Last Wednesday, July 5, I stopped by Barney Zeitz’s German Windows open house. It has been exactly two years since his return from his first trip to Germany, where he went to plan an installation of stained glass windows in a church that had once been a synagogue. So much has happened since then, including finishing panels for three complete windows and beginning work on the fourth window for the Evangelical Church in Flieden, Germany. The church was a synagogue prior to WWII, and Mr. Zeitz has been commissioned to make new windows honoring the 500-year history of Jews in Flieden.
The first summer he did drawings and studies, while they went back and forth about what prayer to use in the windows, and settled on Arthur Obermayer’s suggestion of “The Priestly Prayer,” found in the traditions of both Christianity and Judaism, with the Hebrew appearing on one side and the German translation on the opposite side of the building. Mr. Zeitz made two metal frames to hang the German church windows in for the public to view. When the afternoon sunlight streams through the glass, it glistens with a magical iridescence, showing techniques of fused and bonded stained glass that Mr. Zeitz’s work is known for.
Last summer, Mr. Zeitz finished the first window in August, so stopping by this summer you will get to see so much more. When working on the lettering, Mr. Zeitz was speaking with fellow Island glass artist and neighbor Jeri Dantzig. She suggested he use a ring saw, something in his 45-year career he’d never heard of. Before using it, he was having a hard time cutting the letters without breakage, and with the ring saw not a single break. You’ll also get to see some of the many drawings Mr. Zeitz is doing daily.
It was great to hear the fourth window is already paid for, and that the church in Flieden is applying for grants to pay for the last two windows. Mr. Zeitz hopes to use “The Priestly Prayer” in English and Hebrew in new stained glass windows using the existing steel frames for the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center in the future. If the church in Flieden does not get the state grant, he will continue to raise funds. In the meantime, Mr. Zeitz has learned more about his family history, not only in New Bedford where his family settled in the 1880s when they arrived from Prussia. He understands they could have lived in a town like Flieden or even Zeitz, Germany, although no one knows for sure.
For Mr. Zeitz, getting to make windows in remembrance is a way for him to honor his own family’s past, and strengthens his connection to Germany.
To learn more about the history of the church and Mr. Zeitz’s project, read the original story in the MV Times. Barney Zeitz’s work can be seen at bzeitz.com or his Facebook page dedicated to the windows. The Wednesday open houses are held at his studio through September, at 67 Deer Hill Road off State Road in Vineyard Haven. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-693-9421.