Sunday, March 9, 2014

Jewish Carpenter's Legacy

I'm thrilled to share this article about Sam from the National Catholic Register. It gives a detailed account of Sam's travels from Romania to San Francisco and how his wood carving graced the churches of Northern California.

Thanks Jim Graves for the lovely story.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mission Dolores Basilica: Now

Last week my photographer Kassie and I took a trip to visit Mission Dolores Basilica. It was more amazing than I could ever anticipate. When I realized that all of the carving was done by my great-grandfather, it was really surreal. He carved everything including the alter, ceiling, stations of the cross, and more. It's quite fun to compare the original carvings prior to being painted, and then to see them in their current place. 

It was a dark, rainy day, but here are some lovely shots that Kassie captured. I'll also be adding some photos later that my family took many years ago.

Enjoy this beautiful church!

images: Kassie Borreson, Haus Frau Fotografie

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mission Dolores Basilica: The Construction

Before I visit the famous Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, I thought I'd share some old photos I stumbled upon of Sam with Bishop Guilfoyle during construction and upon completion.

Sam on the far left

Misión San Francisco de Asís was founded June 29, 1776, under the direction of Father Junipero Serra and is both the oldest original intact Mission in California and the oldest building in San Francisco. Today, the Mission Dolores Parish comprises both the Basilica and the Mission.

I imagine that my great-grandfather's work was done in the late 1940s.

Sam, second from left

(above) Stations of the Cross

images from my personal collection

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


When my Mom passed away recently, I had the painful task of going through her things. This left me with inheriting the stunning lamp Sam carved so many decades ago.

This lamp was carved for my grandparents. It was my grandmother's prized possession. She would stare at the cherubs for hours. When people came over she would proudly show them her father's lamp. Well, Mom and Bannie (my grandma) died a year and a half apart, so the lamp suddenly became mine.

When it was delivered I cried like a baby. "Why is this here? It shouldn't be here." I couldn't walk in our living room for days. I was just about to call my cousin to give it to her and my husband said that I'll feel better with time.

Now I'm able to walk in the room again and admire this work of art. I'm just looking for the appropriate lamp shade to do it justice.

My lineage has all passed away leaving me with special memories and some treasures. It doesn't feel right to have this lamp, but I'm proud to share it with you. In time, I'm sure I'll feel a bit more comfortable with it. Until then, I still get a little teary when I walk into the room.

All that remain are the solemn faces of the cherubs, and the echoes of voices from a bygone era...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Something to Share!

I was absolutely thrilled when Valerie Schmalz, a writer for the San Francisco Catholic Weekly contacted me about doing a story about my great-grandfather's work. She had stumbled upon this blog and thought there could be a great potential story.

Well, tomorrow the story is officially in the paper and online. I'm so elated to have my great-grandfather recognized for his magnificent wood-carving!

You can read the whole article here. The story is titled, "Jewish Artisan's Legacy of Christian Beauty."

Big thanks to Valerie for doing this lovely tribute!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

St. Catherine Church, Burlingame, CA

Finally catching up on my research here. It's been awhile since I've posted. My friend Sandy and I recently visited St. Catherine of Siena Church in Burlingame, California.

St. Catherine, a Catholic church, was built in 1909, and Sam Berger did most of the woodcarving in this beautiful church.

Sam did all of the carving on the altar which is quite spectacular in person..

Ambon carved by Sam

So much detailed carving on the walls and confessionals of which he carved all...

The bare wood shows the beautiful grain, color tone and detail. According to one of my cousins, my great-grandfather was quoted as saying, "painting wood is blasphemy." Obviously, he was a purist.

Up and to the left is the organ cover that Sam carved, as well as the railing.

These acorn-shaped adornments are at the base of the railing. They seem to go on forever and are spectacular in person!

This is a small chapel inside the church. It is quite beautiful and again, Sam did most of the carving in here...

St. Catherine's is not only a Catholic Church but also a school for children.

This was a wonderful day seeing yet another breathtakingly beautiful church that my great-grandfather carved. If you're in the Bay Area, you should visit St. Catherine Church. Truly a beauty.

St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church
1310 Bayswater Avenue
Burlingame, CA 94010

image credit: Photography by Sandy