In 1910 the interior of Chai Adam synagogue in Burlington, VT was gloriously painted from ceiling to floor by Ben Zion Black, who was brought from Lithuania by the congregation to paint the synagogue in the prevalent style of synagogues of Eastern Europe, including many richly decorated wooden shuls. Decades later the synagogues in Burlington merged and the Chai Adam building was sold several times before ultimately being converted into apartment units. Much of the painting was destroyed during the renovation but the mural over the ark was covered by a wall and forgotten until 2012 when the Lost Shul Mural was uncovered for the first time in nearly thirty years.
The Lost Shul Mural is part of a widespread tradition of Eastern European synagogue wall painting that was almost entirely obliterated during the Shoah (the Holocaust) by the Nazis and their collaborators. Few of these treasures survived in Europe except in fragmentary condition in often ruined buildings, located where Jewish communities no longer existed. The quality of these works varies greatly, but every examples is a survivor; witness to an a creative culture and horrific events.
Though deliberate destruction and then decades of neglect have nearly wiped out this type of Jewish art, the Lost Shul Mural in Burlington is a remnant preserved half a world a way – a transplant to the United States created by a Jewish immigrant artist. A century ago many immigrants shuls were similarly decorated, but the Lost Shul Mural is a rare surviving example even in America, and it is one of the largest and most ambitious examples, and even in its damaged state it remain one of the best preserved.
Now, a century after its creation, we have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve this priceless treasure before it too is lost to history. As we honor the lives of all those lost in the Shoah, we here in the Burlington, VT Jewish community, led by Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, have taken upon ourselves the role of preserving this art and protecting it for future generations. We hope that you can lend your support to this cause before the Lost Shul Mural is lost forever.