Four half-naked, flute-playing women can be seen cavorting on the base of a set of silver Sabbath candlesticks designed by Avi Biran. For Passover, he offers an accessorized tractor to collect the last crumbs of bread, and he fashioned his Purim rattle to look like a broken Haman. "Humorous Judaica" is the term Biran has coined for the genre. He wishes to offer an original alternative for those who do not naturally surround themselves with classic Judaica hardware.

Two years ago, Avi Biran won the Israel Museum Prize for his work and the selection committee praised him for "the development of a unique design style for Jewish religious observance objects, that clearly go beyond the traditional designs, even though they uphold the requirements of Jewish law." The committee noted the designer's use of humor in his creations as well as their flawless finish. Biran, 38, is a Bezalel graduate and a self-described "ultra-secular Jew." He exhibits primarily in museums and galleries in the United States.

Each item is made of silver and his handmade creations are priced at an average of $1,000 to $1,500 each. An exhibition of 54 of Biran's Judaica items, which was prepared to mark Independence Day, is now on display at the President's House in Jerusalem. On his Web site, he offers an impressive selection of ritual objects, all arranged according to occasion and location - Sabbath, Hanukkah, Passover, the home (a mezuzah, for example) and synagogue (rimonim [silver ornaments] for the Torah scroll).

A seder plate puzzle

For Michal Greenberg and Tania Dam-Bukubza, whose company is called MT, Judaica forms a small part of the entirety of the objects they design. Like their vases, lamps and day-planner bindings, design of the menorah (candelabra) or Passover seder plate is the product of several fundamentals. They are guided first of all, of course, by aesthetics and by an initial attraction to an object. This is followed by consideration of its function; the designers play around with the form the object will take and create an interaction with the user. The resulting industrial product is then "softened." The process is evident, for example, in the "Nine Stones" menorah, which consists of of nine stones in either brass (NIS 180) or aluminum (NIS 170), inspired by the children's game, Hamesh Avanim (five stones). All nine stones can be assembled to make a menorah, two stones can form a pair of candlesticks, and so on. The seder plate (NIS 820) was designed in the form of a puzzle with six pieces that interlock to form a raised tray, and can serve separately as coasters or hot-plates. The items are sold at the shops of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Eretz Israel Museum in Ramat Aviv, as well as at the MT studio at Sharabi 9a in Neveh Tzedek.

Bauhaus inspiration

Inspired by the Bauhaus architecture of the 1930s and 1940s, Anat Ringshaw designs silver mezuzahs for the Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv (Dizengoff 155). She has created a large mezuzah (NIS 1,500) inspired by the facade of the building at Levanda 56 in Tel Aviv, designed by architect Shimon Levi in 1934, complete with rounded porch and stylized ventilation openings. Visitors to the shop will also find her small, elegant silver mezuzahs (NIS 450) modeled after Bauhaus-era windows and doorways in Tel Aviv.

Other items shown here: An amusing and colorful ceramic menorah by Dori Shechtel, in which every candleholder is in the shape of a different animal's head, with the highest one being the lion, as king of the animals. There are also cast-iron bird candlesticks by Shraga Landesman and a large, cheerful wooden mezuzah designed by Emanuel, on which he has painted smiling bears and dolls.