43 years ago on the evening of Shabbat, September 17th, 1976, Irving Kriesberg’s seven panel mural titled Ezekiel (1971) was presented to the Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois. Originally conceived and proposed as an outdoor mural to be located in Jerusalem, the plan never materialized due to the Yom Kippur War, although a preparatory panel for the project hung in Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kolleck’s office. The large painting references the Biblical passage #Ezekiel: 37, The Valley of Dry Bones. The Old Testament story is infused with symbolism that signifies the strength of the Jewish people and their spirit in the face of adversity. The context of this passage and how it relates to the content and symbols in Kriesberg’s painting was published in Beth Emet’s Bulletin, Vol. XXVIII, September, 1976, no. 1:
“Mr. Kriesberg ...depicts this section of Ezekiel with the Bar Yokhani or Ziz, gigantic birds who in a symbolic manner are kings of the fowl and majesties of the sky. In the tradition they are tied with the angels. The birds sing God’s praises and are served as a delicacy to the righteous, when the Messiah will come to be among men. The Ziz, therefore, is a reward for the hardships man endures during his time on earth.
This particular section of the prophet of Ezekiel has become an integral part of Beth Emet’s High Holiday service. It is read on Yom Kippur...Tied to the mystic interpretation is Mr. Kriesberg’s statement of Jewish persecution throughout the ages culminating with the Holocaust. He indicates that the passage of Ezekiel together with the symbolic Ziz represents the resurrection of #Zion as well as the ingathering of the Jewish people. The seven panels must be regarded as an entity, for each section is only a partial statement of the artist’s vision.”