Thursday, August 16, 2018

An origami cube sculpture created by Yaakov Metzger hangs in the Metzger sukkah.

What do icosahedrons, dodecahedrons and stellated octahedrons all have in common? Why, they are modular origami sculptures! Yaacov Metzger knows this well as he is the creator of many such imaginative paper sculptures that have adorned his family’s sukkah in Teaneck for close to 20 years. Among his originals are a chain of 30 cranes linked by their wings, multiple Magen David-shaped sculptures made up of a variety of colorful papers including a calendar, and a collection, accrued over the years, of holiday symbols.

Metzger and his wife, Tamar, have been Teaneck residents for over two decades. Professionally, Metzger is a developer of financial software and Tamar is a well-regarded interior decorator. They raised four sons, two of whom are married, and they are blessed with their first grandchild. Originally trained as an engineer, Metzger was drawn to origami 21 years ago. As he recounted, “I was in the library looking for a book to assist me in making the children Purim masks, when I came across “Folding Paper Masks” by Shari Lewis, famous Jewish puppeteer, and Lillian Oppenheimer. Little did I realize that this instructional manual would be my inspiration for a lifetime hobby.”

Lillian Oppenheimer is credited with introducing the Japanese art of paper folding to the United States. In the 1940s, at a family gathering, she introduced the flapping bird, and that event was the impetus to what eventually became a lifelong passion. She sought out local paper folders and began to correspond to others around the world. By the 1970s she had collected rare origami pieces and books and by the 1980s an organization grew up around her collections. In 1994, OrigamiUSA was incorporated and is currently housed at the American Museum of Natural History.

Over the past 20 years, Metzger has participated in and displayed his original creations at the annual OrigamiUSA conventions in June. His sons have also exhibited their original works at the children’s conventions. Metzger has taken his hobby to schools including Yavneh Academy where he has presented periodically to children in nursery through fifth grade. He has also demonstrated his skills at assisted living and nursing homes including the local Care One.

Metzger has created origami sculptures for his own family simchas, including the baby shoes centerpieces that he created for his son’s bris. He has also created centerpieces for the boys’ bar mitzvah celebrations. Currently, he creates unique baby gifts for relatives and friends.

Each year, Metzger creates a new addition to his already significant collection of sukkah decorations. Most of his sukkah decorations are suspended from bamboo, but he has created many standing sculptures that adorn his home and office. “I spend quite a few hours every week on my hobby. If you calculate that some pieces are made up of 30 separate pieces of paper, I can be involved for three hours on one piece. I find origami to be relaxing and I can even work on my pieces while in an elevator or standing on line in a store.”

The Metzgers invite Teaneck visitors to their unique sukkah. Just call before you come!

By Pearl Markovitz