June was a busy month for both fundraising and planning for the move of the Lost Shul Mural! Read all about it below!
LOST SHUL MURAL” NEARS FUNDING GOAL FOR PLANNED MOVE
First Conservation Phase Completed
The Lost Shul Mural Project (www.lostshulmural.org) announced today that more than $100,000 was raised or pledged in June to advance the restoration of the historic 1910 mural to the next project stage. A grant of $50,000 from an anonymous New York based foundation, and a gift of $25,000 from the David Berg Foundation of New York have established that the project has more than just local interest.
“We also continue to receive support locally, and Gov. Madeleine Kunin, as honorary chair of the committee, has continued to introduce Vermonters to the effort,” said Peter Pelaia, Executive Director of Ohavi Zedek Synagogue which is responsible for the project. “It has been part of our plan from the beginning that at least one‐ third to one‐ half of all funds needed should be raised locally. The project celebrates Burlington Jewish and immigrant history, and it will serve as a local, national and international educational resource, which will attract visitors to the area.” To this end, project co‐directors Aaron Goldberg and Jeff Potash also announced a $10,000 challenge grant from an anonymous Vermont foundation, aimed specifically at residents of Chittenden County where Burlington, Vermont is located.
Governor Madeleine M. Kunin, honorary chairperson of the project committee, has enthusiastically thrown her support behind the effort to save the mural. “I feel passionately that this unique synagogue mural must be saved and restored,” said Governor Kunin. “It is a stunning work of folk art and a powerful symbol of survival. We are very close to hitting our initial goal to move the mural to a safe and public location at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue. Your donation at this critical time will make it possible!”
According to Pelaia, the mural restoration project has reached a pivotal juncture. Conservator Constance Silver recently completed Phase II of the project which included all of the stabilization, consolidation and cleaning of the mural that had to be done before the mural is moved to a new home at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, less than a half mile away. The cleaning revealed unimaginable and astoundingly bright colors under the layers of grime, nicotine stains and coal dust. The Lost Shul Mural was painted in 1910, and was viewable in the synagogue from 1910 until 1939, when Chai Adam Synagogue closed. It could then still be viewed while the building was used for private businesses, including a carpet store, until it was covered by sheetrock in 1986, and mostly forgotten. Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, into which the old Chai Adam Synagogue merged, is presently renting the apartment, where the mural was rediscovered behind the sheetrock wall. Part of the roof of the former synagogue will have to be disassembled for the mural to be cut out and removed.
“After national exposure in the New York Times and on National Public Radio, we are finding increased interest in the project from out‐of‐town donors,” said Pelaia. Unsolicited four and five figure gifts have also come from Arizona and Washington State, and team members recently had productive meetings with foundations in Florida and New York. The project has also gained the attention of the Lithuanian government, which sees the synagogue mural as an important survivor of Lithuanian‐Jewish heritage which was mostly destroyed in the Holocaust. Many descendants of Lithuanian Jews have rallied to the project. Dr. Joel Elkes, the 100‐year old son of Elkhanan Elkes, Jewish leader of the Kovno (Kaunus), Lithuanian Ghetto during the Holocaust, has endorsed the project, calling the mural a “visual Kaddish” for those family members killed in the Holocaust. Kaddish is the Jewish memorial prayer for the dead. Ben Zion Black, who painted the mural, was a native of Kaunus, Lithuania. Plans are underway for an event this fall at the Lithuanian embassy in Washington, DC.
According to the project organizers, moving the mural is the most technically difficult part of the project and also the most expensive. The entire move and new installation may cost as much as $260,000. This excludes further conservation work and the preparation of an educational exhibit. Additional fundraising will continue, but Goldberg and Potash say that if a minimum additional $40,000 is raised this month, the move will take place during the fall of 2014.
For more information please visit www.lostshulmural.org or contact Peter Pelaia at (802) 864‐0218 x 25, or via email at [email protected]zedek.org.