This week we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on Michelle Lawson! Michelle, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, moved to Buffalo via Birmingham, Alabama almost four years ago. While living in Alabama, Michelle found her way to Judaism. She describes her first encounter with Jewish life at Temple Emanu- El: “Something felt so right, like I didn’t need to search anymore. I’ve been here all along.” After that day, she continued on through three years of rigorous study and converted with the Beit Din at Temple Emanu-El.
Since moving to Buffalo with her two children, Honey and Timothy, and her husband, Schuyler (who is pursuing a Doctorate in Public Health at UB), Michelle has felt the warm embrace of community. Whether it was at the JCC, Congregation Shir Shalom, Temple Beth Tzedek, or the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning, Jewish Buffalo, “just embraced us, and essentially told us that ‘you are our people, come on down!’ We felt like we didn’t miss a step here.”
Community has been of increased importance for Michelle in the last few years. Coinciding with the Lawson family’s move to Buffalo was Michelle’s diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating chronic disease that disrupts communication between the brain and the body. “When I moved here, it became very difficult to even walk or talk.” Michelle describes the process of finding the right physicians and treatment plan. “I am so thankful and grateful we moved here because it literally saved my life.”
After her health crisis, Michelle was hoping to go back to work as an ESL teacher, but unfortunately her MS prevented her from being able to commit to the physical rigors of the job. “I couldn’t work anymore so I started crocheting again. At first I made a Baby Yoda [Grogu] doll for my friend; she went crazy.” Requests for Michelle’s Amigurumi Dolls (Japanese for knitted or crocheted dolls) started pouring in. This type of work was a perfect fit for Michelle. Even when she is in too much pain to stand or sit up, she can lay down and crochet. Today, Michelle has a thriving Etsy business called Knitorious Knerd, LLC. She shares, “I like making dolls that are nerdy and quirky. I want all of the little details — making accessories, changing color patterns in an organic way — to be just right. It is so satisfying.”
In addition to her creative professional pursuits, Michelle is engaged in many different parts of Jewish Buffalo, including her participation in the CJEL Well Circle, which she hosted last month for Rosh Chodesh Adar. She affirms that her and her family are committed to adding their love and energy to Jewish Buffalo, and would not have it any other way. “We are here to stay!”