Aviva Green was commissioned by the National Hadassah Organization to create coverings for the ark and table in the Chagall synagogue.
"I was faced with three problems in undertaking this project: the functional nature of the ritual objects I was to create, the architectural features of the synagogue and, above all, the glorious stained glass windows by Marc Chagall that dominate the entire structure. The magical play of light through them seems to symbolize that a house of worship helps man mediate between heaven and earth."
The synagogue structure itself is of surprisingly modest proportions with unadorned marble walls and floor. I wanted my work to add an element of warmth to the otherwise stark interior and also to interact with the changing Jerusalem light and the windows overhead.
Through the artistry of glass, Chagall had captured and transmuted the physical light from the heavens of Jerusalem. I was impressed by the three-dimensionality of the windows. Their color fields recede and push up against the glass surfaces and the supporting lead mullions. Simultaneously the black lines create the impression of a painterly drawing. I had to avoid any conflict with the primary colors of the windows and yet to respond to and interact with them. My solution was to eliminate strong color and to rely on texture, rhythm and shape as my primary means of expression.
While Chagall’s windows symbolize the theme of the twelve sons of Jacob and their blessings, my works were to have historical origins in Jewish ritual. In the tabernacle and in Solomon's temple, the Ark of the Covenant, a golden box containing the Ten Commandments, was placed in the "holy of holies", an inner sanctum separated from the outer hall by a curtain, called the parochet. In the modern synagogue, the Torah scrolls represent the tablets of the law and appropriately reside in the ark. Through the centuries, the parochet covering the ark has become a major focus of Jewish art. I decided to create both parochet and reading table cover in the modern idiom. The historic origins of earthly Jerusalem drew me toward an integrating concept; I chose to enlarge upon the reading table and convert it into a soft sculpture symbolic of the altar in Solomon's temple and to emphasize the ark by creating a sculptural parochet rather than the more traditional curtain.”
The entire project, executed in wool, cotton, silk, hemp, and metallic thread took two years to complete. It is now permanently installed under the Chagall windows.