Friday, March 20, 2015

USA: Winter Can't Stop Preparations for Burlington, Vermont Mural Move

Preparations in the summer and  fall were made to protect the mural and ready it for the move to Ohavi Zedek Synagogue.

Despite snow and ice, work proceeded with the construction of the protect work shed.

USA: Winter Can't Stop Preparations for Burlington, Vermont Mural Move
by Samuel D. Gruber 

All photos courtesy of Ohavi Zedek Synagogue. You can follow the Lost Shul Mural on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lostshulmural and 

(ISJM) It has been a cold and snowy winter in Burlington, Vermont (but that is hardly unexpected). It has not stopped the conservation and engineering team of the Lost Shul Mural Project of Ohavi Zedek Synagogue from working hard in preparation for the move of the mural when the weather warms. A lot has happened with the project since I last reported at length on this blog in 2013. You can read more about the history, art and planning of the proejct at www.lostshulmural.org.

Conservator Connie Silver protects the edges of the mural in preparation for the move.

Last spring consolidation and cleaning of the 1910 synagogue mural took place and funds were successfully raised for the move. Careful conservation and technical planning really began in May 2014 and continued through the fall ,as the team confronted the details of the unprecedented task and developed methods to cope with every conceivable problem that might arise. the team of conservators widened, and all of the architects, engineers and construction contractors became fully engaged and focused. 

In this third  and most difficult (and expensive) phase the project, beginning last October,  there have been four main inter-related activities:

First, the mural itself needed to be protected so that the painstakingly conserved paint surface suffers no damage during the construction work and removal of part of the roof, and then during the full cutting, lifting and moving of the roof section upon which the mural is painted.

Conservator and carpenter work on the removal of the damaged inscription panel at the bottom of the mural. 

Second, the outer roof had to be removed to inspect and reinforce from behind the lathe and plaster upon which the mural is painted. To do this, however, required the construction of a temporary work shed that encloses the entire apse of the former synagogue and the area of investigation and removal. While the shed was still going up the conservation team managed to have a few slates removed for an early peak inside - with the help of a "Go-Pro" mini-video cameras. But then, the entire work shed needed to be carefully attached to the main building while maintaining weather-tight connections, and then topped off and secured.

 
Videographer, Paul Gittlesohn, feeds a "Go-Pro" mini-video camera inside one of the mural walls, while art conservator Connie Silver, watches the video feed to evaluate the condition of the mural plaster.
 
Conservator Connie Silver discusses plaster reinforcement strategies with experts Norman R. Weiss and Irving Slavid from MCC Materials, Inc.

Adding the roof trusses (by crane) to the temporary work shed.
The completed shed, entirely enclosing the apse and apse roof.

The completed shed, entirely enclosing the apse and apse roof.  The shed leaves plenty of room for the conservators and engineers to do their work - all in the dead of winter.

Third, the slate shingles of the roof had to be meticulously removed to avoid breakage. The nails attaching the shingles to the roof had to be sawn by hand. Each slate was then carefully marked so they could be reinstalled when the entire process is over.  Only then, when the back of the mural plaster and lathe was reveal could the stability of the plaster be tested and then reinforced.
 Proper precaution against lead are taken in the disassembling phase.

Earlier this week the back of the plaster is finally revealed this setting the stage for treatment which will happen later this month.

Each slate shingle was carefully labeled after removal.
Fourth, while all this has been going, preparations have been in progress at Ohev Shalom Synagogue, where to where the mural will be moved. This month structural supports are being inserted in the ceiling and wall of the vestibule  where the mural will eventually hang.

Preparing the insertion of steel supports in the wall and steel cables from the ceiling of the vestibule are where the mural will eventually hang. 

Since the project got into gear in alt 2013 over $300,000 has been raised, allowing for a meticulously planned project for the unprecedented move of the mural and the roof to which it is attached. The Project will continue to raise funds to pay for the move and the installation and then the necessary in situ final conservation and restoration. The fourth phase of the project will be the development of educational programming and and exhibition materials.  

