“Working so closely for over 20 years has been a factor in keeping our relationship close and thriving. This is a real family partnership. Neither of us is more important or powerful than the other.”
— Paula Brooks, co-founder of mother-daughter jewelry brand Alef Bet
Offering luck, protection, and aesthetic beauty, Jewish jewelry also expresses the wearer’s Jewish identity and symbolizes a connection to their culture and faith. For Paula Brooks and Alissa Brooks-Haroush, the mother-daughter jewelry design team behind Alef Bet by Paula, it is also a source of creativity, inspiration, and a continued and lasting family bond.
Brooks founded Alef Bet in 1996 with her daughter Brooks-Haroush after more than two decades of creating and selling her own original jewelry. “Since the seventies, I’ve had my hands in one business or another,” says Brooks, “I made sure each had a jewelry counter.”
Alef Bet was named for the Hebrew letter block bead necklaces that were the studio’s most popular item at that time. Soon, clientele began to ask for more. “People would ask, what else do you have?” says Brooks-Haroush. Aware of the need for modern Jewish jewelry, the mother-daughter duo branched out into other designs.
The brand’s relationship with the Jewish Museum Shop started early on. “From the very beginning they saw us, and are with us today,” says Brooks-Haroush. The Shop carries a diverse range of Alef Bet’s designs, from sparkling pieces like their White Gold and Sapphire Evil Eye Earrings to their airy, understated Tiny Star of David Necklace. Their philosophy of creating “fashionable, faith-based jewelry that people want to wear” continues to be a perfect fit with the Jewish Museum Shop, which focuses on bringing together distinctive Judaica from traditional to contemporary.
Alef Bet’s jewelry is made in Los Angeles, where the family is based. All their designs are a collaboration between Brooks, Brooks-Haroush, and their goldsmith, who turns their ideas into computer-generated molds for his team of casters, polishers, and diamond and gemstone setters.
Alef Bet’s piece worker, Roberto Cruz, has been a part of the company since nearly the beginning, and now assembles at home where he can enjoy his family and grandchildren. Brooks also does some of the hand work, in addition to sourcing materials, some of which come from Italy, Turkey, and other overseas locations. Brooks-Haroush handles the marketing, including designing and maintaining the company’s website, and managing its social media accounts.
Despite the demand for their pieces, Alef Bet have always taken a family-first approach, which for a period of time meant keeping their distribution manageable. Because of this, Brooks-Haroush was better able to balance work with the raising of her three children — all of whom have, in various stages, helped out in the business. Brooks considers herself fortunate to have had her grandchildren close as they grew up.
Also important to the team at Alef Bet are their customers, with whom they have created many friendships. “They send us pictures of themselves in their jewelry. It is very touching,” says Brooks-Haroush. “My favorite part of the day is checking Facebook for comments and seeing what they write us.”
A passion for creating covetable pieces that enhance the spiritual and aesthetic lives of their clientele is key to their business, but the relationship between mother and daughter is at its heart. “Working so closely for over 20 years has been a factor in keeping our relationship close and thriving,” says Brooks, of their collaboration. “This is a real family partnership. Neither of us is more important or powerful than the other.”
To explore more of the Jewish Museum Shop’s selection, visit Shop.TheJewishMuseum.org. Every purchase supports the Jewish Museum.
What is a hamsa hand amulet?
Most commonly, it is just known as a hamsa or spelled as chamsa, even khamsa.
There are many interpretations of these particular usages.
The hand is often depicted with an eye in the center of its open palm, presumably to ward off negative energies, including the gaze of envy.