments for synagogues across the globe
A small community that had just built a synagogue on the other side of the globe approached the question of equipping it with Judaic ornaments with great apprehension. How many professionals are needed to equip such a synagogue? Which is the right company to choose from? Who would be willing to provide service for such a remote place?
At Matanyah, this community received the ultimate response. They didn’t need to chase down several craftsmen, and they didn’t even need to phusically come to Israel to order the items. They placed one order, and within a short time the synagogue had all its Judaic ornaments, crafted with splendor and majesty.
Holy communities from all over the world turn to Matanyah. Gabbaim and community leaders place their trust in the experienced company and know that their synagogue will turn out looking as elegant as can be. Satisfied gabbaim, donors, and shluchim know where to turn and their order is placed quickly and efficiently. Products are delivered to synagogues and Chabad locations throughout the world: Australia, Germany, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Russia, and more.
#Every piece of art is made with only the customer in mind
Kfar Chabad asked to have a look behind the scenes at Matanyah, the high quality company which provides perfect solutions to all the needs of a synagogue in anywhere on the globe. In a conversation with Rav Meir Zvi Turkov, the founder and owner of the Matanyah company, we got a glimpse.
“Art is a part of me. It has been in my blood since I was young,” says Rav Meir. “My mother has an artist’s soul and enjoys drawing and creating. We, the children, would follow the fruit of her work and thoroughly experience the art. My father fixes and creates everything himself; he built and upgraded our furniture. And that love naturally passed on to me. As a child, I enjoyed creating and building wooden structures with my own hands. The courtyard of our house was a vast space for creation and imagination. As I grew up, it was only natural that I wanted to be an artist.”
In the beginning, Rav Meir worked in the field of souvenirs for events and even sold Elijah chairs. “I saw a demand for synagogue products, so I founded Matanyah 15 years ago. The business has grown and expanded, and today you can obtain a variety of products for your synagogue in one place. At Matanyah, the emphasis is on service. Everything is in one place: there’s no need to go to several places, and you don’t even have to come to the store to buy.”
Rav Meir continues to talk about the long process that every quality product goes through. “I design it according to the customer’s wishes and give it the perfect touch, which includes all the elements that make the product unique. The furniture is imported from the far East, where you can get a better value for your money, and it's beautifully carved from solid mahogany wood. Sometimes we also add gold or silver leaves as ornaments.”
“All the products are produced in factories and pass through the hands of the best professionals in the field, and I manage and outline the workplan. We have Torah arks, bimas, parachot, Torah scroll covers, Torah cases, Elijah chairs, crowns and Torah scrolls (Eitz Chaim), prayer and memorial Board, and more.
There is one item that he makes myself, from planning to design, to production, to finishing: synagogue signs. “This is where I express my creativity and enjoy seeing the results, Baruch Hashem,” he says.
Rav Meir smiles and recalls several cases in which shluchim from all the corners of the earth contacted him, and it turned out that their acquaintanceship had begun in the yeshiva, while others quickly felt at home and became good friends.
“I know a man from northern Tel Aviv who doesn’t observe the Torah and mitzvot but respects them. We connected and became friends at the very beginning of my business. I would come for house visits, and when he moved to a new house he would invite me to the housewarming party and to affix new mezuzahs in the house and offices. We would sit and talk about life. He was interested in me and my business, and when I had a business-related dilemma, he lent a sympathetic ear. Thus, we are friends. He enjoys talking to me as a religious man and I enjoy his practical advice.
“Recently, a competitor made a large financial claim against me. I called that friend to consult with him. He was unusually involved and caring and seemed genuinely concerned. Finally, it was decided that the right thing would be to reach a compromise, and so we did.
“We went to Jerusalem together, and sat and talked before signing the agreement. I said to him, “Uri, you know that everything is under divine providence. It is not in vain that they are suing me, and I’m not asking for your help in vain. Looks like our relationship is meant to be strengthened through this. I don’t know what, but I know something positive must come of it. We need to think in that direction.” He agreed, with Jewish intuition – who wouldn’t want things to get even better?
“We continued to talk about life and he tells me that he did not have a Bar Mitzvah. When I asked him when his thirteenth birthday was, he said the secular date and I checked and saw that it was the 15th of Tevet. What?! That’s my birthday! We were born on the same day and in the same month! I felt that there was more to it.
“We talked about the importance and need to convey Jewish values to our children. It was before Yom Kippur. We went to the attorney and signed the painful compromise – but we closed that chapter.
“Before Sukkot I called Uri and asked, ‘What about a sukkah, for the children to experience a bit of the holiday?’ He was willing, but it didn’t happen for technical reasons.
“I decided to go to his home in north Tel Aviv with the four species during hol hamo’ed. It is difficult to summarize a long meeting, but something his son said to his mother was special: ‘Mom, you say your father was traditional and it is only dad who comes from a Bulgarian family that had strayed from Judaism? You don’t do anything with it – so what is it worth?’ I simply melted from the words and frankness of this pure child. The boy made the blessing on the four species and ran back to his computer. The mother made the blessing on the four species with excitement and waved them spontaneously with both hands as if they were Israeli flags.
