Hanukkah is just around the corner, as evidenced by the sweet smell of sufganiyot already wafting through Israeli supermarkets and bakeries. To be sure, jelly doughnuts are important holiday fixtures, as are dreidels and latkes, but the Jewish Festival of Lights would simply be incomplete without the menorah – that nine-branched candelabrum that provides a platform for the candles and their shining light.
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Some of you may have already jumped on the menurkey bandwagon this year as Hanukkah overlaps with Thanksgiving, but if you’re still in the market for a menorah, there are plenty of options out there – from classic Judaica designs to modular ones that require assembly (or an architecture degree to figure out) to electric ones that do away with candles and the melting-wax mess. In other words, menorahs come in as many variations as those gooey, sugary sufganiyot, which seem to get more high-tech every year.
For purists who prefer a somewhat traditional menorah, artist Shaul Baz has crafted this vintage-inspired cast-bronze version, featuring two peacocks and nine candleholders set on a sturdy four-footed base. Baz made his first two menorahs – one for himself and one for a shop near his work, which sold in a day – some 10 years ago, and has continued making them since. Born and raised on a kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley, Baz now calls Jerusalem home. He is inspired by his immediate surroundings – his neighborhood and nature – adding that he has loved birds since his kibbutz days, and they have often landed in his work, so to speak. Baz, who also sculpts and paints, creates other cast-metal Judaica items, including mezuzot and candlesticks, at a local bronze foundry.
$99; also comes in polished aluminum and other cast metals at Baz's online shop
Futurists might like U.K.-born, Tel Aviv-based designer Laura Cowan's work, which took off – quite literally – several years ago when American astronaut Greg Chamitoff brought two of her space-travel-themed mezuzot on Expedition 17 to NASA's International Space Station. Since then Cowan has continued making cutting-edge Judaica designs, including the Rainbow Rocket menorah, which like her other works is crafted from polished stainless steel and anodized aluminum. Each candlestick comprises three parts: a disc inspired by the orbs surrounding Saturn, a rocket-shaped candleholder and legs that appear to have the momentum of a rocket shooting into space. Cowan says her work "was inspired by the Sixties mission to land a man on the moon. Although this was achieved even before I was born, I was fascinated by the hype and excitement generated by the race to the moon. I also loved the irony of a futuristic design based on what is now history.” That's far out.
$1,150; available online at Cowan's website
Minimalists, meanwhile, might like this crisp white menorah from Studio Armadillo: It blends origami with traditional Judaica to create a modern fan-like sculpture that unites Jewish and Japanese traditions. Designers Hadas Kruk and Anat Stein established their Tel Aviv-based studio in 1997, and have applied their unique aesthetic to menorahs, mezuzot and, most recently, dreidels. The ceramic menorah was exhibited at Tokyo Design Week in 2012 and was also bought for the Israeli ambassador’s house in Japan. Kruk and Stein point out that, when the candles are lit, shadows from the flickering flames and the menorah’s folds create the illusion of sunrays – bringing additional meaning to the Festival of Lights.
$127; also available in other materials by appointment at the designers’ studio (call 03-529-8150) or at their online shop
Tiberias-based Margalit Hajaj, a self-taught mosaic artist, was also inspired by the candlelight in creating her menorah: a vibrant, kaleidoscopic design that fuses together what she calls “majestic-colored” shards of glass – in gold, crimson, purple and black. Hajaj says the holiday motivated her to choose sparkling materials that would enhance the flames’ already brilliant light. In general, she enjoys breathing new life into ceramic tiles, broken bits of china and other seemingly useless materials by assembling them into whole new entities. Her work is inspired by the picturesque Galilee area – which is also home to some of Israel’s most breathtaking mosaics – with its vibrant landscapes and diverse natural environment.
$64 at Hajaj's online shop
Finally, if you want your wee ones to get a feel for the holiday and its traditions without playing with fire, Herzliya-based designer Naama Weiss has just the answer: a hand-cut and sewn menorah and candles set made of felt, available in a variety of colors. The “candles” have Velcro on the back, so kids can attach them to the menorah in whatever order they like over Hanukkah’s eight days. (You can also ask the designer to include your child's name on the menorah.) It’s educational, and in this iPad-obsessed era, it’s also just good, old school fun.
$24; Supplies are limited; menorah is available by special order at Weiss's online shop
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