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Giving Glass New Life

August 4, 2005 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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"The Six Days of Creation"

Longtime artist Melenda Goldberg knows all too well about the power of being creative.

In her personal life, however, Goldberg, 35, struggled for years with the ultimate act of creation - having a baby.

"We tried for about six years," she said. "After seeing fertility specialists and taking medication that made me sick, I said that if God wants me to have a child, there will be a way."

With that, Goldberg and her husband of eight years stopped trying to conceive. She threw her energy and focus into something altogether different, "The Six Days of Creation," a set of stained-glass windows recently installed in the sanctuary of Shir Ami-Bucks County Jewish Congregation in Newtown.

Divided into two halves of three sections each, the representation of the Torah's account of God's creating the Earth features curved lines that create silhouettes of the sun, water and clouds; the depictions progress to animals and human beings.

The radiant reds, whites and blues in the piece use the sun's natural light to emphasize color.

Goldberg, who converted to Judaism after being raised as a Southern Baptist - she met her husband while studying about Judaism - said she chose to tell the story of Genesis because that's "where creativity begins."

"As an artist," she said, "you can't get any more simple than that."

A Labor of Love
But while Goldberg may have embarked on the project after resigning the issue of her fertility to fate, a couple of months into the project, she found out that - against all odds - she was pregnant.

"Being pregnant at 35 is a big deal," said Goldberg. "We never thought that we'd have a family."

Now seven months along, she said she knew that she needed to address her miraculous approach to motherhood in her piece, thus added a depiction of a baby on the final panel, signifying the growing child inside of her.

"It was a great place to add a personal touch," recalled Goldberg. "To me, it represents creation continuing on past the sixth day."

Goldberg has loved art since childhood, and after high school studied graphic design and illustration at the School of Advertising and Art in Dayton, Ohio.

"It's been a long and interesting career," said Goldberg, who is now preparing to concentrate on art only part-time. "I've done everything from designing parade floats to book covers to magazines."

To design the windows at Shir Ami, she worked with a computer program that allowed her to create an exact architectural blueprint of each panel. She then brought the templates to Dan Burstein, a fabricator at New Hope Stained Glass.

"I consider it a joint project," said Goldberg. "His hands built this. It's an artisanship. It's a craft. It's not something that could have been done by a machine."

The nine-month project was installed on July 18, and all told cost Shir Ami $10,000 to complete. Goldberg did the work pro bono.

"I don't mind that I didn't make any money on this project, because my child's going to grow up in this synagogue," said Goldberg, a member of Shir Ami.

Robin Waxman, president of the Sisterhood at Shir Ami, which got the ball rolling and raised the funds for the project, said that Goldberg's work begs reflection from anyone who sees it.

"Every time you look at them, you see something new," she said. "It gives you something to ponder."

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