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Synagogue Stained Glass

Congregation Beth Israel is located in the heart of Honesdale along the Lackawaxen River. In 1856 the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company granted funds (and architectural plans) to religious institutions to meet the spiritual needs of its workers.

The bima faces East. The ark, adapted from the design plans, is built out of the back of the building. For decades, since the original stained glass was destroyed by flooding in 1942, the paned windows on either side of the bima have been both shuttered and draped.

While visiting the synagogue to familiarize ourselves with the space and community, we identified key elements to guide our design process— a black and white photograph of the original windows, the arch shape above the ark, colors of the existing ark curtain, and the historic lighting fixtures that are embellished by Tiffany & Co.

We heard the thoughts and ideas of principal synagogue members and visited the nearby Dorfinger Glass Museum. In the 1800’s Dorflinger played a significant role in the community as significant source of the manufacture of cut glass nation wide. The image on the right is of designs of the 4 seasons found in the museum.

In our Rhode Island studio putting it all together.

The existing 10 foot tall windows, shudders, and curtains were removed and then replaced with “stained-glass-ready” frames. The eight panels of leaded glass stand ready to be installed.

A committed longtime synagogue (board) member ably assisted Mark in the assembly of scaffolding as well as installation of the panels.

Scaffolding was constructed and moved to allow the upper panels to be installed first.

On the left is the approved design. On the right is one of the installed windows. They include references to Jerusalem, to Israel, to the breastplate worn by the High Priests, and to the Dorflinger glass design of the four seasons. They each include a Magen David/Jewish star, chosen text, and 18 ovals which harken back to the original windows.

The window on the left reads L'dor vador nagid godlecha — From generation to generation, we will tell of Your greatness— a strong Jewish value. On the right, from Kohelet/Ecclesiastes 3:1, Lakol zeman ve’et lakol cheifetz— To every thing there is a season and a time.

The bottom panel includes a quilt-like representation of the priestly breastplate, translating stone-like colors into glass.

Nancy developed the Dorflinger tree designs which we then had sandblasted into pieces of the pomegranate colored border glass.

The magic of glass is that how it looks transforms throughout the day and the year.

Here is Honesdale Rabbi Elliott Kleinman just before the evening Shabbat service the day after the windows were installed. See his hour-long teaching about the windows below.

Congregation Beth Israel
Honesdale, PA

Installed 2024

In the fall of 1849, less than 20 years after the community of Honesdale in the Poconos was founded, a small group of Jews gathered to form the first Jewish congregation in the area – Congregation Beth Israel. Like most synagogues of the day, they held their first meetings with a borrowed Torah in one of the member’s homes. By the next year, the congregation had purchased a Torah, a Shofar and a Megillah. A constitution was written and the congregation began to grow. 

 

The building that houses Congregation Beth Israel was built in 1856 and has been in continuous use since that time. It is said to be the oldest congregation in North America continually operating in its original synagogue building.

Over the years wear and tear on the building has taken a toll. In 1942 a flood destroyed the building's original stained glass windows in the sanctuary. Our job was to bring windows back to either side of the aron hakodesh/the ark to embellish the space.


This project is the first piece in the celebrating the community's 175th year.

"I am beyond delighted with the beauty of your work.

I think the word is verklempt.

From just the suggestion to (my daughter) Elizabeth that I would love stained glass back at Beth Israel to the realization of this project, it is simply exhilarating.
I can not thank you enough.

I am also very happy to have two new friends."
Liza Roos Lucy, Synagogue President

 

Honesdale

Our conversation started with the synagogue’s rabbi and with an architect’s rendering. We were invited to spend a weekend with the community to discover who they were and for them to learn more about us-- a valuable trust building experience.

There was a winter weekend with the congregation. An erev Shabbat service talk, participation in Saturday morning Torah study, dinner with committee members and more! Here are the results of brainstorming during a Sunday morning congregational meeting.

Nancy led the Sunday School students in a hands-on activity to engage get them excited about having stained glass in their synagogue.

Proud students display their work!

Rough concept drawings. The weave serves as the interplay of vertical tree and water nature elements prevalent in Maine. Symbols for the Jewish holiday cycle circle the central panel of Torah, community (inner & outer), and the eternal light.

A scale sketch for the window, incorporating design concepts gleaned from the weekend visit approved by the client.

Temple Beth El underwent extensive renovation. This shows the framed out area where the stained glass window was to be installed.

In the studio, the glass is cut and displayed vertically before any enhancement of detailing is done with vitreous (glass) paint.

On the left, flames of the Chanukkah menorah, shown after the paint and stain has been fired, ready to be assembled into the finished panels.  Nancy worked and reworked the ‘cartoon’ in order to perfect the details.

The ‘cartoon’ of the center section as drawn (full size) on paper and the same section of glass on the bench during ‘leading’.

The finished window after installation at Temple Beth El in Augusta. The journey from approval to installation is a long one requiring good communication and trust every step of the way.

Details of imagery representing Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippor on the left and the holiday of Shavuot when the Jewish people received Torah on the right. Applying & removing paint allowed for some interesting detail work.

Temple Beth El
Augusta, ME

Installed 2020

A small, vibrant synagogue in Maine’s capital city, Augusta. The only Reform Jewish congregation in Central Maine that serves as the center of Jewish activity for roughly 115 families living within a 50+ mile radius of Augusta.

How could such a small place take on the challenge of incorporating stained glass into their building renovation?

