MAS IN THE PRESS
MAS Designs continues to be showcased for its philanthropic work and meaningful jewelry. Below are a few of our favorite features.
HUMANITARIAN AWARD, JULY 2019, PLAY4PINK NJ
BRACELET BINDS BUYERS IN SUPPORT OF ISRAEL
BY ROBERT WIENER
Maxine Schwartz has been making jewelry in her home studio in Westfield and selling it for the past three years.
When Operation Protective Edge began on July 12, she decided to use her craft to raise funds for the Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel Emergency Campaign.
Schwartz created a “Red String Bracelet” that she sells on her website, www.masdesigns.co.
“I felt helpless with the war going on and not being able to do anything for it, so I posted on Facebook that I would give 100 percent of my profits after costs to the campaign,” she said.
Since she began her selling spree, “we have raised about $18,000 from 600 orders for thousands of bracelets. (A total of $40,000 was raised in all). They came from people around this country, as well as Canada, Denmark, Israel, Australia, and South Africa. Tons of non-Jews are buying them. One person wrote, ‘Thank you for supporting the birthplace of my savior.’ It is really cool that we are all in this together.”
Schwartz will donate the money through the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, whose Center for Volunteerism she chairs. Previously, she was president of the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy and a member of the Young Leadership Cabinet at the former Jewish Federation of Central NJ.
The red silk bracelet has a 14-carat gold-filled chain and three gold vermeil nuggets. “It is my interpretation of the Kabbalah bracelet, and it is intended to ward off evil,” she said. “You tie it onto your wrist, and you don’t take it off.”
She began making them herself, but the demand for the bracelet became so huge that she enlisted some 20 volunteers — friends and students at Golda Och Academy in West Orange (which all three of her sons attended) — to help out. The bracelets sell for $25 apiece.
“People are buying them in multiples, giving them to their friends. It has been pretty amazing,” she said. “People have been taking pictures of themselves wearing their bracelet and posting them online. We have photos of mah-jongg groups and pictures of babies wearing them. We even have one of a female soldier in the IDF wearing one.
“That to me is full circle. We are tying a red string around the world.”
TREE OF LIFE FUNDRAISER STORY
On the Saturday morning of October 27, 2018, Maxine Schwartz sat in the first pew at Temple Emanu-El of Westfield, New Jersey, surrounded by family and friends. She beamed with pride, as her third and youngest son, Leo, became a bar mitzvah. He read Torah, delivered his first D’varah Torah and led their community in prayer. Unbeknownst to the Schwartz family, the largest massacre of Jews in the United States was unraveling during a Shabbat service much like their own - in a synagogue that was filled with proud Jews praying, celebrating and coming together to share Shabbat.
To stall the reality of what had happened in Pittsburgh, no-one mentioned the massacre to the Schwartzes. Maxine, Rob, and their sons Noah, Adam and Leo were blissfully unaware of what was happening outside of their own synagogue that day.
The Schwartz family had no previous connection to the Squirrel Hill Synagogue and had rooted against the Steelers whenever they played their beloved Philadelphia Eagles. However, the story of Leo’s jewish journey and Maxine’s generosity would forever be tied to the healing of the Tree of Life Synagogue and their extended community.
As the massacre became a painful reality, Maxine knew she had to do something to help Squirrel Hill. With the family’s long standing commitment to Tikkun Olam, she knew that she could use her talents and abilities to create a community of people to come together to repair the world.
As the owner of a jewelry company intrinsically tied to doing good, MAS Designs, Maxine has created a community through the language of her designs to bring out people's inner and outer beauty. She knew her like-minded customers would want to make a difference, take a stance against hate and do it together as a community. Maxine created a Tree of Life necklace fundraiser. All profits from each necklace went directly to benefit the Squirrel Hill community through the Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. In just a few short weeks, MAS
Designs and its’ international community raised over $30,000, and provided an opportunity for a like-minded community to make a difference. Women all over the world, are wearing their Tree of Life necklaces to remind them that there is no place for hate in our world, and love will always win.
MADE WITH LOVE AND INTENTION BY ABBY JARECKI
When Maxine Schwartz walks into the room, her smile glitters almost as much as her gold, handmade jewelry. Schwartz, statuesque and tall in her presence, glows and you can’t help but feel that you know her somehow.
You may have seen a 13-year-old girl wearing a silver hamsa around her neck as she reads from the Torah at her Bat Mitzvah; or a Westfield mom with a gold nugget reading “love” on her chest, as she picks her children up from school. You may have noticed a penny-sized Tree of Life on the women around town; or a red or pink string on their wrists.
