"This is my modest gift to the Jewish people who have always dreamt of biblical love, friendship and of peace among all peoples. This is my gift to that people which lived here thousands of years ago among the other Semitic people." Marc Chagall, February 6, 1962
The light that emanates from the twelve stained glass windows bathes the Abbell Synagogue at the Hadassah University Medical Center in a special glow. The sun filters through the brilliant colors of the stained glass capturing their radiance. Even in the misty haze of a cloudy day, Chagall's genius transforms time and space.
The synagogue's Jerusalem stone floor and walls absorb this beauty and reflect it. Standing within the simple square that forms the pedestal for the windows, gazing up at the vivid imagery, the Jewish symbols, the floating figures of animals, fish and flowers, even the most casual viewer is overwhelmed by their power and presence.
Every pane is a microcosm of Chagall's world, real and imaginary; of his love for his people, his deep sense of identification with Jewish history, his early life in the Russian shtetl.
"All the time I was working, I felt my mother and father looking over my shoulder; and behind them were Jews, millions of other vanished Jews -- of yesterday and a thousand years ago," Chagall said.
The Bible was his primary inspiration, particularly Jacob's blessings on his twelve sons and Moses' blessings on the twelve tribes. Each window is dominated by a specific color and contains a quotation from the individual blessings.
Chagall and his assistant, Charles Marq, worked on the project for two years, during which time Marq developed a special process for applying color to the glass. This allowed Chagall to use as many as three colors on a single pane, rather than being confined to the traditional technique of separating each colored pane by a lead strip.
The synagogue was dedicated in the presence of the artist on February 6, 1962 as part of Hadassah's Golden Anniversary Celebration.