Susan Vick

Susan Vick

Goldsmith Museum Curator

November 30, 2010

Hanukkah Menorahs - It's Time to Light!

There are several types of Hanukkah lamps that have been in use since the Gothic period. The earliest known hanukkiyah is a small, triangular type of lamp that was meant to hang in the doorway, opposite the mezuzah. These early hanukkiyot are only about five inches high and have a backplate that is decorated with cut-outs that have the same shape as the lancet windows found in Gothic cathedrals.

At some point in European Jewish history, the hanging hanukkiyah was moved indoors. Feet were added to the bottom of the bench so that the lamps could rest on a tabletop. These lamps have distinctive styles, for example, hanukkiyot from Holland were often made from brass and incorporated cutout designs, while German lamps were more commonly made of high quality silver and were distinguished by  intricate decorations. The Goldsmith Museum Collection includes a very fine 18th-century lamp in the German style that was designed by a well-known silversmith, Master Rodger Herrfurth. A very similar hanukkiyah is featured in a 19th-century print by the German, Jewish artist, Moritz David Oppenheim.

Another popular type of hanukkiyah is based on the form of a tree. The tree-type lamp has been made very large for use in the synagogue, and small for use in the home.

Contemporary Hanukkah menorahs are made from an array of materials and in many different styles, including but certainly not limited to the bench and tree types.  If you are looking to increase your own collection, there is a wonderful selection of lamps in the  Sisterhood Gift Shop.

Posted in: Holidays, Spirituality, Art & Culture

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