And how could the project be completed in the throes of a global pandemic?

With perseverance and patience.
The community rallied and together we made it happen.

"Totally amazing – really beautiful. Thank you so much for your willingness to immerse yourself into our wonderful community and work so hard to bring it to life in art.  It is everything that we hoped for and our community will cherish it for generations. A delight working with both of you."
Jerry Bley, Committee Chair

Augusta
Closter

First step in fabrication is to get up there and evaluate the conditions to make sure it all fits and that the installation can go smoothly.

Drawing upon her background as a textile artist and taking note of the grid work created by the mullions on the existing windows, Nancy initially envisioned a weave enveloping the room. She created a visual language illustrating the Creation story that was juxtaposed onto the weave, with the weave itself illustrating subtle nuances and rhythms of the biblical text. Nancy didn’t have to let go of her initial vision of a weave; it served as a solid foundation on which to tell the Creation story.

We created a model of the chapel space to help all have a clear sense of the scale we were working with.

After the design was approved, full size cartoons were drawn in our Shelburne Falls studio.

A lift was brought into the chapel to allow for the installation.

Mark & Dave worked their way around the chapel.

Tohu VaVohu. 1:1 At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth 2 —when the earth was Confusion and Chaos, darkness over the face of Ocean, rushing-spirit of God sweeping over the face of the waters—

Day Four & Day Five

Day 6

Reflective light.

And it was very, very good.

Temple Emanu-El
Closter, NJ

Installed 2014

In the beginning, there was a beautiful octagonally shaped daily chapel in a synagogue in suburban New Jersey.

As lovely as it was, the light that streamed in was, at times, blinding.

After some significant brainstorming, it was decided that the Creation story should be worked on as a theme. The six days of creation and Shabbat would cover seven of the eight window groupings, leaving just one wall unaccounted for.

Rabbi Kirshner suggested that the windows over the ark celebrate the Jewish People.

What an honor it was to work with
text translation by Professor Everett Fox and with a synagogue community who entrusted us with their magnificent space.

"These windows look gorgeous but complement in a way that make it seem as if they were always there. What a sacred and stunning addition to an already holy space."
David-Seth Kirshner, Senior Rabbi

Woodcliff Lake

Our journey begins with Abraham & Sarah's open tent...

The Journey through the wilderness and the receiving of the Torah.

The Journey of the Jewish year--- holidays and festivals.

The Journey through Life: Jewish life cycle events.

The Journey of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. We pray for peace.

Temple Emanuel
of Pascack Valley

Woodcliff Lake, NJ

Installed 2008

75’ wide x 8’ tall

It began in the Spring of 2005 with a request to help an established congregation replace old and drafty window frames, financed by bringing stained glass into the mix. Wilmark Studios was contacted because of its experience in all aspects of a project of this scope– replacing old window frames, supplying insulated exterior glass, in addition to stained glass design, fabrication and installation. Mark called upon a new friend, accomplished Judaic artist Nancy Katz, to meet the enthusiastic and hardworking newly formed ‘stained glass committee.’

Ayleh Mas’ay V’nai Israel – These Are Our Journeys

Inspired by Bamidbar (Numbers) 33:1: “These are the journeys of the descendants of Moses and Aaron,” the panorama represents the communal and personal journeys of the Jewish people throughout history. 

With Torah as a foundation and guide, an open scroll provides the literal and metaphoric underpinning throughout.

"For years to come, visitors and congregants will continue to be awe struck…

Your creativity in design and the ability to transform it into stained glass represents very special talent with which each of you has been richly endowed.

This project serves as an inspiration."

                    Ed Ruzinsky

Design Committee Chair

Beth Aaron Teaneck

Design development from initial conception, to further refinement of the design, to the finished window.

Etching of flashed glass allows for depictions of the moon’s cycles and the application of vitreous or glass paint on the light box.

Installation.

Four new windows on the Eastern Wall of the newly added Beit Midrash room (House of Study).

Tzfat (Safed), Jerusalem, Hebron, & Tiberias

Shiloh, Derech Bethlehem, Jericho, & Meron

Congregation Beth Aaron

Teaneck, NJ

Installations 2012-2015

Wilmark’s relationship with Congregation Beth Aaron began in 1986.

At the time Mark was working with Dutch stained glass artist Hendrik Vandeburgt. Henk & Wilmark made windows for Beth Aaron through the 1990’s.

 

In 2011, renovations to the synagogue brought additional window opportunities to Wilmark.
Henk had passed away, and Nancy designed new work.

 

Her first original design for the synagogue was a single Rosh Chodesh window. It was Nancy first venture into the world of painted glass.

 

Nancy & Mark went on to create a series of windows based on key biblical cities in Israel for the synagogue's new Beit Midrash.

Painting assistance by "Miracle Dave."

Old Bridge

High Holidays with a shofar, pomegranate, & scales of judgement.

Sukkot

Purim

Shavuot

Chanukkah

Pesach

Temple Beth Ohr

Old Bridge, NJ

Installation 2011

This synagogue sanctuary was designed with an interesting Star of David window at it’s center.

 

Our job was to embellish the existing window. We illustrated the central portion with symbols of Shabbat surrounded by the holidays of Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippor, Sukkot, Chanukkah, Purim, Pesach/Passover, and Shavuot. The side panels show an open Torah scroll and the Kotel/Wailing Wall using opaque glass to represent Jerusalem stone.

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