Chanukah Americana: One Family's Search for the Perfect Menorah

November 30th, 2017

cityscape-edited

A menorah depicting the New York City skyline, pre-9/11.

cityscape-edited

A menorah depicting the New York City skyline, pre-9/11.

3-little-bears

For the Three Little Bears, Chanukah is just right.

many-dogs

Dogs appear on the Moore's menorahs, in groups ...

dog

... or just individually.

curious-george

Curious George gets into the Chanukah spirit.

fancy-shoes

Shoe-themed menorahs are favorites of Lori Moore. Sometimes the styles are old-world and traditional.

shoes

Other shoe-themed menorahs in the Moore's collection seem suited to Manhattan.

pink-cadillac

Classic cars are another recurring menorah motif, from a pink Cadillac ...

VW

... to a hippie VW bus.

football

A football-themed menorah, in which the players are made out of helmets and balls.

mah-jong

A menorah made out of mahjong tiles.

rocking-dreidels

"Sevivon" is Hebrew for "dreidel," which is Yiddish for "spinning top."

We are pleased to report that at long last, the “War on Christmas” is over. All it took was a small forest of flocked fir Christmas trees lining the halls of the White House. By that measure, then, let us simultaneously declare victory in the “War on Chanukah.” This less-publicized conflict began preternaturally early this year on July 31, when the first pa-rum-pa-pum-pum forces of Christmas consumerism scrambled onto the field of battle. But similarly to the War on Christmas, all it took to win the War on Chanukah was a profusion of menorahs, in this case from the collection of Lori and David Moore, whose 100-strong light brigade is on display through January 2, 2018, at the Museum at Eldridge Street in Lower Manhattan.

“Growing up and raising kids in New York City, Christmas is pretty overwhelming,” David Moore told me the other day over the phone, when the venture capitalist, investor, and entrepreneur had a few rare moments to chat between meetings. “Not in a bad way,” he adds. “I love the Christmas season. But between Rockefeller Center, the stores, and everything else, it’s a lot of Christmas sights and sounds. By comparison, Chanukah is, well, just kind of Chanukah.”

“We don’t have any great antiquities in the collection, or million-dollar menorahs by Jeff Koons.”

That’s why, more than 20 years ago, when the Moore’s daughter, Jami, and son, Nick, were 2 and 4 respectively, the couple began to buy menorahs to provide their children with engaging symbols of their heritage and faith at Chanukah. “We had a couple of menorahs,” Moore recalls, “but they were just regular ones, like everybody has.” In fact, Moore grew up with an ordinary menorah, too. “I remember it being blue-gray and made of some kind of heavy metal. It had a handle on one side and the silhouette of a genie’s lamp, but flat and without much depth. It was pretty nondescript.”

Moore thought Chanukah should be more fun than that, which is why as a parent, he was drawn to menorahs bearing iconography his kids might identify with—Disney characters, Beanie Babies, Pokémon. “We bought a few of those sorts of menorahs for our kids,” he says, “and they liked it; it got their attention. The next year, we found a couple of different ones and added those to the collection, although building a collection was not our intent. Really, it was just a fun tradition to share with our kids. Soon, we had 10, and then there were 20. When friends noticed that we were ‘collecting’ menorahs, they started to give them to us as gifts. And if we were traveling and happened to see a menorah we liked, we’d pick it up. My daughter and I still go out menorah shopping every year,” Moore adds, “beginning around Thanksgiving, in anticipation of the holiday.” Today, the Moore’s collection includes somewhere north of 150 menorahs.

While some of the Moore’s menorahs are made of Murano glass and other mildly exotic materials, most of them are as American as an aluminum Christmas tree. There are hippie vans and pink Cadillacs, puppy dogs and the Three Little Bears, high heels and skylines, the latter of which features the Moore’s beloved New York City with the Twin Towers still standing.

“We have a few menorahs that are more expensive than the rest,” Moore allows, “and a couple by some Israeli artists, but we don’t have any great antiquities in the collection, or million-dollar menorahs by Jeff Koons. It’s more like—I don’t know what the right word would be—Americana.”

Chanukah candles burning behind this stained-glass menorah must be quite a sight on the holiday's final night.

Chanukah candles burning behind this stained-glass menorah must be a sight on the holiday’s final night.

(For more information about “Let There Be Light! Menorahs from the Collection of the Lori and David Moore Family,” visit the Museum at Eldridge Street.)


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