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Synagogue Mural Over 100 Years Old Had Been Hidden Behind Wall for Years

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There’s nothing more exciting than a mystery revealed.

A rare art piece, hidden for decades, has been uncovered from walls that kept their secret. “If only these walls could talk” isn’t just a saying in Vermont, it’s now documented history.

In a report by The Associated Press, Josh Perelman, chief curator and director of exhibitions and interpretation at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, talks about the events surrounding what is now known as “The Lost Mural.”

“The large colorful triptych painted by sign painter Ben Zion Black in 1910 shows the Ten Commandments with a lion on both sides, the sun beaming down, and columns and rich curtains at the borders. A rare representation of a kind of art that graced wooden synagogues in Europe that were largely destroyed during the Holocaust, experts say.”

Black painted the mural inside the Chai Adam Synagogue in 1910 in a Jewish neighborhood in Burlington known as Little Jerusalem. When the synagogue merged with another, this building closed in 1939 and was used for a variety of purposes, including a carpet store.

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Details of the incredible story of the painting are described on The Lost Mural website.

“When I learned about the mural and what it is and the story behind the artist, I was completely amazed, and there is nothing like this elsewhere in this country,” Josh Perelman said.

“It makes it both a treasure and also a significant work, both in American Jewish religious life and the world of art in this country,” he said.”

The building was turned into apartments in 1986, so archivist Aaron Goldberg and others who valued the artwork convinced the owner to install a wall to protect it. More than 20 years later, they cut away the wall board and sent photos around the world asking for professional advice on what should be done to restore and preserve it.

The mural survived a careful process of removing it from its home and encasing it in a metal frame so it could be transported to Ohavi Zedek Synagogue.

“In its new home, conservators restored damaged sections of paint and cleaned the entire mural, revealing its original vibrant color and detail. Paint was also matched and added where it had fallen off. That work took place this and last year, during the coronavirus pandemic, when the building was largely unused. The renewed mural was unveiled this summer, and tours are ongoing.”

“It’s both a Jewish story and an American story,” says Senior Rabbi Amy Small.

Both the Jewish story and the story of America are about survival, finding a new home, and preserving what is of value from the past as we create a new future.

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All that is captured in the beauty of the mural, the cooperation of those who protected the mural, and in the redemption story of the once hidden work of art.

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Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a writer, speaker, Christian coach and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored five books with a sixth on the way. Though she has degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies, Lori learned the most from studying her Bible in life’s trenches. Rhode Islander. Wife, mom, grandmom, retired homeschool parent, part-time giant-slayer. Visit her at www.loriroeleveld.com.
Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a writer, speaker, Christian coach and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored five books with a sixth on the way. Though she has degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies, Lori learned the most from studying her Bible in life’s trenches. Rhode Islander. Wife, mom, grandmom, retired homeschool parent, part-time giant-slayer. Visit her at www.loriroeleveld.com.




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