The Lost Mural project shares one of Vermont's unparalleled Jewish and artistic treasures with the world,  forging connections with all those inspired by its story. As we rescue, interpret and celebrate this distinctive work, we inspire memories of ancestors, help illuminate a vanished world - Eastern Europe before WWII - and preserve an immigrant symbol ... for all immigrants.



On Sunday, March 5th, distinguished author Chris Bohjalian will be our featured speaker, helping to celebrate the successful move of The Lost Mural to its permanent home. Bohjalian has published 19 books, including the bestsellers  Midwives , The Sandcastle Girls , The Night Strangers  and, most recently,  The Sleepwalker . In addition to numerous literary awards, Bohjalian received the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide. He will speak on "The Young Turks and the Young Nazis: The Genocides That Scar Us Still." The event will take place from 2-4 pm at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue , 188 North Prospect Street in Burlington. Seating is limited. Tickets are $30 at the door (students are free with ID), and proceeds will support the educational initiative and the restoration of The Lost Mural. For further information and to order tickets in advance, click here. (Photograph: Aaron Spagnolo)


Bohjalian's talk could not be more timely. Of late we've all been distressed to witness anti-Semitic acts in the U.S. and abroad: instances of hate-filled speech, dissemination of neo-Nazi symbols, and threats against synagogues and Jewish community centers. As we consider our responses, both personal and institutional, to such events, we can reflect on our mural as a unique symbol of Jewish resilience. Encapsulating memories, it recalls a culture nearly destroyed in the Holocaust. It represents, in several ways, the emergence from dark into light; illustrates the power of art to inspire and ennoble; and, as Hon. Madeleine M. Kunin has expressed it, symbolizes "freedom over oppression and hope over despair."


What do Irving Berlin and Al Jolson have to do with The Lost Mural? Read Sam Gruber's recent blog post on the subject.


We know that most of Burlington's first Jewish settlers came from the vicinity of  Kaunus (in Yiddish, "Kovno"), Lithuania, with a majority from  Čekiskė , a village about 24 kilometers away. Jews lived there as early as 1687; by the late 18th century there was a synagogue and ritual bath. There were about 200 Jewish families before WWI (nearly half the total population), and later there was a Jewish primary school, library, and bank. As immigration accelerated, many people sought safety and opportunity in America, including in the State of Vermont. Of 60 families remaining into the 1930s, s ome sold fruits and vegetables; some were artisans and cartmen. Others owned mills and tanneries ... until early in the Nazi occupation, when all Jewish residents were moved to a small ghetto surrounding the synagogue. Days later, on September 4, 1941, 146 Čekiskė  Jews were taken to a nearby forest and killed. (Above, a former synagogue stands empty.)


According to  Sergey Kravtsov of the Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem , "All [the mural's elements] are painted vividly and masterfully by Ben Zion Black. Information available about this artist exceeds whatever is known about any of the Eastern European painters dealing with synagogue decoration. This is an advantage of the country to which he decided to emigrate, and where Black and his works are remembered and valued. Fortunately, the Burlington synagogue mural survived; this material link to the lost culture should be carefully and professionally preserved for posterity."


We invite you to  come see our renowned artwork, as have so many people from around the world. We encourage you to visit our website , filled with information and imagery, to learn about our progress. And, finally, we appeal to you for financial support so that we can carry out the restoration and educational initiative efficiently, economically, and in ways that are certain to inspire!


Lost Shul Mural Project
188 North Prospect St., Burlington, VT 05401