Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors celebrated its 10th anniversary in Geneva Monday night by giving the town a gift.
It dedicated a 20-some-foot-long tile mural on its building at 121 S. Third St., honoring the common values of the Tri-Cities community and the beauty of the area.
The six-panel mural was designed by artist Danielle Dobies of Aurora. She based it on drawings done by children who attend the center's Jewish School, as well as talks with adult members of the group.
"I saw a lot of common themes in there," Dobies said of the drawings. She wanted to include many, "at which point I said 'This thing has to be bigger.'"
The children's input explains the squirrels in the first panel. It represents FVJN's dedication to community service. One year, the children focused on helping a wildlife rehabilitation center, including building boxes for injured squirrels.
Other panels are about the natural beauty of the area; significant buildings in Geneva; peace; diversity; and education and hospitality.
Under Dobies' supervision, members of the organization cut the tiles and assembled and grouted the mural.
"Nearly everyone today here in the audience contributed to this mural in one way or another," Greg Cibura of St. Charles, president of the organization, told the dozens of people at the ceremony.
He noted, dryly, that it included working with sharp knives, and breaking carefully preserved family heirlooms. The last section features a book made with shards of holiday china belonging to member families, so it also represents ancestry and continuity.
"A common brick wall has been transformed in to a canvas, and the mural displayed on that canvas conveys a common, but all too often, unattainable message -- 'peace,'" Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said. "May your gift of art, like only art can do, inspire the 23,000 residents of Geneva and the hundreds of thousands of people who visit our community annually. Todah rabah, and mazel tov."
Kent Gallagher, president of the Geneva Foundation for the Arts, spoke about the value of the mural as public art. It is in a landscaped walkway between Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors and the Geneva History Museum.
"The more prominent the arts are woven in to our community, the more we will all benefit," Gallagher said.
The foundation, which organized in 2013, gave $2,000 toward the mural.
The center is not a synagogue, but it does host a monthly shabbat meal, and Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. The Fox Valley Jewish School teaches children about the Jewish faith and culture.
Members include people who belong to Conservative, Orthodox or Reformed congregations and synagogues in Aurora, Naperville, Lombard, Elgin and DeKalb.
Practitioners of other religions also belong; many of the families are of mixed faiths.
"Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors is an inclusive Jewish community group. Our mission is to enrich lives, enhance connections and be a resource for our Jewish community," Cibura said.