Help support the project during this time of need.
All Jewish non-profits and projects have been impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Your gift will help provide immediate financial support to the "Opening the Ark project" (described below). Help keep our project alive! Your support will ensure the completion and survival of this project.
We are living at an unprecedented time of Jewish life. As I write this letter to you, we are well into the COVID-19 pandemic, which is unlike anything we have ever experienced. If there is anything we have learned from the pandemic currently ravaging our planet, it is that we need to be better prepared. From testing supplies to social distancing, we were unprepared and unfamiliar with protective measures. The warning signs were in place: COVID-19 had hit other countries before the U.S, and there was a precedent for understanding and preparing. Yet we were unprepared.
So too will Jewish life in America be impacted by structural changes going on. For decades, congregations have struggled with millennial and greater congregational engagement. COVID-19 will only perpetuate these structural tendencies. Greater reliance on technology, as well as frustration with feeling unheard, set apart, and uninvested in synagogue life, will only increase. Against this backdrop, I am beginning a project that will fill the void in our communities and incorporate new voices in an exciting new endeavor.
Considering the structural changes happening in Jewish life, I am undertaking the Opening the Ark Project, which is set to reconstruct one of the great wooden arks of Poland right here in America. The ark (images attached) was one of the jewels of Ashkenazi Jewry; destroyed by the Nazis in 1942 in Poland. It was towering and coated in vibrant colors. With Polish, Sephardic and Russian influences, it stood as a testament to a Jewish dialogue and to Jewish art, artistry, and carpentry.
The reconstruction effort is an open canvas for people wanting to experiment with a new kind of relationship to Judaism. As a matter of engagement, the project reaches inside (and even potentially outside) our Jewish community and involves people in new ways. From architects providing blueprints to digital colorists, artisans, and artists who will paint the ark, Jews—and even some who are adjacent to Jews—will be involved in this project.
The final phase of ark construction will include painting complex details upon the hand-carved wooden ark and its intricate wooden overlays and panels. For this, the project will convene at four local synagogues (one unaffiliated, one Orthodox, one Conservative, and one Reform). At each location, community members will paint sections of the ark according to the guidelines set by digital colorists, who will have been able to colorize original black-and-white photos of the ark from Poland.
The project costs will be divided into eight different phases. The first four phases of the project involve consultation with an architect. Different organizations have pledged to support each phase of the project. Before COVID-19, donors did not request 501(c)(3) status for the project. As a result, phases 1-2 have already been accounted for and paid for. Post-COVID-19, donors and organizations have begun to request 501(c)(3) status, so phases 3-8 of the project will fall under a 501(c)(3) of HUC-JIR. All financial support of this project will fall under the tax benefits of a 501(c)(3). We are currently at Phase 3 of fundraising. Phase 3 will be directed online on GoFundMe Charity. For Phases 4-8, the GoFundMe Charity page will remain open for donor support. All support pledged by donors outside of GoFundMe Charity will be updated on the page as we near our goal!
The total costs of the project will amount to 50,000. A distilled breakdown of the phases and costs are below.
Phase 1 (2,500) aleady raised prior to initiation of campaign
Architectural preliminary massing and layout
Phase 2 (2,500) aleady raised prior to initiation of campaign
Architectural dimensional planning
*Phase 3 (2,500)
Architectural dimensional review
Phase 4 (2,500)
Architectural final detail review. CAD files.
Phase 5 (30,000)
Raw materials for construction (larch and poplar lumber). Steel truss system, platform, custom turned columns.
Phase 6 (2,500)
Color–B&W reconstruction, material and pigment analysis
Phase 7 (2,400)
Phase 8 (100)
**The names of contributors will be included on a plaque at the front of the ark (as pictured in the gallery photos)