Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Synagogue Hanukkah lamp
Poland
17th century
Brass, cast and engraved
H: 146; W: 95.5 cm
Gift of Arthur Lejwa, a native of Kielce, in memory of the Jewish community of Kielce, annihilated in the gas chambers in 1942
Accession number: B71.0457 ; 118/603
 
 
Large standing lamps were often placed in the synagogue next to the Torah ark. The eagles (crowned or two-headed) that adorn many of these lamps were the emblems of the rulers of Poland, Austria, Germany, and Russia. They appear on Jewish artifacts as tokens of gratitude or loyalty to the sovereign. In his story “The Tale of the Menorah,” author and Nobel laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon describes a menorah similar to the ones displayed here, which belonged to the synagogue in his home town of Buczac. The town was often caught in the wars between Poland, Russia, and Austria. Realizing that the ruling power could be replaced at any time, the congregation kept a collection of small cast eagles in the synagogue in case the emblem had to be exchanged to accommodate a new ruler.

Publications:
Benjamin, Chaya, A Hanukkah Lamp from Poland, The Arthur and Madeleine Chalette Lejwa Collection in the Israel Museum, Apter-Gabriel, Ruth (Ed.), The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2005

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir