Monday, January 10, 2011

I Ain't No Scholar

Beth Chayim Chadashim Window (one of twelve)

I am a Jew. I’m not a particularly observant Jew but I do think of myself as spiritual – what ever that means. I’ve been a member of Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) for 30 years serving on the temple board in one compactly or another over the years.

I am not a scholar. I am an artist. I am lost in Torah Study & marvel at my Rabbi’s ability to teach Torah. I am in awe of Rabbi Edward’s sermons and her ability to make me laugh and reduce me to tears. She is an artist of words. She does have a PhD in Literature and has published several books. That helps.

1997 was BCC’s 25th anniversary. Big celebrations were planned with scholarly endeavors involving other Synagogues within the Los Angeles area. Rabbinic scholars from across the country came to participate.

I was humbled by the intellect our small synagogue gathered in honor of our 25th year. Many of our congregants contributed to the various panels and discussions. What could I do? Not much.

Our synagogue is a former storefront. Along the length of the sanctuary are two 16-foot wide windows: blank, clear glass windows with mini blinds: nondescript and very ugly.

I told Rabbi Edwards that I would build stained glass windows for those windows if the congregation raised the funds for supplies. The 25th anniversary of our building was three years away and this would be a nice tie-in and a continuation of our 25th anniversary celebration.

She took me up on my offer.

Without going into great detail, we formed a committee to design the window. Design by committee is a particularly dangerous undertaking for Jews. In our case, it worked. For seven years, four of us volunteered our time. We built 12 windows for our storefront synagogue.

We used the scrap glass to make mezuzahs (you know, those thingies hanging crooked on the door jam of Jewish homes). We made & sold enough mezuzahs to pay for stained glass supplies and to cover rent for studio space. The initial donations raised for the windows then went towards education.

To this day, whenever I attend services, I am approached by congregants and thanked for having built our windows. They don’t understand. The honor was for me to have built them: to give back to my community a fraction of the love and support I receive from them.

Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) purchased a new building this past year. I participated in the design process to incorporate the stained glass windows into the new sanctuary. I have been asked to design and build new doors for the Arc. I look forward to working again with my fellow stained glass artists. It just keeps getting better and better.

I touch people thorough my art if not through scholarship. I support our scholars; I’m just not one of them.

Please take time to visit my website at Take a look at my artwork. Contact me if you want to buy one of my pieces or if you have any questions about a specific piece. My contact information is on my website or you can leave a comment on this blog site for me to contact you (include your contact info!). You can e-mail me at or you can telephone me on my studio phone 760-992-3157. You can call me. I won’t mind; I’m hanging out at the gallery with nothing to do. That’s totally untrue. I’m working in the studio.

Thank you for listening,

Jerry L. Hanson

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