Jewish News, January 2021
"The JM is launching Design Edition later this fall, in conjunction with the release of two new Judaica products: a new mezuzah designed by Dror for Alessi and The Jewish Museum and a limited edition reproduction of Richard Meierís landmark menorah from 1988.
The purpose of Design Edition is to highlight the finest and most progressive Jewish ritual objects for the marketplace.
Only a small number of international artists and designers have been selected by the museum shop and curatorial staff to be included in Design Edition.
We are planning to display works by all selected artists during the opening, and are inviting all selected artists attend the launch party.
Other participating world known artists in Design Edition JM: Richard Meier, Karim Rashid, Adam Tihany, Jonathan Adler, Talila Abraham, Bruria Avidan, Piet Cohen, David H. Gumbel, Jonathan Hopp, Leor/Lederman, Studio Armadillo, Zelig Segal, Sari Srulovitch, Lella Vignelli, and Ludwig Wolpert."
For a ceremonial artifact steeped in Jewish tradition, the Hanukkah menorah has surprisingly become a darling of contemporary designers. Its roots go back more than 2,000 years, and when its candles are lit each of the eight nights of Hanukkah (which begins at sundown Friday), they commemorate the Maccabee victory over the Greek-Syrian army, and the defeat of religious oppression.
From a religious point of view, the menorah's "technical requirements" are simple, says Rabbi Robert Harris, associate professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. "It has eight major branches, plus one that is traditionally called the shamash, which needs to be placed above the eight, or in front of the eight."
This leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Menorahs tend to "pick up the stylistic trends of the local place and time they come from," says Susan Braunstein, a curator at New York's Jewish Museum and author of two books on menorahs. In the 1950s, for example, they reflected the modernist design of synagogue buildings springing up at that time. Today's menorahs tell a story, too, not just about religious freedom but also about a growing, global passion for design. They reflect new, experimental materials, a playful spirit, and a fascination with how -- and if -- tradition can be updated for the 21st century.
Here, five designers talk about the menorahs they created...
(Content excerpted below)
Marit Meisler, 32
Cemment Design, New York. Occupation: Industrial designer
Materials: Concrete and stainless steel
Why did you design a menorah? The Judaica world is usually very traditional, and there are a lot of people who are young, either in age or heart, who don't necessarily relate to only traditional designs. I am breaking the usual preconception of what we think the menorah is.
What's unique about it? There are separate components. You can put them in a different order. Every time you play with it you can find a new way of assembling it.
What inspired your menorah? The idea was to take a religious artifact and incorporate a very contemporary material that we think of as cold and architectural. It becomes very warm, very alive. I am trying to incorporate the holy with the mundane.
Describe your childhood menorah. I grew up in Israel. We only had one: It was simple, the traditional form that hangs on the wall and is made of brass.
How would you like to see it used? Not too close to the draft.