One of the more ingenious ways that join the past and present on the PAS campus can be seen in the Gottlieb windows. Adolph Gottlieb was a renowned American painter and exponent of abstract expressionism. He created “pictographs” whose grid compartments each contained a single object. His style grew freer in the 1950s. His work is in the collection of a number of American museums, and the Guggenheim Museum has exhibited his work in a one-man show.
The PAS Gottlieb windows consist of 21 different compositions repeated in 91 panels. The 21 compositions represent four themes: Traditional Emblems, Religious Ritual, Biblical Incidents, and Holidays. The colors – purple, scarlet, blue, gold, and white – are recorded in the Bible as the colors with which God commanded Moses to adorn the Tabernacle.
When these stained-glass windows were installed as the façade of the Milton Steinberg House in 1954, the gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Heller, they received the critical acclaim of the artistic community. The synagogue was the first building in the world to have a façade entirely of stained glass, and Gottlieb’s work was the largest continuous area of stained glass of its time. When the Rita and George M. Shapiro house was built in 1980, the façade was dismantled, and the Gottlieb windows were re-installed in the lobby, the chapel, the lower level, and the fifth floor.
With the 2018 dedication of the Eli M. Black Lifelong Learning Center at 11 East 89th Street and the 2019 renovation and rededication of the PAS 87th Street building, the Gottlieb windows have been redistributed once again, visually joining the two locations. They are featured in the main stairwells of both buildings and in a two-story installation in the lobby and lower level of 87th Street.
This magnificent art treasure continues to delight and inspire congregants and visitors of all ages.