Synagogue Windows and Hebrew Writing

This has been condensed from our School Visits Team handbook:

The motto above the Ark

Most Jewish communities choose a motto, often a biblical quotation, and write it where it can easily be seen. Ours (reading from right to left, of course) – says, Ivdu et Adonai b’simchah (Serve the Lord with Joy) which is a quote from the opening of Psalm 100.

The 10 commandments

 The 2 sets of Hebrew writing either side of the motto show the 10 commandments (often known in Judaism as the 10 Sayings). The first 5 (on the right) are those concerning the relationship between us and G-d; the second 5 (on the left) are those concerning the way we should behave towards each other. As is traditional, each commandment is shown by its first 2 words only.

The stained glass windows

Set # 1, The 6 stained glass windows on the inner wall of the synagogue (which were the actual windows in our previous building at Worple Road) remind us of the biblical story of Creation. It shows 6 days of creation (reading from right to left, of course). Each window has Hebrew writing at the bottom.

The designs on the windows are abstract – most synagogues do not have figurative art on display because of the second commandment (about not making graven images). Except for Shabbat the  Jewish calendar has no names for the days of the week, calling them simply first day, second day, etc. The Hebrew words on the windows say: Bereshit (beginning), Yom shayni (second day),

Colin Mendelowitz has given us the following additional summary of the new Windows :

There are 2 new sets of stained glass windows in the Synagogue. All of these were commissioned from Graham Jones,( who is a renowned international stained glass artist, who also designed the original Worple Road windows in 1994) and were designed in 2016 in  collaboration with Colin Mendelowiz, the architect of the Synagogue alterations

Set #2, behind the ark, set in a curved screen, represents the 7th day, Shabbat, the day of rest. It incorporates an architectural ‘trick’. By setting a mirror in the ceiling next to the glass, it gives the impression that the screen is taller than it is. The 2 panels on either side of the ark have gold leaf and represent the burning bush that Moses saw on Mount Sinai.

Set #3, on the east elevation is formed of 12 stained glass panels in a light-box, as it was not structurally possible to form openings for additional windows in this position. These panels represent the Garden of Eden, an extension of the view of greenery visible through the new main windows below the panels. The number 12 is also significant, as this refers to the 12 tribes of Israel (… as do the twelve dots on the lecterns ).

The panels were made by Graham with Peters Glass Studio in Germany, incorporating several modern glass techniques. These include etching, staining and firing, screen printing, painting directly on the glass, and antique glass framed in traditional lead, fused to a toughened glass panel base. The frames were specially designed by Colin and made by Surrey Steels, a local steel fabricator, using stock steel angles.

If you look carefully, you will find images of the 7 biblical fruits within the panels:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Grapes
  • Olives
  • Dates
  • Pomegranate
  • Figs