A series of stained-glass windows from the former Saginaw synagogue require a new owner by Dec. 2020.

Featured photo courtesy of Stanley Meretsky

Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem has its famed Chagall glass windows depicting the 12 Tribes of Israel. A lesser-known series of stained-glass windows more than 50 years old depicting the tribes once adorned the old building of B’nai Israel Synagogue in Saginaw, created by the French stained-glass artist Jean Barillet.

In 2005, B’nai Israel shuttered its doors, sold the building for professional and medical office space and used the funds to warehouse 13 of the 16 windows. Because of their historical significance, the windows are registered with the Michigan Stained Glass Census.
But time is running out. The storage lease ends in December 2020.

Stanley Meretsky of West Bloomfield, former president of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, is hoping a donor, museum, congregation or Jewish school will come to the rescue and claim this piece of Michigan Jewish history.

By Andrew Rogers


Meretsky remembers the beauty of the windows when they graced the synagogue during the wedding ceremony to his first wife, Rae, in the late 1960s. His ex-father-in-law, Dave Ruskin, commissioned and designed the 16 windows as a gift to the congregation.

According to French antiques dealer Marc Maison’s website, Jean Barillet followed in the footsteps of his father Louis Barillet, who created stained glass for religious and civic and commercial commissions.

Meretsky said he has received only tentative calls of inquiry, but he hopes the windows can someday be installed in a synagogue or displayed in a museum dedicated to the history of Jewish life in Michigan.

“There is a rich enough of a Jewish history in Michigan that it warrants a museum all its own,” said Meretsky, who has also served on the archives committee of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. There are 80 regional Jewish history museums in the United States.

Meretsky, who is spearheading efforts to raise money for their continued storage and the search for a new location to install and display the windows, said, “I will do whatever I can to preserve these windows and make sure nothing happens to them.”

For information, contact Meretsky at stan@mcculloughcorp.net.

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com