Shelly Kaufman’s father’s family was almost entirely wiped out in the Holocaust. The family’s century-old Hanukkah menorah survived, though, and is one of the few tangible reminders of what once was.
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“My father was the youngest of 13 children,” said Kaufman, a U.S. immigrant who lives in Haifa. “They lived on a big farm in Slovakia, and before my father fled for the United States in 1939 by the skin of his teeth, he buried this hanukkiah on the grounds.”
While her father, Selig Lorber, and a few siblings escaped to the United States before World War II, his mother and most of his siblings were killed in the Holocaust. (His father had died earlier.)
In 1948 Lorber and his surviving siblings returned to Slovakia.
“They fetched [the hanukkiah] from under the ground and brought it back to the United States,” Kaufman said. Lorber was given possession of it and handed it over to Kaufman in the early 1980s, when she moved to Israel with her family.
Danny Kaufman lights the family hanukkiah. (Credit: Rami Shllush)
“For me, it’s nice that it ended up here in this country,” said Kaufman, who was born in New York as Shelly Lorber. “It’s especially a treat to light it on Hanukkah with our grandkids.”
The family hanukkiah, she said, was purchased by her father’s grandfather in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century. “It’s 7.5 kilograms of silver — that’s what my dad always said, but I never put it on a scale,” she said.
The Kaufman family hanukkiah. (Credit: Rami Shllush)
Built in modular form, this more than 100-year-old ritual artifact has branches that can be moved around to create different configurations. It also has a removable silver eagle above the spot for the shamash — the candle that is used to light the other eight, one for each day of Hanukkah.
Kaufman said she recently learned that the hanukkiah had been hidden underground during World War I as well.