Steve Resnick slowly walked through the sanctuary at Young Israel Shomrai Emunah in Kemp Mill on New Year’s Eve, pointing out the intricacies and hidden details in each of the 24 stained-glass windows he has designed, created and installed during the past 16 years.
This labor of love, combining art and Judaism, began as a joint project with his now-deceased wife and is finally complete.
“People tell me how much nicer it is to daven here. Instead of staring out the window and watching the cars go by,” they now gaze upon the designs and
colors, he said.
“I think it really has enhanced the feel of the place,” said congregant Deborah Rudmann, who helped facilitate the synagogue project. “It has really beautified the place. It makes people proud to be going there,” she said of Shomrai Emunah.
Jewish holidays and symbols are intermingled with nature and are of varying colors including some pieces of glass that change colors, depending upon where the viewer stands. But there is at least one extra design included in each of the 16 windows that are 20 inches by 90 inches and the eight windows of 20 inches by 60 inches.
Before Resnick undertook a window’s design, he chatted with its sponsor – the congregant footing the bill generally in memory, or in honor, of some family member – and asked about that person. Just tell me one object or moment that makes you think of the person, Resnick said he always asked the sponsor.
As a result, those closely examining his artwork will see a chocolate chip cookie in one window, a few musical notes to a favorite song in another, a soccer ball and a woman lighting candles in still others.
Sixteen years ago, Resnick was asked by a synagogue official to create stained-glass windows to brighten the shul on Arcola Avenue, whose windows at the time, as described by Resnick, were just blocks of stained glass that looked like a typical Brooklyn, N.Y., church.
The project has taken this long because the synagogue only commissions a new window when it has a sponsor willing to pay. The exceptions are the two recently completed windows, which are to be auctioned off at a synagogue function soon. Because these windows are located in the stairwell and not the sanctuary itself, it was hard to obtain a sponsor, Resnick said.
Cost of the window ranges from about $4,000 to $5,500, depending on its size and when the window was created.
Resnick, who created a six-sided glass tzedakah box that then-President George W. Bush presented to Israel and which now sits on display in the Israel Museum, began the project with his wife. But after she had designed the first two and before work had been done to create the stained-glass windows that now frame the shul’s ark, she died.
When asked what the hardest part of the undertaking was, Resnick replied, “Imagine you have to make a jigsaw puzzle. Cut all the pieces and then make sure you can fit them all back. That’s the hardest part. Just one piece an eighth of an inch off affects everything.”
Working on scaffolding when installing a window also was tricky, he said, adding that he broke his leg while working on one of the windows.
Resnick works out of his house, about three blocks from Shomrai Emunah, usually between midnight and 7 a.m. “I don’t sleep,” he said.
His insomnia followed an accident in which a beer truck crashed into his car 17 years ago. Since then, his shoulder has been rebuilt three times. His arm currently is in a sling.
The pain has nagged him through all this work, as well as through his creation of stained glass windows at both Melvin Berman Academy and Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. He uses his left arm – the good one – to apply pressure and hold his work in place. His right hand is the creative one.
His doctors have warned the father of three boys and grandfather of two boys and a girl that he may have only another year of art left in that shoulder before he will have to retire. Meanwhile, he keeps creating just one more window, menorah or other Jewish works of art.