Synagogue Art Experts
“The Lost Shul Mural is a survivor, a rare painting; one of only a small number of extant ‘East European’ synagogue murals in this country….[It is] a unique survivor of the Age of Immigration. The mural is a gift from the past that adds color, vitality, and the immediacy of piety.”
Samuel Gruber, Ph.D.
Rothman Family Lecturer in Jewish Studies
“This is a remarkable folk art mural in an American synagogue sanctuary and must be saved. It recalls a heartfelt desire of refugees to channel sacred memories of their Eastern European traditions and sanctify their new houses of worship. The mural’s survival makes an invaluable contribution to the larger legacy of Jewish culture that was largely destroyed in the Holocaust. In saving it, we preserve a sacred past that must not be forgotten.”
Joshua Perelman, Ph.D.
Chief Curator & Director of Exhibitions and Collections
National Museum of American Jewish History
“The mural in the Burlington synagogue witnesses a transition of that artistic culture which flourished in Lithuania before the Holocaust and is preserved there in scant and damaged remains, in rare archival photographs, and memoirs. The subjects of such paintings are largely the same: rampant lions supporting the round-headed Tablets of the Law; the Crown of Torah placed above the ark and referring to the discussions around the Ethics of the Fathers; the open curtain alluding to the separation between the Holy and the Holy of the Holies in the Tabernacle; musical instruments, as quoting from the Psalm 150: “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing…” All these are painted vividly and masterfully by Ben Zion Black. Information available about this artist exceeds whatever is known about any of the Eastern European painters dealing with synagogue decoration. This is an advantage of the country to which he decided to emigrate, and where Black and his works are remembered and valued. Fortunately, the Burlington synagogue mural survived; this material link to the lost culture should be carefully and professionally preserved for posterity.
Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Co-author, Synagogues of Lithuania
Vermont Historians and Civic Leaders
“The Lost Shul Mural is a unique icon of the American immigrant experience and a local treasure. The City of Burlington was built by our immigrant ancestors, and today, the contributions of New Americans are continuing to improve our remarkable City. Promoting and celebrating the history and stories of Burlingtonians highlight the vibrancy and diversity of our City. The effort to preserve the Lost Shul Mural fosters our commitment to diversity and deserves the generous support of our community.”
Mayor Miro Weinberger
City of Burlington, Vermont
“The Lost Shul Mural is a cultural treasure that should be preserved for the enrichment of Vermonters today and for generations to come. It shares a rich story of the immigrant experience and the religious diversity of our state.”
Mark S. Hudson
Executive Director, Vermont Historical Society
“While the Holocaust intended to erase all memory of the vibrancy of Eastern European Jewish life and culture, the “Lost Shul Mural” reminds us that it did not succeed. The mural reveals the lost historical legacy of symbolic artistic imagery in Jewish folklore and tradition. The Center for Holocaust Studies supports the preservation of the mural as an authentic remnant which must be preserved to promote scholarship and public awareness of issues concerning the vitality of Jewish traditions before the Holocaust.”
Frank Nicosia, Ph.D.
Raul Hilberg Distinguished Professor of Holocaust Studies
Professor of History and Interim Director of the Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Vermont
“The artistry of Ben Zion Black evokes the love at the heart of Eastern European Jewry, a heart so terribly broken by the Shoah, yet a heart ever more whole because of its brokenness, as Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav taught. The colors, the symbols, the fact that this work inspired the worship of the new immigrants who were members of Chai Adam Synagogue, all combine to make the restoration of this mural a gift to the Jewish people; indeed, a gift to all people who celebrate the triumph of hope over despair.”
“It is personally a privilege for me, as Rabbi of Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, to witness the restoration of this mural and its return journey to the walls of a synagogue, where it will be accessible to the public for contemplation and study. May this project evoke a sense of Ahavat Yisrael, the love of all Jews for one another, and through this love, a love for all of our friends and neighbors with whom we have come to call Vermont our home.”
Rabbi Joshua Chasan
Ohavi Zedek Synagogue
“B’H The ‘Lost Shul’ mural powerfully reminds us that our forebears strove to preserve the rich and vibrant traditions of Eastern European Judaism as they built a new community in Burlington, Vermont. Preserving this surviving piece of rare art empowers us to educate and inspire future generations. It serves as a reminder of the sacred traditions of our ancestors who lived lives dedicated to Torah and Mitzvot.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Raskin
Chabad Lubavitch of Vermont
“For many Vermonters, Burlington’s rich Jewish past is unknown. That is about to be changed with the restoration of artwork from one of Burlington’s original 19th century Orthodox synagogues. Preserved for decades in its original building, now an apartment building, the Lost Shul Mural will be meticulously removed and publicly displayed so that the entire community can once again see and appreciate the great heritage of Burlington’s Jewish past. This is an extremely exciting time for our community.“
Rabbi James Glazier
South Burlington, VT
Representatives of Lithuania
“The Lost Shul Mural is a unique visual testimony of the contributions of Lithuanian immigrants to the American experience, and especially to immigrant cultural and artistic history. Saving the Lost Shul Mural is vital to the common interests of all Lithuanian and Americans in preserving our collective past. Contributing to the Lost Shul Mural project will assist Lithuania in promoting all of Lithuanian’s cultural heritage.”
Zygimantas Pavilionis, Ph.D.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to the United States
“The Lost Shul Mural is an important symbol of Lithuanian Jewish culture in the United States, providing us with a rare glimpse of the past. I am humbled by the incredible commitment to this project, and look forward to the day when it is restored for all to see.”
Kerry E. Secrest
Honorary Consul of Lithuania to Vermont
Former Vermont Governor Madeleine May Kunin