Jewish Museum, London
This beautifully decorated Hanukiya (Hanukah lamp) from the collections of the Jewish Museum, London was made in the 1920s from a brass shell case used in World War I. The Hanukiya is 11cm high, 128cm wide, and 13cm deep. The nine stalks intended as candle holders are attached to the shell case with Magen Davids (Stars of David).
The words of the blessing for the Hanukah candles and of Hanukah songs are engraved behind the candle holders. There is also a dedication to Sir Herbert Samuel who received this special Hanukiya.
On the reverse side two pictures are engraved in the brass. The top picture depicts the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The bottom picture is of soldiers carrying guns and marching together with military trucks and horses. This Hanukiya was given to Sir Herbert Samuel, the first British High Commissioner of Palestine 1920-1925. It is not known who made it. It is an example of “Trench Art,” decorative items created during World War I by soldiers in the trenches using any available materials, including used shell cases. This shell case has been beautifully engraved and inscribed and was given as a gift after the war.
This beautiful Hanukiya could be used in various educational contexts. It could be shown in Jewish Studies lessons before Hanukah as an example of the many different shapes and designs of Hanukah lamps. It could also be interesting to present it in History lessons dealing with the First World War. This Hanukiya could be used to discuss the lives of British Jewish soldiers during the war. It could also be shown alongside images of German Jewish soldiers celebrating Hanukah, such as in this link.
The images of Jews in both the British and German armies show the tragedy of Jews fighting each other in the First World War and highlights the tragic destiny of many of these German Jewish soldiers not many years later during the Holocaust. In Art lessons before Hanukah, teachers can show this Hanukiya as an example of an interesting design using object that were previously used for very different purposes. Students can then create Hanukiyot themselves from various everyday objects.
Describe the object. What is it intended for?
When was this object made?
What do you think the Hanukiya was originally made of?
Why was the Hanukiya made of this object?
Look at the engravings on the Hanukiya.
What is written behind the candle holders?
What are the pictures on the reverse side? Why were they engraved on this Hanukiya?
This Hanukiya was created by a Jewish British soldier. On the other side of the frontline, Jewish German soldiers were also celebrating Hanukah. Search the internet for photographs or stories about Jewish soldiers in both armies celebrating Hanukah or other Jewish festivals.
How do you think these Jews might have felt about fighting fellow Jews in the opposing armiesWhat do you feel about the fact that Jews were fighting against each other in the First World War?
This Hanukiya was given to Sir Herbert Samuel. Who was he? Why do you think it was given to him?
Imagine that you are the soldier who created this “Trench Art” Hanukiya. Tell your story and the story of the Hanukiya.
Search the internet for other Hanukiyot that tell an interesting story.