Friday, November 30, 2007

Festival of sights

Menorahs can be whimsical and unusual

By Melanie M. Sidwell Longmont Times-Call

LONGMONT — During Hanukkah, an eight-candle menorah called a “hanukkiah” represents the eight nights of the Jewish minor holiday, with a ninth candle lighting the others.
But what a hanukkiah is made of is really up to the imagination: Potatoes. Mah-jongg tiles. Mirrors. Popsicle sticks. Jewel-encrusted metal.
“It’s not what the menorah is made of that’s important, but that you’re honoring Hanukkah, the festival of lights,” said Sharon Schaffner, an artist and member of the Boulder Arts & Crafts Cooperative on Pearl Street, which is presenting its annual Judaica Show through Jan. 2.
“It’s become a fashion statement,” she said of the variety of materials menorahs come in.
The Judaica Show features Jewish objects, such as dreidels and hanukkiahs made of glass, pottery and metal and even whimsical ones shaped like a moose, a whale and domestic pets.
The Longmont Shabbat Group, a local unaffiliated Jewish organization, holds an annual community menorah lighting during which guests bring their own hanukkiahs from home to light.
Susan Scruggs said the the most unusual one she had seen “was something my dad’s family used to do during the Depression, when his family couldn’t afford candles.”
“The kids would each make a fist and put a match between each finger, lighting the matches and saying the prayers very fast as the matches burned,” Scruggs said. “It is also a portable menorah, because all you have to have is a book of matches. I once did this when I was on a business trip because I was traveling light and couldn’t take my menorah and candles with me.”
Yakov Borenstein — a rabbi with Chabad of Longmont, an “unorthodox Orthodox synagogue” — is planning to use bowling pins as a makeshift menorah during a “Chanukah Bowl” at Centennial Lanes on Dec. 9.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What does a menorah have to be made of?’ But a holy thing like this can be made of anything,” he said.
Borenstein recounted a time when he was stranded somewhere during the start of Hanukkah, so he and his companions used what they had: some empty plastic soda bottles and string.
Hanukkiahs “tell our own stories of light,” said Cherie Karo Schwartz, a Denver author and Jewish storyteller who spoke during the opening of the Judaica Show recently.
“The variety of menorahs show that at any given moment, there is light to be found,” she said. “Each person’s style shows how we bring light to the world.”

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274 or

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