“After the meeting, Uri told me, ‘Meir, next year’s sukkah is a fact.’ Today, we are in constant contact, which helps me business-wise and Uri spiritually.”
#Unique and Special Art
At Matanyah, they produce each product according to the customer’s wishes. They do their utmost to bring to life what the customer has in mind, even if it involves a great deal of effort. Rav Meir tells the story of a few such examples.
“Once, a customer came to us who had commissioned from an artist a special glass door for the holy ark. It was a frosted glass with a unique pattern. He wanted us to make an inner parochet that would match the pattern that was etched on the window, so we prepared an interesting example and made sure that there was a correlation between them. And indeed, Baruch Hashem, it turned out stunning!”
Another customer asked them to create a plaque of donor names for a well-known yeshiva in Hadera. “We worked on a design that would suit the character of the ultra-Orthodox yeshiva and yet would not look old-fashioned. Baruch Hashem, we created a product to his satisfaction.” After their team came to put the plaque together, Rav Meir asked whether this was the yeshiva that his wife’s grandfather, the righteous Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky of blessed memory, had established. To his amazement, the client resonded, “Certainly, this is his yeshiva – he founded it. Everyone still remembers him, and the building is named after him.” Rav Meir says, “I felt closure because, as a grandson, I had the opportunity to repay the blessed man.”
Rav Meir always makes sure his customers are taken aback by the thought and creativity that go into each project. He tells of another such case: “Not long ago, a gabbai wanted to order a plaque with the blessings of the Torah to fit the limited space he had on the bimah. I created the blessings of the Torah at an angle, and in a color that matched the furniture. He was thrilled and delighted to see that we had found a creative solution for him.”
At Matanyah, they focus on serving each customer, endeavoring to produce the desired product and model. They prepare several virtualizations until the customer is completely satisfied. Afterwards, they try to meet the target date and deliver the product quickly, without unnecessary delays.
#Quality in Every Aspect
Rav Meir is, understandably, an expert when it comes to not only quality of work but also the quality of materials. He says, “What symbolizes quality is that synagogue furniture is made of solid wood. How do you know that something is solid wood? Solid wood has a more impressive presence than processed wood. You can feel that it isn’t hollow, and you can see the depth of carvings, which can only be done in solid wood. Solid-wood furniture exudes luxury. We use mahogany, which is an impressive wood with an interesting texture that makes for perfect work. Of course, there is always a need to examine the finishes and finer details.
“When you go to order a parochet, you need to examine the fabric’s density. It is important to look at the embroidery, the finish, and the ribbons. Check that there are no creases and the embroidery is evenly distributed and spread nicely, the stitches are precise, and everything is symmetrical. We use German velvet of good quality that doesn’t wear out, and is supple, soft, and pleasant to the touch.
“The embroidery machine also affects the result. There are non-professional embroidery machines that do not allow the customer to see a simulation on the computer program prior to the order. Therefore, the result is sometimes different from the customer’s desire and out of proportion because it is not possible to do the entire curtain at once. A parochet machine should have an embroidery surface of two to three meters so that the result is uniform.
“In terms of Trees of Life, sometimes one does not consider the load on the Tree, or that the connections are not strong enough, and so Trees of Life break. We use quality beech wood that provides stability for the Torah scroll.
“In the Torah scroll crown department, there are silver and silver-plated crowns on the market. There is no disadvantage to silver-plated, except for the fact that it is plating rather than pure silver. The plating is copper-based, of a high quality, and has a warranty. Its price is significantly lower. There are silver crowns from well-known companies and there are special, handmade crowns of various designs and rich appearance, and of course, they are in the premium category. All of these can be obtained from us.
“In terms of memorial and prayer plaques for the synagogue, our advantage is in the special design and customization to the client’s needs. We use a variety of materials such as aluminum, wood, and Perspex, and create amazing things, Baruch Hashem.”
Orders can be placed over the website and phone. Customers receive a virtualization for approval, and the product is delivered before you know it. All their designs are modern and unique.
#Every Jew is a shaliach wherever he goes
Rav Meir is not only a spiritual man, an artist, and a business owner, but he sees his business as a shlichut. “I see myself as a shaliach in my business for two reasons: one, because I make unique and exclusive things, and thus glorify God’s house throughout the world, and the second is that many people I encounter are encouraged spiritually – whether it involves chametz, matzah shmura, mishloach manot, Divrei Torah, tefillin, or just a spiritually strengthening conversation – so I feel like a shaliach. As a Chassid, it is impossible to remove the simple element that every Jew is a shaliach wherever he goes. My aspiration this year is to reach another 100 shluchim and build five complete synagogues, in addition to the usual.”
As a Chabad Chassid who knows the sensitivities and the discourse, it is different when doing business with your own people. He says, “I do it with great care and sensitivity to all needs. Beyond that, I give 10% off to shluchim. It may not sound like much, but when it comes to significant sums, you can even get more...just try me!”