Helen Burke (Z”L) created this Torah Ark as part of her work with the campers at URJ Camp Swig and Camp Newman. Known as the “Little Ambassador” this ark would ride on the back of trucks all over camp wherever they needed a Torah. It also went to URJ events to show people a glimpse of the bigger Torah Ark project that she also created. Here’s an image of the Ark before the fire:
And then the Sonoma fires happened last October which completely leveled the camp. All except for a very few things were lost. Badly damaged, but not beyond repair is the “Little Ambassador” torah Ark. See below for the ark after the fire:
In the picture below, Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan is helping to arrange the new letters on the damaged ark. He and many URJ Camp Newman Campers have put a lot of elbow grease into the ark, banging it out in spots and sanding it. Peretz sought our help in finalizing the repairs.
Rhonda Kap has remade all of the Hebrew letters that were not melted off, and will re-create many of the decorative elements of the ark, including finials, and a top crown, in her studio in southern California. I am in charge of attaching the new letters, and decorative elements as well as addressing all of the structural needs of the Ark. According to Rhonda Kap Metal Sculptor “Helen Burke was my mentor. I studied with her and lived with her in Israel in 1972, after meeting her when I was teaching at camp Swig in 1971. She set me on my life’s work. Happy to work with Aimee Golant on this project.”
I think we are both pleased to bring healing to this ark and this community through Helen’s art. Stay tuned for updates on the project, which we hope will be completed this Fall.