Chanukah Lamps from the Canadian Jewish Congress


Chanukah Lamp (Silver) Early 20th century
Date not available


"Blessed is the Lord, Ruler of the universe, who hallows us with His Mitzvot, and commands us to kindle the Chanukah lights. Blessed is the Lord, Ruler of the universe, who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in days of old, at this season." (Translated from Hebrew)


As this exhibition has shown, every piece of Judaica has a story to tell. The objects that form the Aron Museum's collection have taken part in the rituals and traditions of Jewish families from different times and across diverse places. To know the stories that these objects can tell is to know the history of the Jewish people.


Yet all too frequently, these stories remain unknown. While some of the pieces in the collection have been handed down through generations and deposited in the Aron Museum by an heir, many pieces have come through the hands of antique dealers. The keys to unlocking the stories that lie behind the objects have often been lost.


Many such objects surfaced on the antiques market in the aftermath of World War II. Under the mandate of the Nazi party, Jews were forced out of their homes. Whole communities were destroyed. Synagogues were vandalized and looted. The Nazis took all that they found as their own, including the objects of Jewish ceremonial art found in Jewish homes and synagogues. These objects were sold and traded and began to enter the international market.


After the war, military authorities recovered a vast amount of Nazi-looted Jewish cultural and religious items. The question of what to do with such items became a challenge. In North America, the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc. was established by the United States State Department to identify and redistribute all heirless Jewish property found in the American sector. Forty percent of the items were sent to Israel, with the remainder distributed to Jewish communities worldwide.

The Canadian Jewish Congress was responsible for distributing items within Canada. Five Chanukah lamps were given as gifts to the Aron Museum.


Chanukah Lamp (Silver) 19th century
Date not available


The Aron Museum's curator, Ellen Samuel, explains that: "We have a number of artifacts in the collection which were given to us by Canadian Jewish Congress at a time when Jewish cultural objects were being distributed after the war had ended. We have for instance two Torah Finials - they are single pieces, a number of Chanukah menorahs from which the shamash was lost, also damaged Torah breastplates and a few pointers. They had all been catalogued, and it is known who received which pieces from Germany through this organization."


This Chanukah lamp reveals traces of its past in its appearance, providing us with a key to the stories that it may hold. The lamp carries a German inscription that reads: "To my father, Adolf Schuman, from your son Beno." Adolf and Beno Schuman were clearly German Jews who were victims of the Holocaust.

The ninth light that is always present on a Chanukah lamp, the Shamash, is missing. The loss of the Shamash suggests rough treatment and hints at the destruction that undoubtedly fell upon the Schumans and their community.


While the Chanukah lamp was categorized as "heirless" by the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction and the Canadian Jewish Congress, the memory of the Schumans and countless other victims now lives on through the objects in the Aron Museum, and through the practices of the Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom community.


In a poem entitled "Prague," the Canadian artist Lyndia Terre affirms the continued presence of the Jewish people, of our traditions and of our customs. Even in those spaces that have been devastated, Jewish tradition continues to flourish. Even though there was an attempt to extinguish the lights of the Chanukah lamp, it now continues to be lit by its new family, its new community.



Was I not present in that space
when they talked the 'legends of the Jews'
by the tomb of Rabbi Low
with the Golem monster
buried there beneath the clay

Was I not present in the Old New Synagogue
when they spoke the 'customs of the Jews'
how they read the Torah
with a pointed tool
not touching parchment with their hands

Was I not present in that exhibition
when they told the 'history of the Jewish Race'
in French, Italian, German
as if they had succeeded
and there were no Jews

I floated like a ghost,
listening, not able to explain:
we have made children

with each new child
these legends, customs, histories are multiplied

with each new child
these new words on parchment live

with each new child
a million voices sing.


Prague: Old New Synagogue Etching by Lyndia Terre
Date not available