The Jewish Museum Lends Two Hanukkah Lamps to the White House Read More
The Jewish Museum is thrilled to be lending two Hanukkah lamps from its collection to the White House Office of the Vice President for Hanukkah.
In Vice President Kamala Harris’s office is a lamp made by Kurt J. Matzdorf in New Paltz, New York, in 1963. In Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff’s office is a lamp from the late nineteenth century which came to the Jewish Museum from the Jewish community of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) in 1939.
The Jewish Museum’s collection of Hanukkah lamps is the largest in the world at nearly 1,050 pieces and was amassed over the 117 years of the Museum’s existence. The Hanukkah lamps will remain at the White House for the duration of the holiday.
This is the third time the Jewish Museum has lent Hanukkah lamps from its collection to the White House; the first time was for a lighting ceremony in 2001 when President George W. Bush was in office, and again for a lighting ceremony in 2011 when President Barack Obama was in office. Scroll down to learn more about the two Hanukkah lamps currently on display at the White House.
The Hanukkah lamp on display in Vice President Kamala Harris’s office (top photo) was created by world-renowned artist Kurt J. Matzdorf (1922–2008). Born in Stadtoldendorf, Germany, Matzdorf escaped the Nazis in 1939 when, as a child, he was brought to England on a Kindertransport (children’s transport). Matzdorf moved to the U.S. in 1949 where he established his six-decade career as a sculptor, gold- and silver-smith, as well as a jewelry designer. Matzdorf was not only a talented artist, but he was also an influential teacher at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where he founded the metals program in 1966. Matzdorf is distinguished for his modernist designs of traditional Jewish ceremonial art and his timeless pieces, such as this elegant silver Hanukkah lamp.
The silver Hanukkah lamp in Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff’s office was likely made in Germany in the second half of the nineteenth century. It came to the Jewish Museum from the Jewish community of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) in 1939. Originally owned by the prominent art collector, grain merchant, and humanitarian Lesser Gieldzinski (1830–1910), he had donated his Jewish ceremonial objects, including this Hanukkah lamp, to the Great Synagogue of Danzig. Facing imminent Nazi invasion, members of the Danzig Jewish community, with the help of the American Joint Distribution Committee, shipped their precious objects to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York (then home to the Jewish Museum) for safekeeping. The hundreds of objects arrived at the Seminary barely a month before the German army marched into Danzig in 1939. The pieces from the Danzig Jewish community have lived at the Jewish Museum ever since. The Hanukkah lamp in Second Gentleman Emhoff’s office has now traveled for the first time since its harrowing journey from Danzig, fulfilling the wishes of the community that the objects teach and inspire the world.