By Jacob Kamaras – THE JEWISH STATE
The hundreds of hours of volunteer work that went into beautifying the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe’s shul also served the purpose of commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s passing.
On June 27, during Shabbat Kiddush, the center formally dedicated its 18 new stained glass windows, 10 of which designs depict the steps of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson‘s mitzvah campaign: Shabbat candles, tefillin, mezuzah, Torah study, tzedakah, having a home filled with holy books, kashrut, loving your fellow, education, and family purity.
Five more windows on the Chabad shul’s eastern wall in the upper section contain the text of the Shema prayer, and three others by the doors represent the Star of David as well as the mitzvot of mezuzah, challah, and Kiddush. A number of Monroe residents volunteered their services for the project, including Maurice Mahler, who designed the windows, Harold Barr, who produced them, and Jacob Roitman, who installed them.
“We live in a very unique community in that way,” Chabad Director Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky said of the volunteer contributions. “On all levels, people are looking to help. In other communities you have philanthropists. In Monroe, we have people that are willing to give time and talent. It’s more personable.”
Barr, who for the last 12 years has made a hobby of manufacturing hand mirrors and other glass items in his home studio, said he worked at least 250 hours on the stained glass windows. When Barr was visiting the Chabad in September during a week when one of his friends sponsored Shabbat kiddush, Rabbi Zaklikovsky gave him an aliyah and mentioned his artistic ability during a speech. Barr previously made stained glass windows for the Jewish Congregation of Concordia, and was hooked into the new project when Zaklikovsky showed him the designs for the windows right after kiddush.
“When he approached me, I thought it would be very nice for me to have my skills on display in his temple like they were in [the Jewish Congregation of Concordia],” Barr said. “Every time I go there, I take pride in seeing my artwork.”
After being recruited to volunteer at the September kiddush, Barr came full circle by sponsoring kiddush last Shabbat, when the windows were dedicated.
“It gives you a feeling that it’s not just a room — it’s a sanctuary,” Barr said of the windows. “Everybody is very enthused and happy to see them. The temple will get more notoriety because people will want to come to see [the windows]. Then if people come, they might stay. It’s not just windows, it’s an advertisement.”
A lifelong artist who teaches art at the Rutgers Extension on Route 9, Mahler worked for two weeks on the design for the windows before going over the sketches with Barr and Zaklikovsky. The group then reviewed Hebrew text for the windows, measured them, and chose different colors.
Mahler also gives lectures on the work of noted stained glass artist Marc Chagall. By living for 40 years in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, center of the Chabad movement, Mahler said he gained an appreciation for the Rebbe’s teachings and was pleased to depict them through his artwork.
“I have a very good feeling about producing something that will translate the Rebbe’s thoughts and make them last,” Mahler said.
Although the windows were installed the day before Shavuot, Chabad waited to dedicate them until this weekend because of the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit, which took place on the third day of the Jewish month Tammuz, June 25. The mitzvah campaign has always been a large part of what Chabad stands for, Zaklikovsky said.
“These mitzvahs were very close to the Rebbe’s heart,” Zaklikovsky said. “This really became the hallmark of the Chabad outreach efforts. Everything went through these 10 mitzvahs.”
Zaklikovsky said stained glass windows add special dignity to a shul, and that the message on these particular windows should motivate community members to action.
“It should give a very warm feeling in the shul,” Zaklikovsky said. “You should feel like you are in a shul where there is a soul, a heart, and lots of energy. Then specifically, people should be inspired to do the mitzvahs.”
Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe is still looking for community members to dedicate each one of the stained glass windows. If you are interested in honoring the memory of a loved one through one of the windows, contact Rabbi Zaklikovsky at [email protected] or by calling (732) 656-1616.