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Airport windows land at E. Brunswick shul
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Airport windows land at E. Brunswick shul

East Brunswick Jewish Center’s Rabbi Aaron Benson and congregation copresident Amy Rothman Schonfeld with a stained-glass window that was part of the original JFK Airport International Synagogue.
East Brunswick Jewish Center’s Rabbi Aaron Benson and congregation copresident Amy Rothman Schonfeld with a stained-glass window that was part of the original JFK Airport International Synagogue.

Four panels from two stained-glass windows that once greeted international travelers have found a new home at the East Brunswick Jewish Center.

The two huge windows by famed Israeli artist Ami Shamir framed the ark of the International Synagogue at JFK Airport for decades, articulating the original chapel’s theme “reaching to the heavens and returning to earth.”

The original International Synagogue building was built in 1962 but was demolished and the synagogue was relocated within the airport several years ago, a victim to an airport renovation.

EBJC’s former rabbi, Chaim Rogoff, arranged to have his shul become one of eight synagogues to which the panels were donated.

The panels, using biblical and kabalistic themes to portray Jacob’s ladder, were formally dedicated in November and are now in the congregation’s lobby, said Rabbi Aaron Benson.

“They take up the better part of a wall,” he said. “To the casual observer they look like they’re built into the wall. We hope to dedicate the other two panels next Kristallnacht.”

The synagogue hired Uziel Sason, who has performed similar work for museums and private collections, to make permanent display cases for the windows, which congregation copresident Amy Rothman Schonfeld said the synagogue has had for about five years.

“After years of restoration and research,” she said, “we were ready to present these windows to the congregation for display and dedication.”

Schonfeld said the windows are part of the synagogue’s “broken promises, mended promises” campaign, seeking to right omissions of the past. The program redirects funds donated to projects that never came to fruition for other purposes.

“It’s not so much about the money, but about the promises we made to these people along the way,” she said. “For example, we had a ‘stepping stone’ campaign — with stones to be placed at the front of the building — that never happened. We went back to the people who had given money and asked if we could use those funds for our stained-glass project. They were very happy we still remembered and said yes. We felt we couldn’t move forward unless we tied up these loose ends.”

Schonfeld also said the window project would serve as a reminder of the synagogue’s progress in recent years. “We hope this is a significant step in continuing our march toward a bright and strong future,” she said. “Here we take these beautiful windows as tangible examples of the determination and survival skills of Jewish people as we always reach for the heavens, wherever we are.

“The beauty of stained glass is that shards of glass of diverse shapes and textures come together to create a beautiful creation.”

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