Donations are accepted for the project via the website and major sponsors still need to be identified and their support will be very welcome and gratefully acknowledged.

Monday, February 9, 2015

International Survey of Jewish Monuments at College Art Association


ISJM @ CAA @ NYC

(International Survey of Jewish Monuments at College Art Association)
 All welcome, no conference registration needed


Thursday, February 12, 2015, 12:30-2:00 p.m.

Hilton New York, 3rd Floor, West Ballroom

1335 Avenue of the Americas (54th St), New York 

Jamaican Jewish gravestone revealed. Photo: Emma Lewis 2015.

Trends and New Initiatives in Jewish Heritage Documentation and Preservation


“Review of Recent Jewish Heritage Initiatives”

Samuel D. Gruber, Gruber Heritage Global


"Jamaican Jewish Cemeteries: On the Ground and in the Cloud"
Rachel Frankel, AIA & Joseph M deLeon


Discussion and Reports from the Floor

**********

N.B. At the conference that morning is the session:


Time: 02/12/2015, 9:30 AM—12:00 PM Location: Hilton New York, 2nd Floor, Madison Suite

[Entry for registered conferecne participants only. Single session registration is available.]


Chair: Mohammad Gharipour, Morgan State University


Decorating Synagogues in the Western Islamic World: The Role of Sephardi Traditionalism
Vivian B. Mann, The Jewish Theological Seminary


Tracing the Four Column Tevah Synagogue Type in Ottoman Lands
Samuel D. Gruber, International Survey of Jewish Monuments


Synagogues of the Fez Mellah: Constructing Sacred Spaces in Nineteenth-Century Morocco Michelle H. Craig, independent scholar


The Architecture and Décor of the Synagogues of Tangier: Modernization and Internationalization of the Jewish Community
Mitchell Serels

Monday, February 2, 2015

Happy Birthday Nathan Myers (b. Feb 2 1875, Newark, NJ)

Newark, NJ. B’nai Abraham Synagogue. Nathan Myers, arch (1922-24). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2008

Elizabeth, NJ, Hersch Tower. Nathan Myers with Joseph Sanford Stanley, arch (1931). Photo: Wikipedia

Happy Birthday Nathan Myers (b. Feb 2 1875, Newark, NJ)
by Samuel D. Gruber 

Today is the 140th birthday a talented Newark-based Jewish architect Nathan Myers, who created on of the most celebrated synagogues of the 1920s along with many other buildings.

Nathan Myers lived his whole life in Newark. He was born Feb. 2, 1875 to Marcus and Julia Myers. He graduated from Cornell University’s College of Architecture in 1896 with a B.S. in architecture. Cornell was very welcoming to Jewish students had already graduated several successful young architects. Myers immediately began his practice of architecture in Newark in 1896 and worked in and around the city until his death in 1937.  His best known work is the B’nai Abraham synagogue and social center in Newark, begun in 1922 and dedicated in 1924. 

The synagogue, now the Deliverance Temple, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The 2,000 seat former synagogue was considered when built one of the finest in the country. At the Temple's opening in 1924, congregation officials pronounced the buildings to be "models of completeness, judged from the standpoint of fitness and adaptability for Jewish worship and activities. They stand as a copy of no building nor group of buildings and in carrying out his own ideas and endeavoring to meet the congregation needs, the architect has displayed unusual skill." Despite the fame of the building, Myers was a member of Newark's B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue.

