They don’t want it to become a lost ark.
The Forest Hills Jewish Center is searching for a new home for its monumental ark — the chamber that holds its Torah scrolls — as it prepares to move to smaller quarters.
The gold leaf, bronze, and plaster ark stand 32 feet tall and 19 feet wide.
“Finding a place or building with a 32-foot ceiling to accommodate the ark isn’t likely to happen,” said Deborah Gregor, the Jewish center’s executive director.
The ark sits at the front of the synagogue’s sanctuary and holds the sacred scrolls behind bronze doors.
Designed in 1949 by Polish-born artist Arthur Szyk, the ark is decorated in a Baroque style with symbols of the Jewish faith, including the tablets with the Ten Commandments, a shofar, a candlestick, and a challah.
Alanna Cooper, chair of Jewish studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said the design was in contrast to the more typically mid-century minimalistic style.
“It was very innovative and bold,” said Cooper, who wrote about the ark for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Szyk kind of bucked the trend and just said ‘I’m doing my own thing.’”
The ark was also only one of two three-dimensional pieces done by Szyk, the other being stained glass windows for Temple Tifereth Israel in Cleveland. He was more well known for politically-themed drawings and the illustrations for a 1940 Passover Haggadah.
Gregor said she did not know how much the Jewish center paid for the ark in the 1940s and it was difficult to put a value on it now since there was nothing to compare it to.
The synagogue, which once had more than 1,000 families, is down to about 350 and wants to relocate to a more modern and smaller space. It is still searching for a new home.
It reached a deal to sell its property to a development team that plans to tear it down. The $39 million transaction will provide the Jewish Center money to relocate and set up an endowment, according to the state Attorney General’s office agreement approving the sale.
Gregor said the Jewish Center wanted to sell or donate the ark to another synagogue or museum, but above all make sure it was kept intact and accessible to the public. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has already said no because of its size.
“Our first priority is to find the right home for it,” she said.
She said the ark “will be sorely missed by our congregants.”
“We have families — their children are named in front of that ark, bar mitzvahed in front of that ark. We’ve had weddings,” Gregor said. “It’s the backdrop to life.”