The Stained Glass Windows
We are very proud of our beautiful stained glass windows in the sanctuary.
Six of them were created in 1992 by renowned Ojai artist Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend for The Jewish Museum in New York.
When the museum was renovated in 2016, the windows were removed. The Jewish Museum was seeking to gift them to another institution. They contacted the creator, and Susan immediately thought of our Jewish Community of Ojai.
We are forever grateful to her and to The Jewish Museum for these beautiful blessings, they are much appreciated. In 2021 two more windows were commissioned and gifted to us by Adam & Evan Greenberg and Bernie Huberman. We appreciate and thank them for their outstanding generosity
The Blessings collection contains words of thanksgiving for various types of sustenance: physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and the nourishment of the 5 senses.
Woman of Valor
The Woman of Valor is traditionally sung before the Friday night Shabbat meal.
It is a song of gratitude and recognition for the hard-working woman of the household who lights the candles, prepares the Shabbat and makes the Challah.
Her hand is held open to offer, receive or give thanks.
A Woman of Valor opens her hand to the needy, and extends her hand to the poor.
Place before her the fruit of her hands (in praise of her).
She presents with courage plus humility, understanding this mutuality of valor.
Flickering amber light illuminates, rises and descends behind her.
The wheat stalks reference the flour used to make the bread, the challah for Shabbat.
This poem also expresses love and appreciation for the Shabbat brought into the home, our valley, our mountains, our Ojai.
From Thunder and Earthquake and Falling Star
Praise and gratitude over phenomena and natural events
Cracked, parched earth, formed by drought or earthquake as darkness fades to light
Falling jewels, metaphors for rain from the heavens, catching the light of the sun
and clear sky. They also allude to falling stars, brilliant and dynamic natural events.
Rain is a reminder of the Covenant and the giving of water as a reward for faithfulness.
The world is in harmony with the Torah and the Torah with the world. The world globe depicts a celestial map, the heavens seen by all.
Torah understanding is acquired by forty-eight qualifications including the following that speak of secular learning: study, attentive listening, attendance to scholars, learning in order to teach and practice, and add to one's knowledge.
Two elements depict the importance of knowledge: the open book and the compass. The compass defines 3 sides of the Jewish star. The 6 circles tangent to a central seventh generates a Jewish star and is said to be the key to the construction of the cosmos; also, the fundamental beginning of the formation of the tree of life diagram of the Kabbalah.
The matrix of jewels references the reward of study and the brilliance of knowledge.
The myrtle is one of the four blessed plants used in the Sukkoth. Jewish sages compared the myrtle, which has a good smell but no taste, to those who do good deeds, but do not study the Torah .
Call to Prayer
And on the seventh day, God created the shape of letters. The letters are a spiritual constellation, holy vessels that carry light.
There is a horizon line that delineates the pattern of water and the rhythm of sound waves below. Above is the cross section of a tree, the rings delineated by bright earthen colors. The blue “sky” is segmented by the pattern of the carbon molecular structure punctuated by clear glass lenses. There are the rhythms of the bursting rays, the water pattern, the sound waves, the tree rings, and the carbon molecules. The patterns and systems come together and are enfolded by the embrace of a purple sash suggesting wholeness.
All told reference the meanings of the Shin, the Mem and the Ayin culminating in the energy and power of the Shema.
Spices and Flowers
The red species of the poppy brings the season of abundant flowering to a close.
The Lilium Candidum or the white Madonna lily, (referred in the Bible as shoshan or shoshannah which derives from shesh meaning "six") is one of the three flowers mentioned by name in the Bible. It is native, always has six white petals and stamens and has a wonderful fragrance. The sweet smell of plants is also very important in Jewish tradition. "The Song of Songs" repeatedly references spices, herbs and scents. The interwoven circular structure of the background calls to mind the rich colors of aromatics: tumeric, saffron, cinnamon, myrhh, frankincense, etc.
The olive branch references fruit of the tree and also the dove that proved to Noah that land was near after the flood. It also references the oil used in the lamps.
Over Bread and Wine
Staged on a table, ancient ceramic vessels, including a chalice from Israel from 1200 BCE is shown in silhouette in woven fabric. Libations were an important part of temple worship.
The fiber background evokes the Torah curtain.
Shown in an almost microscopic view, individual woven threads create a matrix through which brilliant sunset tones shine.
The matrix could also refer to the cloak that is passed from one generation to another, as in passing on responsibility, or duty.
Upon Receiving Good Tidings and Bad Tidings
Jacob's ladder stands front and center, rendered in the colors of the rainbow. The shofar announces the call
to prayer, the end of Yom Kippur, and other important biblical events.
The lower half of the panel depicts the Western Wall as the sky 'drips' from above, each dissolving into the other.
The phases of the moon refer to the manner in which festivals and holy holidays are determined, the celestial calendar. Lunar cycles appearing in several phases is symbolic of Jewish people whose history has assumed variety of phases and like the moon, re-appears after being eclipsed.
Etched into the blue sky are astrological symbols used in ancient times as reference to attributes determined by the astronomical positions of stars, sun, moon in relation to observation. Celestial phenomena relate to human activity on the principle of "as above, so below", geographical location and time.
Fruits of the Trees
and Produce of the Earth
Tree (of knowledge, good and evil, wisdom and understanding) shown in silhouette, buds, the promise of fruit, barely showing against the bright blue sky
A soft grid comprised of the six-sided matrix of the honeycomb (sweet honey) blankets the image. Floating in the foreground are seven flames, signifying the Menorah, and inferring the olive oil (fruit of the tree) used to keep the flames lighted; the symbol associated with the holiday of Hanukkah.
It was, with milk, the food of children (Isa. vii.15). Canaan is frequently praised as a land "flowing with milk and honey"