Newark, NJ. B’nai Abraham Synagogue. Nathan Myers, arch (1922-24). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2007

 Newark, NJ. B’nai Abraham Synagogue. Nathan Myers, arch (1922-24). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2008

Newark, NJ. B’nai Abraham Synagogue. Nathan Myers, arch (1922-24). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2008
  
Newark, NJ. B’nai Abraham Synagogue, sanctuary. Nathan Myers, arch (1922-24). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2008

Newark, NJ. B’nai Abraham Synagogue, sanctuary. Nathan Myers, arch (1922-24). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2008

Already in 1902 Myers had designed Temple Congregation Anshe Russia in Newark, which was illustrated in the Brickbuilder (11: 6-7, 1902)

 Newark, NJ. Temple Congregation Anshe Russia, 1902. Nathan Myers, architect. 

Myers also was the architect of Beth El Synagogue in Waterbury, CT., built by Shapiro & Sons in 1929. Designed in a stripped down Byzantine style, with a prominent hemispheric dome, it was one of many synagogues of the period that helped prepare the country for the introduction of modernism after World War II. 

Waterbury, CT., Beth El Synagogue,  Nathan Myers, arch, built by Shapiro &; Sons (1929).
Photo: Connecticut Jewish History 2:1 (Fall 1991), 139

Other known buildings were Lyceum Theater in Newark (1904); the Bamberger Broadcasting Company power station in Kearny, NJ;  St. Ann's Villa at Convent Station, NJ; and St. Paul's AME Zion Church in Orange, NJ.

His best known late building was the 14-story Art Deco Hersch Tower in midtown Elizabeth, New Jersey. designed with Joseph Sanford Stanley, who worked for Myers in his Newark office after graduation from Princeton, from 1929 to 1935 (he would later gain prominence as an architect of religious buildings)Built in 1931 at the beginning of the  Great Depression  by businessman Louis F. Hersh, it was the tallest building in the city at the time.  

According to Who's Who in American Jewry 1926, Nathan Myers married Estelle Gerber on January 1, 1901 and then remarried Minnie Rose Rich on May 21, 1922, in New York. He died in 1937. While several of his individual buildings are of note and worth saving when still extant and worth remembering when they are not, Myers is most interesting for the entirety of his career - which deserves more study. Nathan Myers is an example the third generation Jewish-American architect - professionally trained and deeply rooted to a particular place, where over the decades he made his mark. There were other Jewish architects like him Rochester and Albany, and further west. He was stylistically eclectic - but with strong classical leanings and ready to embrace more stripped-down modern decorative styles in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Many clients were probably Jewish - either businessmen or Jewish congregations. It is unclear to me whether Lewis F. Hersch of Elizabeth, whose grandfather ran C. Hersh & Sons Dry Goods Store begun in 1866, was Jewish or German, but I suspect the former.

If you have information about Nathan Myers, like me know.



Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh New Home for Elbert Weinberg Steubenville Sculpture

Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2014)

Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2014)

Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2014)

Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh New Home for Elbert Weinberg Steubenville Sculpture
by Samuel D. Gruber

The series of bronze sculpted figures titled  Procession I by noted American-Jewish sculptor Elbert Weinberg (1928-1991) that had stood at Temple Beth Israel in Steubenville, Ohio, for forty years, has found a new home at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh. This is one of three cast editions of this multi-piece work. The other two are on view in the courtyard of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and indoors at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, DC. 

New York, NY. Jewish Theological Seminary courtyard. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2015)

New York, NY. Jewish Theological Seminary courtyard. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2015)

Despite seemingly-identical casts the appearance and appreciation of each group differs due to siting and arrangement.  I saw the new installation on a visit to Rodef Shalom last October. The new Pittsburgh installation is the most accessible of the three - it can be seen from a major street - and it is the most beautiful. The three figural groups are placed in a landscaped garden setting.

Temple Beth Israel in Steubenville closed the doors on its 1966-built synagogue and held its last Shabbat service on May 17, 2013. It wasn't a question of lacks of funds; it was a problem of lack of members.  The congregants decided not to await a total collapse of their synagogue - figuratively and literally - but to close the congregation from a position of relative strength.  This was not a case of "the last one out, turn off the lights."  But for a congregation down from 200 to only 35 families, the writing was on the wall.  The congregation chose to close and sell the building, and after some careful consideration to find new religious homes for congregants (who now need to drive a half hour to Wheeling, West Virginia or to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for services) and for their Judaica.  Procession I was the largest and most notable possession. 

