Monday, September 10, 2012

Expert Provides Analysis of Temple's Stained Glass

The three large windows in the Temple depict
scenes from King David's life.
Last week, Jed picked up Jules Mominee at the Goshen airport (Jules has his own plane!). Jules came from the Mominee stained glass Studios in Evansville, Indiana. and is finishing his PhD in stained glass conservation at Ball State. After Jules had a chance to check out the windows at Ahavas Sholom, he called to give me the run-down. The windows are original to the building and are most likely from a stained glass factory out of Kokomo, Indiana. I'm sure I can find out more details on this in the information I collected at the archives in Cincinnati. There are a few pieces of antique glass which were integrated into the design, but most are contemporary to 1889. He did notice that there were a few replacement pieces- most notably at the bottom center of each panel. Jules suggested that these pieces were used to replace those which might have had donors names written on them, possibly in Hebrew. The pieces were probably replaced in the 1950s when the temple was sold to a church. The vitreous painted glass (the panes which depict clothing and other designs) seem to be in good shape. However, those panes which were painted with enamels, such as the faces and other flesh tones, are showing a bit of flaking. He recommended that we be very careful when cleaning the glass, especially in these areas. The lead composition is still holding up and has not oxidized much.

My main concern when I called Jules was the bowing at the bottom of the panels. Jules recognized this and explained that the bowing is due to the panels being a bit too large for the T-bars that were chosen to support them when they were installed. These bars have sagged and constantly push on the stained glass at the bottom of the panels. However, this was not Jules' main concern. He stated that the biggest issue with the windows was the fact that the windows are covered with plexiglass storm windows on the outside. These storm windows, although they have helped prevent breakage, have actually damaged the stained glass by trapping heat and moisture inside. He noticed the damage this has caused by the deteriorating putty between the lead and glass on the outside. In the end, he recommends replacing the storm windows with a specific window that is designed to help increase ventilation and keep the stained glass from enduring harsh temperature and humidity conditions while at the same time, protecting them from outside elements. He estimated that if we were to replace the storm windows, the stained glass would last for another 40-50 years without any other remedies. If we leave the windows as they are, they will most definitely need to be restored in 20 years. On overall restoration like this is quite costly. It is obvious that we need to begin looking into new storm windows to protect the beautiful stained glass at Ahavas Sholom. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

A weekend of Indiana's Historic Synagogues!

Beth El, 1925, Indianapolis
Temple Israel, 1867, West Lafayette
This Labor Day weekend, I met with Isaiah Kuperstein and his wife Elana at the Ahavas Sholom synagogue building. Thankfully, Jed Mast was there to help us into the building. Isaiah is currently working on a project to help restore the 1925 Beth El temple on 34th and Ruckles streets in Indianapolis and create a new Jewish Heritage museum. We had a wonderful meeting at Ahavas Sholom, with the Marshmallow Festival going on nearby! Jed and I were also joined by Cyndi, Everett, and Jerry who are on our project team. It was great to catch up with them a bit and to brainstorm about our next meeting and next steps for the synagogue project. Isaiah got me thinking about the oldest synagogue building- created to be a synagogue- that is still standing in Indiana.

After our visit, he inquired about this synagogue and I sent him the information about Temple Israel's 1867 building in West Lafayette. This building is 22 years older than our Ahavas Sholom building in Ligonier. Of course there is a reason why I prefaced the above with "created to be a synagogue that is still standing." Temple Israel is in fact not the oldest synagogue in Indiana. This title belongs to Achduth VeSholom in Fort Wayne. I met with Rabbi Javier Cattapan at Achuduth VeSholom this past Friday and received a tour of their museum located at their 1961 synagogue built on 10 beautiful acres. This congregation, the oldest in Indiana, purchased an empty German Methodist Church and dedicated it as a synagogue in 1857 (a decade older than Temple Israel). However, this congregation did not actually build their own synagoge building until 1874. Unfortunately for those interested in historic architecture, both of these buildings in Fort Wayne have been demolished. The Achduth VeSholom congregation is currently in the midst of revitalizing their museum and are welcoming both the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Historical Society of Indiana onto their synagogue campus. I wish I could spend every holiday weekend learning about local Jewish History, and meeting brilliant new people who are passionate about celebrating diversity in Indiana!