Hanukkah menorahs, dreidels go from traditional to crazy

Hanukkah and its growing popularity, once a fairly modest Jewish holiday, are fueling an explosion in sales of menorahs, dreidels and other products. Some Hanukkah menorahs – the nine-branched candelabra – and dreidels – the four-sided top with Hebrew letters – are cheap, whimsical and fun. Others are works of art that are coveted collectibles.

Hanukkah, which begins at sunset on Sunday, is not as spiritually significant as the holy days of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is not as important as Easter, which celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt, or Sukkot, a week-long harvest festival.

Hanukkah makes no further dietary requirements or temple commitments to the celebrants, and the eight-day light festival usually uses tasty fried foods, such as potato latkes and jelly donuts, to commemorate the miracle of the oil after the Maccabees’ victory in Jerusalem.

“It’s not a giant vacation. It’s a fun vacation,” said Debbie Steiner, a 64-year-old woman from Buffalo Grove who recently discovered a talent for making glass art and coveted menorahs.

“My Judaica has really taken off. I sell a lot of menorahs and mezuzahs,” Steiner says. Her mezuzahs, which contain verses from the Torah and are meant to be placed on doorways, sell for $ 45 or $ 55. Her menorahs start at $ 110 for her child’s Fairy Garden scene with hidden fairies and animals, and top with $ 195 for her Blue Wave artwork.



She first became a fused glass artist in 2019, but now Debbie Steiner of Buffalo Grove is selling her original menorahs to Hanukkah and other pieces of glass online and at local art shows.

She first became a fused glass artist in 2019, but now Debbie Steiner of Buffalo Grove is selling her original menorahs to Hanukkah and other pieces of glass online and at local art shows.
– Lent by DebbieSteinerGlassArt.com

Steiner, who works in the photography department at a Walgreens in Lake Zurich, took a few hours and watched a lot of online tutorials before making her own melted glass art in an oven at very high temperatures in 2019. She decided to make menorahs after seeing the other offers in the shops.

“There’s cute. There’s cute. They’re just not art I make,” Steiner says. Her collections are sold at debbiesteinerglassart.com, but also at suburban crafts and art exhibitions. “My mother (Sandy Fox) was an artist. She painted,” says Steiner, who is assisted by her husband, Alan Steiner, her father, Marvin Fox, her son, Avi, her daughter, Sarah, and her sister, Cathy Fox. .

“I found out that there are a lot of people who collect menorahs,” Steiner says.



From exquisite works of art to the whimsical and crazy, the menorahs used to celebrate Hanukkah have become blockbusters at Rosenblum's World of Judaica in Skokie.

From exquisite works of art to the whimsical and crazy, the menorahs used to celebrate Hanukkah have become blockbusters at Rosenblum’s World of Judaica in Skokie.
– Burt Constable | Staff photographer

The Hebrew word Hanukiah, or Chanukiah, refers to the lamp used to celebrate Hanukkah. “Most of the funny, crazy Hanukkiot (plural form) are fine to use, but the candles (or oil cups) are supposed to be in a single row of the same height, with only Shamash (the candle used to light the others) separated from the other eight, “reads an email from Rabbi Warner Ferratior of the Beth Shalom Congregation in Northbrook.

Regular customers visit Rosenblum’s World of Judaica in Skokie each Hanukkah to purchase the annual menorahs from Jewish artist Gary Rosenthal, who mixes metal and molten glass; Yair Emanuel, who works in metal; Shraga Landesman using laser cut aluminum; and other.

“I’m amazed at the different things that come out each year,” says Josh Zwelling, a managing partner of the legendary store that has been around for more than 80 years. “It’s one of our busiest times of the year.”



One way to increase interest in Hanukkah is through fun menorahs like this one with nine dog breeds at Rosenblum's World of Judaica in Skokie.

One way to increase interest in Hanukkah is through fun menorahs like this one with nine dog breeds at Rosenblum’s World of Judaica in Skokie.
– Burt Constable | Staff photographer

While the Yochanan Kinetic Menorah of sterling silver by Israeli silversmith Avi Nadav sells for $ 3,973, Hanukkah does not have to be expensive. You can buy an economy tin menorah for $ 3.50 online at Rosenblum’s judaica.com. Many of the menorahs are designed to interest children during the holidays. Some have basketball, baseball, football and other sports themes for $ 29.99. Menorahs also come with princesses, cupcakes, bikes and even one with a collection of emojis.

Dreidels also spans the spectrum, from the $ 1,750 sterling silver Rachav Hanukkah Dreidel depicting Jerusalem’s city walls to the 39-cent plastic dreidel.

“Hitdreierne is the kids’ dreidels,” says Eva Belavsky, who works in the shop. “They all have candles and they sing. The mothers and grandmothers all want these for the children.”

The lyrics of a popular Hanukkah song read, “Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay,” and Rosenblum has artistic handmade clay dreidels for $ 48. “You can spin it, but you will not,” Belavsky says.



Hanukkah, once a rather modest holiday, has become a busy time of year for Rosenblum's World of Judaica in Skokie, says Josh Zwelling, on the right, a managing partner of the legendary store, and employee Eva Belavsky, on the left.

Hanukkah, once a rather modest holiday, has become a busy time of year for Rosenblum’s World of Judaica in Skokie, says Josh Zwelling, on the right, a managing partner of the legendary store, and employee Eva Belavsky, on the left.
– Burt Constable | Staff photographer

While most people light candles to mark the eight days of Hanukkah, Zwelling says people living in dorm rooms are often not allowed to light candles because of the risk of fire. So electric light menorahs range from artist Emanuel’s elegant metal version for $ 235 to a cordless Dancing Lights Musical Menorah for $ 19.99.

“Some people are traditionalists and want to use oil,” Zwelling says. While a laser-cut, hand-painted oil menorah, made in the shape of a peacock, sells for $ 209, the collection includes a simple, gold-colored menorah with glass cups for $ 8.80. A set of 44 multicolored oil lanterns, enough to fuel all eight nights of lighting, sells for $ 54.

As much as she enjoys making art for Hanukkah, Steiner also makes decorative glass Christmas trees, ornaments that appear to be made of colored glass, Christmas sweaters in glass, Santa Claus boot earrings, and even a cross to hang on a wall. It’s about celebrating holidays that make people feel comfortable, Steiner says.

“The Christmas things I do are just fun,” Steiner says.

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