Steubenville, Ohio. Temple Beth Israel. Elbert Weinberg sculpture Procession I in situ. Photo: Julian Preisler (2007)
 
Brochure for the Jewish Pavilion, Expo '67, with illustration of Procession I.  William A. Rosenthal Collection, College of Charleston

Weinberg sculpted The Procession in plaster beginning in 1955 and it was then exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s “Young America, 1957” exhibit where it attracted considerable media attention. With help from Mrs. Albert A. List, one of New York City’s great art patrons and an important benefactor of the Jewish Museum, it was cast in bronze in 1957. The work was then given to the Jewish Museum  and it was subsequently permanently displayed in the garden of the Jewish Theological Seminary where it can still be seen.  In 1967 the sculptural group was loaned for installation at the Jewish Pavilion at the Expo '67 World’s Fair in Montreal. In 1968, prominent art collectors Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Kobacker donated another identical casting to Temple Beth El in Steubenville. 

Steubenville, Ohio. Temple Beth Israel. Elbert Weinberg sculpture Procession I in situ. Photo: Julian Preisler (2007)

 Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2014)

Procession I consists of four figures headed by a Tallit-clad figure bearing a Torah. Behind him and to one side follow two linked figures, one of them holding an open prayer book. The last figure carries a menorah.

I like these works by Weinberg a lot, and the similar group Procession II installed on the grounds of Congregation Beth El in West Hartford, Connecticut, too. They've got me looking at other Weinberg work and I look forward to a stop in Hartford later this month to see more where he created a Holocaust memorial for his native city in 1982 and his bronze statue The Blind Sister of Narcissus, was recently installed outside the New Britain Museum of American Art in nearby New Britain, CT.  Weinberg's papers were recently donated to the Hartford Public Library where they are presently being processed. 

Weinberg had many other large commissions including the Holocaust Memorial in Wilmington, Delaware (1982) and works at the Embarcadero Center and the JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square Hotel in San Francisco, completed in the 1980s, not long before his premature death. Click here to see a large selection of Wienberg's sculpture including Judaica and Biblical works.



West Hartford, Connecticut. Congregation Beth El,   Procession II by Elbert Weinberg.Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2011).

Weinberg was a Fellow of American Academy of Rome, and I think he was the youngest sculptor so honored when he won the Rome Prize in sculpture in 1951. But he was not the first Jewish sculptor at the Academy. Leo Friedlander, Reuben R. Kramer, and Albert Wein had all been there before. 

While in Rome, Weinberg made his first significant Judaica piece. "Ritual Figure" was a woodcarving of a man blowing a shofar. The work is figural - but interpretative and expressive. The piece was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art and was on the cover of Art in America. Soon after, Grace Borgenicht of the Borgenicht Gallery in New York City, took Weinberg on as an artist. The Procession figures - especially the menorah-carrying figure in Procession I and the shofar-blowers in Procession II - are descendants of that first Ritual Figure. It was through Borgenicht that in 1968, the Kobacker family purchased Procession I and donated the work to Temple Beth El in Steubenville.

Ritual Figure by Elbert Weinberg, Beechwood, 1953. Museum of Modern Art
 Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014


Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014

Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014
Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014

 
Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014

 
Pittsburgh, PA. Rodef Shalom Congregation. Procession I by Elbert Weinberg. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2014)

Thanks to the following for help with this post:

Martha Berg, archivist, Rodef Shalom Congregation, Pittsburgh;
Harold Lindenthal, Elbert Weinberg Trust
Stephen Brown, The Jewish Museum
Julian Preisler, author of The Synagogues of Central and Western Pennsylvania (2014)