Using materials ranging from the finest silver and gold to stone to glass to bullet casings, craftsmen and artisans over the centuries created Hanukkah lamps reflecting both the diversity and unity of the Jewish people. About 550 examples from the Jewish Museum’s collection of more than 14,000 lamps are included in this handsome and informative six-pound double-volume. The book opens with 38 pages of illustrated narrative tracing the history of Hanukkah and its rituals as well as stylistic trends in menorah design. Relevant information on some collectors who donated lamps to the museum is included. The next 10 chapters highlight selected lamps from a broad range of periods and countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas. Each entry includes a stunning full- to one-quarter page color photograph of the lamp along with a page of text discussing the lamp’s known or possible origins and its historical context, as well as any icons, architectural detail, or other elements incorporated into its design. In the same chronological order, Part 2 includes smaller photos and more concise descriptions of hundreds of other lamps, ranging from humble to elaborate to contemporary and futuristic. Maps, photos of artworks inspired by the Festival of Light, a glossary, and detailed indices make the book highly accessible to the average reader. The meticulous detail offered throughout, including close-up photos of stamped marks and artist signatures, make it a valuable research tool to those with a professional interest in Jewish anthropology, history, antiques or art.
Robin K. Levinson is an award-winning journalist and author of a dozen books, including the Gali Girls series of Jewish historical fiction for children. She currently works as an assessment specialist for a global educational testing organization. She lives in Hamilton, NJ.