WASHINGTON – On his first official trip to Israel, President Barack Obama brought along some gifts that are Maryland-made.
Among the items the president gave to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family Wednesday were two Kiddush cups for Netanyahu’s sons and a pair of Shabbat candlesticks for Netanyahu’s daughter.
All four items were crafted by sculptor Zachary Oxman who lives in Bethesda, Md. and has a studio in Rockville, Md.
“For me this is what I do every day. I make art. I make these objects. And stepping back and realizing the historic reference of the exchange of gifts that it is, it’s humbling and it is a real honor,” Oxman says.
This is not the first time Oxman has been asked by the White House to create official gifts, but each time is special.
“It’s incredibly surreal to think that one of your works of art will be in the hands of these different world leaders or their families.”
Oxman says although he creates the art and adds personalized inscriptions to each, he doesn’t always get to meet the recipients.
“Two years ago, I had the amazing opportunity when (former Israeli) President Peres was presented with one of my sculptural Seder plates. I actually got to meet him,” he says.
Oxman says the meeting happened at Blair House and all he was expecting was a quick handshake, but Peres spent 5 minutes talking with Oxman about the experience of receiving the gift and what he thought of it.
“It was an unexpected, unbelievable experience,” Oxman says.
This Kiddush cup is similar to one given by President Barack Obama. (Courtesy of Zachary Oxman)