Orna Simkhai started her career as a jewelry designer with the intention of helping others.
I met Orna in her showroom in New York last week and learned all about the inspiration behind her beautiful line of Shema bracelets, necklaces and rings. I’m excited to share her story with you!
In 2006, Orna was moved by an article she read in the paper about a courageous wounded Israeli solider who had lost both his legs in the Lebanese War. She even traveled to Tel Aviv to visit him at Tel-Hashomer Hospital. The meeting fostered a deep connection, and his unwavering spirit—in spite of his pain—struck a cord with Orna. The emotional encounter instilled in her a need to help those in similar situations.
Once back home in the States, Orna decided to raise some money for the soldier. As an assistant teacher at a day school, she always loved singing the Shema. (The Shema is considered to be the most important prayer in the Jewish religion, proclaiming a declaration of faith in G-d. It is recited twice a day, one in the morning and the other in the evening. This prayer is often said in times of uncertainty or despair and renders a sense of hope and strength by the power of its words.) The song inspired Orna to design a beautiful, circular work of art using the words of the Shema as the centerpiece.
When Orna told the soldier about the project, he shed tears and told her that in the darkest moments of his recovery process, he had recited the Shema. This solidified the centerpiece of her designs, and from there Shema-Or Jewelry was born. Orna believes deeply that “small acts of kindness make a difference in one’s life.”
When Orna originally decided to make a few necklaces to raise money for the soldier, she thought no one would buy them. However, the response to her designs was so overwhelming that she has expanded the line to include an array of different designs. And now, through strong word of mouth and a large following, the jewelry line has established a loyal fan base that includes A-list celebrities such as Madonna and Demi Moore. The Shema-Or symbol is meant to inspire the wearer to make a difference in the world just like Orna has, while bringing protection, light and hope to those that surround her.
Orna has also raised money through a portion of sales for different projects throughout Israel. These have included an elementary school that focuses on religion in Kfar Yonah and in Bet-Ariel, a high school in Be’er-Sheva and an organization called Tafehechin (meaning hope) for Ethiopian children who are in need of clothes, books and afternoon enrichment programs.
Check out Orna’s website, Shema-Or for more information.
Thank you Orna for your time and for my beautiful necklace!