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August 04, 2011 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-08-04

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Labor Of Love

Martin Abel marks his 65th wedding anniversary
with a monumental menorah at The Shul.

Ronelle Grier
Contributing Writer


65th wedding anniversary is a
significant milestone, and Martin
and Phyllis Abel are marking
theirs in a very significant way — with a
9-foot stainless steel menorah adorning
the Maple Road entrance to The Shul-
Chabad Lubavitch in West Bloomfield.
Abel, who is a retired manufacturing
engineer, inventor and entrepreneur, natu-
rally turned to The Shul as a way to com-
memorate his upcoming anniversary. He
is a longtime supporter of the Lubavitch
movement and has volunteered his time
and talent over the years to create many
of the accoutrements adorning The Shul
sanctuary. His projects include the Holy
Ark, the mechitzah (divider that separates
the men from the women during services),
the rolling bimah (podium) used during
the Jewish High Holidays, and the ner
tamid (eternal light) that hangs over the
"Some people at his age go golfing," said
Phyllis Abel. "He's busy making things for
The Shur
Abel liked the idea that the menorah, 16
feet tall including the stone base, carries
forth the Lubavitch principle of spreading
light throughout the world. Like his other
projects, the design and construction of
the menorah was a labor of love. He care-
fully orchestrated and supervised each
step of the process, from the initial design
to the final inspection. He enlisted the
services of skilled craftspeople from disci-
plines that included engineering, architec-
ture, welding, glass blowing and masonry
and coordinated their efforts to achieve
a finished product that would meet his
stringent specifications for quality and
adherence to Jewish law.
Abel took care to ensure that the meno-
rah fulfilled the guidelines set forth by
Maimonides, which stated that the flames
must be equal in height and that no
curves should be used in the construc-
tion. To achieve this, each bowl-like flame
holder has 18 faces to give the appearance
of roundness without using any actual
curved surfaces.
"Mr. Abel has to keep up with all of the
rabbi's requirements and all of his own
requirements of perfection and beauty:'
said Itty Shemtov, whose husband, Rabbi
Kasriel Shemtov, is director of The Shul.
"He has a lot of things to keep in mind."

16 August 4 2011

Martin Abel stands with Chana, 4, Mussi, 9, and Yisroel Shemtov, 11, of West
Bloomfield beside the menorah he designed and had built for The Shul in honor of
his 65th wedding anniversary.

"Some people at his age go golfing
making things for The Shul."

he's busy

— Phyllis Abel

Abel designed the branches of the
Menorah with a 45-degree angle to
convey a welcome feeling, like a pair of
outstretched arms. The main column is
an obelisk, with the same taper as the
Washington Monument: 2.5 degrees. An
intricate, multistep welding process was
used so the menorah would look as if it
were cast in one solid piece, like the orig-

inal gold menorah in the ancient temple of
The menorah went through an elaborate
finishing process that involved both sand-
blasting, to remove any flaws in the metal,
and electropolishing, to create a shiny
finish. The process was repeated until no
flaws remained.
"I was trying to do what the Good Book

says: When you bring something to God,
it should be without blemish:' Abel said.
"In spite of all the things that went wrong,
it came out right. Somebody up there was
The "flames" of the Menorah were
designed by the same local glass blower
from Greenfield Village in Dearborn who
made the solar-powered Ner Tamid. The
flames sit in heavy bronze bowls plated
with 45-carat gold and cobalt to withstand
severe weather conditions. Each bowl
contains 47 LED lights soldered to circuit
boards housed in aluminum containers.
The intensity of the lights, as well as the
on and off times, are regulated by a con-
trol panel stored inside Rabbi Shemtov's
office and connected to the menorah by
an underground cable. The lights are
programmed for the next 100 years, with
a special schedule for the eight days of
"It's kind of audacious to program
something for 100 years; you've got to have
chutzpah:' Abel said.
The hand-blown glass flames are sur-
rounded by thick plastic guards to protect
against vandalism. Although he under-
stands the reasoning, Abel regrets that this
protective measure was necessary.
"The flames standing alone in the
night sky would have had such a dramatic
effect:' he said.
The cement base of the menorah is
covered with stone cut from the same
Jerusalem quarry that produced the
stone for the Second Temple. The stones
were cut into various sizes to simulate
the stones in the Western Wall and hand-
coated by an artist to give a more ancient
"It's quite incredible, the amount of
detail and care that was taken every step
of the way:' Itty Shemtov said ."Every time
he's here, he's looking around, wondering
what can he do, what can he make more
Abel agrees that he is always on the
lookout for things he can enhance.
"Except Phyllis:' he said. "I can't improve
on that one. She was perfect from day
The menorah will remain covered until
its official dedication at 7 p.m. Wednesday,
Aug. 10, at The Shul, 6890 W. Maple Road
in West Bloomfield. The event is open to
the community at no charge. For more
information, contact (248) 788-4000 or
visit www.theshul.net.

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