Enter the sanctuary of Beth David Bnai Israel Beth Am Synagogue in Toronto and one is struck by the magnificent stained glass window that frames the Aron Kodesh. Now, Conservative congregants throughout North America will be able to see the stained glass mural, as it is being featured on the cover of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s (USCJ) 5780 calendar.
Around 40,000 of the calendars will be distributed to the members of congregations affiliated with USCJ, the world’s largest Conservative Jewish communal body, which represents 600 North American congregations.
“We were thrilled to be put on the cover of the calendar,” said Andy Pascoe, the president of Beth David. “USCJ publishes a Jewish calendar every year and every year they invite member synagogues to submit photographs for the calendar. It’s a big fundraiser for USCJ.
“The theme this year was Judaica. Beth David submitted a beautiful picture of the stained glass window and the Aron Kodesh. We’re very proud of our stained glass collection in the sanctuary and the social hall.”
The window, called From Holocaust to Redemption, was created by the late Ernest Raab, Pascoe explained. “He was actually a well known sculptor. The mural was dedicated in May 1997.”
On close examination, the various sections of the mural portray iconic imagery of the Holocaust, which culminate in scenes pertaining to the founding and triumph of the State of Israel.
“From Holocaust to Redemption is a powerful memorial to the six million Jews murdered in the Shoah,” Pascoe said. “Images of the Holocaust spiral up from the base.”
People are shown wearing the yellow Star of David that marked them as Jews during the Holocaust, and there are also depictions of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.
Pascoe said the prisoner portrayed in the barracks in Buchenwald is supposed to be Elie Wiesel, the Romanian-born American writer, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor who was an inmate of both camps.
Another image shows the entrance to Auschwitz, with its slogan, “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”).
The burning Torah scrolls symbolize the destruction of the many Jewish communities and the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. In fact, that number is incorporated into the image.
Pascoe also pointed to an uplifting scene in the mural that has become an emblematic image of the 1967 Six-Day War: a depiction of the first two Israeli soldiers to reach the Kotel.
The window frames a floating ark, with a stained glass image of the Ten Commandments enveloped by doves of peace, Pascoe said. “It’s a beautifully appropriate location for our sifrei Torah.”