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Local artists give new context to stained glass windows at Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter
The 10 large stained glass windows at Congregation Keneseth Israel are nothing short of inspirational.
Collectively known as “The Prophetic Quest,” 40 years after the installation of Jacob Landau’s works at the synagogue, 27 Montgomery County artists have created their own interpretations and explorations of Landau’s biblical themes in the exhibit “‘Step into My Studio,’ Said the Artist to the Prophet” at KI’s Temple Judea Museum.
Whitemarsh Township artist Paula Mandel, who contributed a sculpture titled “Prophesy,” noted in an email that she has “spent many hours surrounded by the magnificent windows.”
“Since I work in glass, I am captivated by the color, imagery and light that Landau utilized,” she said.
A press release from the museum says of Landau’s 25-foot-tall windows, with 30,000 pieces of glass in 100 colors: “The clean geometric lines of the modernist architecture (of the Korn Memorial Sanctuary) are modulated by the screaming curves and layered dynamism of Jacob Landau’s conception of biblical imagery.”
Landau, who described his spirituality as humanist, once said: “People ask, ‘What are your windows about?’ What is any work of art about? My art is about trying to articulate the struggle, the human predicament, the beauty and terror of existence, and the hope of transcendence.” The artist passed away in 2008.
Mandel said: “My study of Landau’s portrayals of these individual prophets and their stories led to my contemplation of prophets as they relate to the human condition. Why does every generation have and follow prophets? What makes someone become a prophet and someone else a follower? What purpose do they provide?
These ideas led me to the design of this sculpture, which references a merry-go-round. Atop the mirrored tower is a cast glass hand leading and pointing forward and upward. Below are wax cast hands reaching up searching for answers.”

"Prophesy" by Paula Mandel. Submitted photo.

“Prophesy” by Paula Mandel. Submitted photo.

Abington Township resident Marlene D’Orazio Adler had this to say: “The Jacob Landau windows are magnificent! Each time I am sitting in the sanctuary I find myself looking at the windows! I always see something new and enjoy the way that he pulls you into the story and message behind each of the brilliantly colored, fantastically drawn images of the various prophets upon which he chose to focus.
The inspiration for my art work, ‘The Prophetess Deborah,’ came directly from the beautiful stained glass colors. I am fascinated by how light filters through the colored glass; whether it be brilliant early morning light or the fading light of late afternoon. The colors are so vivid and illuminate each prophet so beautifully! It was the unique illumination that comes from light filtering through glass that inspired me to use actual fragments of stained glass in my work.
I choose Deborah as my subject prophetess for her strength and wisdom. She is also called the ‘Mother of Israel’ and her story gave me insight as to how hard it must have been for a woman at that time to be a confident and compassionate leader and counselor.”
The dialogue continues through the following special programs:
*Rabbi Lance J. Sussman’s “Prophecy and World Religions” series continues 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. Nov. 9 with Christianity, and Nov. 16 with Islam. Cost is $10.
*Play the game “Challenged by Women of the Bible” 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 12.

IF YOU GO

What: “‘Step into My Studio,’ Said the Artist to the Prophet.”
Where: The Temple Judea Museum at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, 8339 Old York Road, (southeast corner of Township Line Road), Elkins Park.
When: Through Jan. 15.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Groups and tours welcome by appointment.
Info.: Call (215) 887-2027, email tjmuseum@kenesethisrael.org or visit www.kenesethisrael.org/museum.

 

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