Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- The decorative elements at the bottom of this lamp, near the base, were designed to imitate the flower cups and buds for the original menorahs that were used in the ancient mishkan, (mish-kahn), or traveling tabernacle.
- This Hanukkah lamp was made to celebrate the eight days of the Jewish holiday known as “the Festival of Lights.”
- Although the purpose of the hinged arms at the lamp’s central stem is not known, it may have allowed for easier moving or placement by either removing or adjusting the angle of the arms.
Hanukkah lamps of this type were found in many Eastern European synagogues before World War II. These lamps often featured a political emblem at the top, to express loyalty to the state. This lamp features the crowned eagle of Poland.
At the time this Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukkiah (ha-new-key-ah) in Hebrew, was made, the family that owned it most likely lived in a region of Eastern Europe controlled by the Habsburg Monarchy (also known as the Habsburg Empire). It was formally named the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria (1772–1918).
By the 1920s this lamp had come into the possession of a Jewish attorney in Vienna, Austria. He then gave it to his daughter, who had recently married an American from Pittsburgh. The lamp thus escaped almost certain destruction by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The translation of the Hebrew text on the lamp’s base is as follows: “This is a donation of Fievel and his wife Esther Yenma, daughter of Zinvel to the Holy Society, Kindness and Truth 531 (1770/71).”
Resources for Teachers:
- Read an article about the region known as Galicia.
- Explore the history and culture of the Jews of Galicia.
- View instructions for craft projects that are appropriate for classroom use (including how to make your own Hanukkah lamps).
Resources for Students: