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Hanukkah Lamp

Hanukkah Lamp

Unorthodox Menorah II

Joel Otterson (American, b. 1959)
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States, 1993
  • Mixed metal pipes, cast bronze, porcelain, and glass
  • 37 1/4 x 61 x 16 1/2 in. (94.6 x 154.9 x 41.9 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Judaica Acquisitions Fund, Henry H. and Ruth Herzog Gift, and Rabbi Louis Frishman Gift, 1993-216
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Hanukkah Lamp

Unorthodox Menorah II

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Unorthodox Menorah II


The Jewish Museum commissioned this work in 1993. The artist, Joel Otterson, likes to use everyday materials, often combining them in surprising ways. Here, he has welded copper pipe fittings together to create the branches of a Hanukkah lamp. He has topped the shamash with a glass figure of the wrestler Hulk Hogan. The artist said he was inspired by the pop-culture images he saw on ceremonial objects during a visit to Israel. "If they can make a Bart Simpson yarmulke," he reasoned, "I can make a Hulk Hogan menorah." But the presence of the wrestler is not as incongruous as it may seem. Traditional Hanukkah lamps often feature heroic figures, such as the biblical character Judith, to symbolize the victory of the Jewish people over their oppressors.

Discuss with students:

  • What materials did Otterson use to create his Hanukkah lamp? How are these materials usually used?

  • The statue on top depicts the professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. Why do you think Otterness included Hulk Hogan on his Hanukkah lamp? How do you feel about this choice?

  • Otterson calls his lamp Unorthodox Menorah. What do you think that means? Can a Hanukkah lamp be meaningful or serious even if it is "unorthodox"? What title would you give to this work?



Hanukkah Lamp

Hanukkah Lamp

Stolin (Belarus), c. 1885
  • Lead: cast; tin
  • Each: 2 7/8 x 1 x 15/16 in. (7.3 x 2.5 x 2.4 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of the Chernick Family, JM 102-73
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Hanukkah Lamp

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Each of these chairs is an individual oil receptacle. The oil would have been poured inside the seat and a wick inserted in the small hole on top. As a group, these eight lights form a Hanukkah lamp. The two Hebrew letters on the front of each chair stand for Ner Hanukkah (Hanukkah light) and Nes Hanukkah (Hanukkah miracle). The chairs were cast from lead. Because lead is a soft metal it has a low melting point. The flames of the lights, therefore, caused the deterioration of the chairs over the years.

The tradition of making cast lead or pewter objects for Hanukkah was centered in Germany, Bohemia, and eastern Europe. Children would create lead dreidls from molds they often made themselves. This Hanukkah lamp is one of several chair lamps still in existence. It is not known why the chair form was chosen; however, one type of Hanukkah lamp form, with a backplate, row of lights, and legs, is referred to as the bench type. This lamp may have been a whimsical interpretation of the bench form.

Discuss with students:

  • What do you notice about the forms of this Hanukkah lamp? How is it different from other lamps you have seen?

  • The holes in the chairs are too small for candles. How do you think this lamp worked?

  • Who do you think used this lamp? Discuss your ideas.