Bella Marquetry


A Holocaust "Second Generation" Story:
Daughter practices craft that saved her father's life

Left: The late Israel Scharf
holding his "Freedom Menorah" which
he created in metal and wood
marquetry when he was 77 years old.

Right: The "Freedom Menorah"
two Jewish miracles - the holiday of
Chanukah and the Israeli War of
Independence. In both wars the
Jews were victorious against
much more powerful, numerous foes -
"The few against the many"

"If it wasn't for woodworking, I would not be alive today"
is what Bella Scharf would often hear her father say.

That's because Bella's father - Israel Scharf - a Polish Jew from Kalvaria, a small town near Krakow, Poland - managed to survive the Holocaust through his woodworking skills and most notably - "marquetry" -the craft of decorating furniture with designs cut from thin veneers. While his entire family was killed in concentration camps, Israel Scharf miraculously evaded death, over a six year period, by getting into "work camps" - camps where Jews who were carpenters, furriers, cobblers, jewelers, and other artisans found a temporary safe haven while working for the SS Gestapo, creating furniture and other personal items that the SS would send home to Germany.

Bella, a post-WWII "baby boomer" daughter of two Holocaust survivors (and a resident of Marlboro, NJ), grew up hearing stories of the war years, especially about the miracles that saved her father's life. She heard about the SS Officer who assigned her father a doll house to make as a Christmas present for his daughter and then went to very great lengths to save her father's life when he fell ill to ensure the doll house got done on time. She heard about the German Commandant's wife who was so disturbed about the plight of the work camp prisoners that she took pity and secretly brought them additional food, at night.

Bella also grew up admiring the beautiful craft - marquetry - that her father used in his many commissions of decorating houses of worship. Several years before he died Bella undertook to learn this craft from him and has been fascinated by it ever since. Bella has by now mastered this craft and has created a gamut of home accessories of her own original design : picture frames, desk clocks, wall clocks, mirrors, personalized corporate gifts, and many Judaic items. In her own right, Bella has also had a successful career as a crafts designer. She has a fine arts degree from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, and she published two crafts books, the first of which - "Illustrated Patchwork Crochet" - was a best seller and a Literary Guild Selection.

These days Bella focuses primarily on marquetry. "Marquetry is a very labor-intensive craft, with multiple steps until you reach the end product", says Bella, "but it's worth it. The results you get are incredible, with so many design possibilities — from traditional to contemporary. And the variety of natural wood grains and colors are just something to behold.... Really beautiful and with no stain on the wood whatsoever... .You just have to take a break, take a look, and appreciate NATURE'S ultimate creative work."

Bella Scharf’s work can be seen here at, along with more details on how marquetry is done. Bella considers this craft her father's "legacy" to her, and she intends to use this technique to express her creativity while also raising awareness and appreciation of this art form. Bella Scharf can be reached through her web site


Twelve Tribes of Israel created by Israel Scharf.
These wood marquetry pieces were used to decorate
the sides of the Torah Ark at several synagogue installations.
This particular set hangs at the home of Bella Scharf

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