The Reason

for our trip to Cincinnati was not just to catch beautiful sunrises from the parking lot of the  Adath Israel parking lot.
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The reason we went was that the Skirball Museum at HUC in Cincinnati accepted the  spectacular stained glass windows that were created for Temple Beth El in Quincy by my father with artist David Holleman.
Temple Beth El was reduced to a pile of rubble earlier this summer. many of the treasures in the synagogue have found new homes both communal homes and private homes. The windows though are massive and it was difficult to find them a home.
Until just a couple of weeks ago I saw the destruction of the synagogue, the thought of a wrecking ball smashing that beautiful jewel box into smithereens as a personal loss.quincy 002
So many of the conversations about the development of each element of making the synagogue beautiful took place in our house on Presidents Lane. The model for the bima lived in our basement for decades.

I remember Mr. Holleman bringing  his cartoons for the windows and unfurling  them on our living room floor for my father to give his input. The conversations about the ideas my father wanted to convey in each element of the building  were a constant at our dinner table.
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In the last few weeks as news of the destruction of the building spread I have come to realize that my father’s hard work to make Temple Beth El beautiful mattered deeply not just to my father, not just to my family but also to the other people who grew up with Beth El as their shul home and even to the general community of Quincy.window3
My husband and I were prepared to have the windows removed and to store them until a new home could be found for them. But we discovered that this task was taken on by two other children of Temple Beth El, Ruth Ellen Rubin and Loren Ostrow.
The two of them brokered a deal with the Skirball Museum at Hebrew Union College for the windows to be part of the museum collection.
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We went to Cincinnati for the reception where the windows were officially received by HUC.

Thursday we were treated to the VIP tour of the rare book room .
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We saw treasures, this clay tablet is a receipt for grain taken from a Sumerian store house,
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a Kaifeng Yizkor book
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an Italian Haggadah.
We were taken to the archives and got to see
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the menu from the famous treife banquet that started the Conservative movement.
That evening was the big event,SAM_5098 the cocktail party and dinner. David Holleman  the artist who produced this work and his wife Barbara made sure to come.
We assembled for pictures.
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Here I am with Mr. Holleman, Ruth Ellen Saivetz Rubin, My sister Rebecca, Loren Ostrow and Marcia ( whose last name escapes me for the moment)
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At the dinner the tables were set to mark the event with elements from the windows used as the decorative theme.
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( And no, it was not another treife banquet)
Photos of the windows were placed around the room.
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And then there were speeches.
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Mr. Holleman spoke about the process of working with my father and working with the restrictions my father placed on him (no Jewish stars and no human figures)
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Then the director of the Skirball spoke about how excited she was about this gift to the museum.
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And finally, they took the black drape off of one of the windows.
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It wasn’t as if we couldn’t figure out which window would be unveiled. The size was a complete give-away.SAM_5131
It wasn’t like we didn’t know  what the window looked like, or we didn’t expect to see it. SAM_5132
But both my sister and I burst into tears as soon as the windows were revealed.
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My friend Penny had asked me to touch the windows for her. SAM_5137SAM_5138
I decided to take these close ups to re create the feeling of standing nose to the glass as I assume all of us did on occasion. SAM_5139
 וחיי עולם נטע בתוכינו
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ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה
The evening was a powerful one for all of us from Quincy. the destruction was averted and new generations of people will be able to see my father’s great collaboration.

Comments

  1. Absolutely beautiful and with the crown, I am sure whilst you burst into tears others gasped with amazement even if seeing them again, chills going down the spine to think that these may have been lost.
    I am so glad for you and your family, but for your wider community, too.
    Sandy

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  2. I confess, my eyes watered a bit as well as I looked at your beautiful photos. This is an amazing story and I feel privileged to have followed it as it unfolded. Thank you for your words and your photos and your emotions.

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  3. This meant so much to all of us Quincy kids who were there...Ok kids, I was the youngest at 54. But for all of us it meant preserving a legacy that our parents put into place.

    Lisa and Sandy thanks for being part of my community.

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  4. I also want to add one anecdote. This window of the crown of torah was installed by my father, Mr. Holleman and his brother in law late at night.The three of them stayed on for a few hours just to grin up at the window. Mr Holleman didn't get home until 2:00am. Barbara, his wife asked him what took him so long..and he replied " We just had to keep looking at it and smiling." My husband asked if perhaps they had gone out for a beer, and my sister and I laughed and said "Nah, they were looking and grinning for all that time."

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    Replies
    1. Quite right, too.
      Sandy
      (a wonderful British statement)

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  5. wonderful story; magnificent windows! So glad they were saved in time. Great to see a photo of David Holleman and his wife Barbara who I knew when I was young and have not seen many a year.

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