You can tell there’s something special here, that Maxine Schwartz of MAS Designs is spreading something beautiful.
Schwartz sat down with me and took off her stylish sunglasses and replaced them with her regular eyeglasses. Her eyes fixed on the silver Tree of Life necklace that I wore that day. She pointed it out and asked me, “you also have a gold heart necklace, right?”
I do, and I was impressed that she knew that. She has helped so many women, girls, and even men, pick out the perfect piece of jewelry and she still knew what pieces I own. I felt her energy light up the space, creating an atmosphere of connection and warmth.
Through her unique handmade jewelry business and lovely, calming nature, Schwartz connects with the community. “I really believe that, in each one of us, we all have a little bit of light,” Schwartz said, “and when you connect with somebody, that person’s light grows, and that’s what I love to do - to see that person’s light grow.”
Born in South Africa, Schwartz grew up around the beauty of South African nature and culture. No matter where the wind takes her, seeking out natural scenery brings her back to South Africa, “whether it’s trees or mountains or the sea or the light in the ocean.”
Her love for art and creation was also sparked as child; she even won a magazine contest for her art at a young age. “I was always an artist,” she smiled.
She moved to Long Island with her family when she was eight years old and she would travel back and forth to South Africa during the summers, igniting her passion for traveling, which goes hand-in-hand with her interest in human connection.
“I just love speaking to people and learning about them and finding out what makes them tick.” Absorbing new cultures and meeting new people with unique experiences excited Schwartz, leading her to take an “eye-opening” year around the world after college.
With a worldly mindset and soul of connection, Schwartz spent many years in the corporate world, but she was eventually brought back to her passion of art and creation. MAS Designs sprouted from the idea of a single mitzvah - the hebrew word for doing good. When a war occured in the Middle East in 2014, Schwartz decided to sell $25 Red String Bracelets in order to help the suffering children of Israel, a land near and dear to her heart because she has family there.
Rather than simply writing a check to this cause, Schwartz decided to let her network of friends, family and colleagues participate to help in this fundraiser. Eventually, with the help of all of the Red String wearers, Schwartz raised over $40,000 to support Israel and its children.
Her essence and philosophy shine through this idea; she took her “light, and shar[ed] it with other people... having their light spark up.”
Pieces like the Red String and the Tree of Life allow for wearers to help important causes while also having a personal love for the jewelry.
MAS Designs enthusiast Lauren Hammer bought her Tree of Life necklace in 2017 after the passing of WHS Student Terry Difalco. She wanted a meaningful necklace that would “connect her to her memory”.
The Tree of Life necklace took on another meeting after the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Schwartz decided that all proceeds from the already-meaningful necklace would go to support the Pittsburgh community in the aftermath of the tragedy; the necklace sales helped raise over $30,000 to help Pittsburgh.
Again, “...people [were] so happy to be able to do something,” Maxine smiled. And with the symbolic Tree of Life, people were able to show “that they’re proud to be Jewish, and they’re anti-hate and pro-love.”
Hammer loves the fact that she is “supporting a local owned business that supports cause [she] tend[s] to believe in.”
MAS Designs wearers feel a special connection to Schwartz’s jewelry, which is “handmade with love and intention” as described on the company’s website. She never multitasks while crafting her 99% silver jewelry, demonstrating the care and positive energy she puts into hand-creating each piece.
MAS Designs enthusiast and Westfield Mom Lauren LaConti describes her pieces as having “some sort of spirituality”, and being “even imperfect in their creation, making [them] truly one of a kind.”
The personal component of Schwartz’s work makes wearers feel connected to their pieces, as they are also connected with Schwartz and her aura of kindness. “It’s an experience while shopping and an experience while wearing,” Hammer described.
Schwartz adores every piece she creates, really emphasizing the positive vibe of MAS Designs. Her son, Adam Schwartz notes that “[His mother] has been so eager to keep up with the increasing demand and loves what she does.”
At the end of my discussion with Schwartz, she smiled her glittering smile and tied a thin red bracelet onto my wrist - the same one that she was wearing. This bracelet, a modern Kabbalah with a shimmer of gold, was Schwartz’s Red String bracelet, the one she shared with the world in 2014.
I couldn’t help but feel the magic of the red piece of string, just as I felt the the magic of Schwartz’s presence.