A Different Door V’Dor
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A Different Door V’Dor

Israel Peljovich is the “go to” for master crafted woodwork, tables, chairs, buffets, shelving, cabinets, built-ins, and vanities, but a recent project was even bigger.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Jonathan Alexander helped Israel Peljovich restore the ark doors.
Jonathan Alexander helped Israel Peljovich restore the ark doors.

One can find Israel Peljovich’s handiwork in many well-appointed Atlanta homes and businesses.

He is the “go to” for master crafted woodwork, tables, chairs, buffets, shelving, cabinets, built-ins, and vanities. Peljovich, a spicy, gregarious grandfather, emigrated from Cuba in 1959 and made a circuitous path to Atlanta to put his stamp on construction and design.

Along with business manager-wife Lidia, they have an inspiring success story operating as Arts-N-Laminates inside Interstate 285 off Peachtree Industrial Drive.
However, things also aligned along the Peljovich’s spiritual path to the aron kodesh (holy ark) at Congregation Shaarei Shamayim with the installation of ancient Spanish doors into their new synagogue home.

The colorful backstory is that at 19, he worked for Fidel Castro designing roads and bridges. He donated his salary to the Revolution. “Then I opened my eyes and supported the Counter Revolution. … I then left for a kibbutz in the Negev for two years for Latin Americans, then to Beersheva, where I was a translator for Irish people in the yarn business.

“My parents, who were in the shmatah business in Cuba, followed me to Israel.
“I immigrated to New York in 1961. While there, I ran a fudge and taffy business both in the city and in Cape Cod. Soon after, I married Lidia Greszes and moved to Atlanta where my hobby became a profession.”

Fast forward to 15 years ago, Peljovich noticed these ancient doors in a container from Spain at one of his suppliers. They had special markings that included a row of Jewish stars on each door. He asked the supplier what he was going to do with them and was told that, since they were so broken up, they’d be discarded and chopped up for firewood. The artist in Peljovich immediately realized that there was something special about them. He took the doors to his shop with the thought of making an aron kodesh for his new synagogue at the time, Shaarei Shamayim.

According to the congregation’s Rabbi, Mark Kunis, “A year later, Israel and his wife Lidia went to Spain on vacation and saw in Saint Anna’s church in Toledo almost the exact same doors with identical markings. Also, when Israel told me about his idea of making a new aron kodesh from these ancient doors, I did some research and found that they indeed did have markings similar to other medieval synagogues in Spain from before the Inquisition of 1492. This would make these doors holy objects over 500 years old!

“Over the next few years Israel worked repairing and restoring the doors in his spare time. It was painstaking work, but an act of love. After he completed the first door, he waited for Shaarei Shamayim to have a permanent home before completing the aron kodesh, which happened two years ago. He got help from a retired plumber in the congregation, Jonathan Alexander, who with his golden hands and Israel’s guidance, was able to restore the second door. This was an especially meaningful task for Jonathan who was fighting a serious illness at the time. Jonathan credits this holy work with helping to save his life, as he is now on the path to a complete recovery.”

Kunis continued, “Today we see the fulfillment of Israel’s dream to create our new aron kodesh from these ancient holy doors. There are no words to describe all the love and effort it took to make this happen. Some thought it may never happen. Baruch Hashem!”

Lidia concurred. “There was no {master} design. Israel created it as he built it. A real labor of love. … We had many people interested in buying the doors, but we always wanted them for Shaarei Shamayim, our gift, to honor and in memory of our loved ones.”

Peljovich has also done design and construction work for congregations B’nai Torah, Or VeShalom and more recently, Ahavath Achim’s meeting rooms. He also designed and crafted the interior of a church in St. Louis and shipped it to Missouri. Some of his commercial jobs were the Falcons on-air commentary desk and Turner’s pavilion at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

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