Ark of Sidra

Experiential Graphics- Small Scale (features or elements)

Project Narrative

In the heavily wooded eastern edge of the Europe, presently Poland, near Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, in an area of constantly shifting borders, languages, and economies, a wooden synagogue in the town of Sidra held an Ark admired as a work of art, a piece of community craftsmanship and a focal point of religious life for generations. Located within the intersection of many different cultures, the Ark of Sidra was renowned as “Blending Polish, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, and Russian influences, the Ark was a testament to a Jewish dialogue, as well as Jewish art, artistry, and carpentry.” Tragically, like so many such things, the Ark of Sidra was destroyed during World War II.

A rabbi / woodworker wanted to better understand, communicate and make tangible the tragedy of this loss by reconstructing the Ark of Sidra as a travelling exhibition. A team was built to interpret from a few grainy photographs, the contents, size and scale of the original and then devise a method of fabrication, assembly, disassembly, transport and reassembly. A system of chunks (load bearing boxes) and wings (thin panels) was devised that could be attached to a temporary scaffold-like truss structure. Full scale templates were produced to assist in the hand carving of larchwood to match the likely original species. Naturally pigmented paints, sourced to match those available in the era and locale of the original were used. A custom-made velvet parochet conceals the Torah scrolls. The counterweight of the truss system is concealed by a platform with stairs, providing a skyward gesture.

Speciality Awards

Community Impact

Over the course of a long Covid year, the Ark took shape, the story grew, attracting participants both virtual and in person, professional and amateur, Jewish and gentile. More than a construction project, though, every sawstroke, rasp mark, sandpaper scratch, every brushstroke, stitch and lugging lift was a communal effort to make physical the trauma of not only the holocaust but Covid as well.
This project and its predecessor were propelled by faith - not a static set of knowable rules, but a desire, through creation, to interpret, challenge and explore belief and an understanding that the true goal of the work is not the final product, but the forging of a community around that product.

Project Details

Submission Category

Experiential Graphics- Small Scale (features or elements)

Date of Completion

March, 2021