At Mural Unveiling, Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, August 2, 2015:
“I am thrilled to welcome you to Ohavi Zedek synagogue—-for the unveiling of the once lost and now found— synagogue mural.
This is a day that many thought would never come.
How can you take off a roof, carve out a wall, and move a mural without breaking or damaging it, and place it in the entry way of Ohavi Zedek synagogue?
The answer is yes. Yes, we can.
Yes, because of the generous support of everyone in this room. Thank you, thank you.
You are now part of the journey of the synagogue mural –from Hyde Street to North Prospect Street. From something a secret few knew about to a celebration for our entire community.
We did this together because you believed in this project.
Two people deserve special thanks:
The artist himself, Ben Zion Black, who came from a small town in lithuania, to follow the love of his life to Burlington—despite her parents’ objection. We wouldn’t be here without him—and there are members of his family here. He was a theatre director, mandolin player, sign painter and writer. A man of many talents.
And we give special recognition to the man who discovered the mural on the second floor of an apartment house on Hyde Street—a former synagogue which had also been a carpet store—he first saw it with his mother while she was buying a carpet ,
He had this crazy idea that everyone should see it. Let’s move the mural to Ohavi Zedek, he said.
It was his dream.
Now it’s our dream come true.
Thank you, Aaron.
And thank you to the extraordinary engineers, architects, restorers, contractors and everyone else who figured out how to do something that hasn’t been done before—and it worked. It worked, without the loss of a single paint chip.
What’ s my involvement?
I was asked to be the honorary chair of the fund raising committee.
I thought, I can do that.
Then something happened to me. I was deeply affected by the power of the mural.
The mural is more than paint on plaster.
Yes, it’s a beautiful piece of folk art.
Yes, it’s about the rich cultures that populate Vermont, not only Jews, but for all of Vermont’s immigrants—Catholics, Italians, the Irish, the French, and all who sought and found a better life here.
Yes. It tells a story that our children and grandchildren will learn.
But the power of the mural speaks to us.
It tells us that despite persecution, despite the destruction of synagogues in Eastern and Western europe, this mural has survived—the only one—this size—in Lithuania or America.
Everyone connected to the Holocaust, in one way or another, will feel its power.
Everyone who mourns for the Armenian genocide, who despairs of genocides taking place now, today as we speak—in other parts of the world—will feel its power.
It’s a miracle that this mural was found and is being brought back to life.
It is both a memorial to the dead, and a celebration for the living. Its brilliant colors, which you will see when it is fully restored—are cheerful, beautiful.
Blue red gold. It’s a happy mural. It embraces everyone. It signals hope. You can attach your own meaning to it.
But the journey is not yet complete. We are only half way there. We will continue to need your help to complete it to finish the restoration, to develop an education component and more. That’s all I will say about that today.
Congratulations on what you have accomplished. Mazel tov, mazel tov.”
— Gov. Madeleine Kunin