The Hanukkah Lamp

From Jan ’12 Spotlight:

When you lit your first candle on Dec. 20, how much thought did you give to your menorah? Maybe it’s a family heirloom, or maybe you recently purchased it online, but have you ever asked yourself what your menorah says about you, your values, and your personal style?

Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) is currently featuring a new exhibition called The Hanukkah Lamp: Modernist Style and the Jewish Experience based on the extensive Aaron Ha’Tell collection.

As curator Rhoda Rosen makes clear in the text she prepared for the wall panels, choosing a menorah is a hugely symbolic act with economic, political, and religious dimensions. In this exhibition, Rosen is particularly interested in the metal makers who emigrated to the Yishuv in the 1930s as a direct result of European anti-Semitism, and yet still identified with European culture and the visual aesthetic of modernism.

“I only chose the modernist pieces from the Ha’Tell collection because I wanted to take us back to the period when these designers first arrived in Israel,” Rosen told me on opening night. “They all fled Nazism and many of them lost family members. They made hanukkiot from copper alloys-cheap materials-because these are things that everyone could afford. Many were sold to Holocaust survivors who didn’t have much money, and this was a way of integrating this new foreign place [Israel] with their old selves [from Europe].”

To emphasize that these hanukkiot were made for personal use rather than museum display, Rosen also provides background materials. “In the Ascalon section, we have a sales catalog so you can see the actual object alongside its pictorial version. And we have drawings in the Wallersteiner section so you can see the process.”

“These designers brought in their hearts a love for art,” Ha-Tell added, “But they also loved Israel, so they attempted to integrate the two in their work.”

The LUMA exhibition will be on display through Jan 15th. For more information, visit: www.luc.edu/luma. To read more about the Ha’Tell collection, visit: www.hanukkiot.com.

Rhoda Rosen & Aaron Ha’Tell (Photo Credit: Jan Lisa Huttner)

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