Published on September 13th, 2017 | by LedgerOnline0
A window on the world
A family of artisans is (finally) recognized for its contribution to a Bridgeport institution
By Judie Jacobson
In 1954, Charles Shefts was an artist living in the Bronx in New York City when he launched a decorative art glass business with the help of his younger brothers Isidore and Samuel.
It wasn’t long before the Shefts’ brothers’ company developed a reputation for finely etched or sandblasted glass works of art. Eventually, their work would come to grace the buildings of such venerated New York establishments as Tavern on the Green, Maxwell’s Plum, Regine’s, and the Waldorf-Astoria, as well as other well-known buildings, including synagogues and churches, throughout the country.
The brothers and their business became so renowned that, in 1984, they were the subject of a feature story in Smithsonian magazine.
Among their works of art, in the 1960s the Shefts designed, crafted and installed windows for Congregation Shaare Zedek, a now defunct Orthodox synagogue located in Bridgeport. When the shul closed it doors about two decades ago, the windows were relocated to the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield.
Then, about 15 years ago, when Jeanne Sales, a first cousin of the Shefts brothers, became a resident of the Jewish Home, she immediately realized the windows were the work of her cousin – recognizing the style of Charlie’s designs and the Hebrew inscription on each panel that read, “Sons of Nathan.” Nathan Ann is proud to own a piece of their work that hangs in her living room in Trumbull. Nathan and Jeanne Sale’s mother, Hannah, were two of 10 siblings. Jeanne’s daughter, Ann Sales Block, also owns a piece of the Shefts brothers’ work, which today hangs in her living room in Trumbull.
To Ann’s delight, in 2016, when the Jewish Home was moved to 4200 Park Avenue in Bridgeport and was renamed Jewish Senior Services (JSS), the windows made the trip. Still, she felt strongly that her mother’s cousins had not gotten the credit they deserved for their artistry and craftsmanship – and she approached the leadership at JSS to rectify that omission.
Jewish Senior Services agreed. And so, on May 7, JSS rededicated the Shefts windows.
By then, Charles and Isidore Shefts had passed away, but surviving brother Sam Shefts and his wife, Shirley, happily agreed to travel up from their home in Florida for the ceremony; and Ann took the opportunity to further mark the occasion by including in the celebration a Shefts family reunion. And so, the Shefts family – some coming from Massachusetts, Virginia and even Las Vegas – converged on Bridgeport for the Sheft window rededication ceremony, followed by a Sheft family reunion.
Speaking at the rededication ceremony were Andrew Banoff, CEO of Jewish Senior Services, who explained how the windows came to be a part of the new building; JSS spiritual leader Rabbi Mark Shulman, who discussed the meaningfulness of windows in the Torah; and Sam Shefts, who recounted the history of the Shefts’ business and mounted a plaque on the wall giving credit after all these decades to the artists and craftsmen who lent their talents to enhance first a house of worship and then a home of rest, rehabilitation and life.
CAP: The Shefts family reunion in May. S