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Friday, March 24, 2023

Festival of Lights

Each year, the Tri-State’s Jewish residents observe Hanukkah by displaying beautiful, nine-branched menorahs. A daily symbol of love, faith, and celebration during the eight-day holiday, each menorah is as unique and different as the owners themselves.

Evansville resident Tory Schendel Cox’s collection includes a small sterling menorah brought back from a trip to Israel. Molded into a traditional “U” shape, its “candle zero” — a taller candle from which each of the other eight candles are lit each day — sits in the middle and is flanked by four candles on each side.

The joyful nature of Hanukkah celebrations opens the door to more whimsical, humorous menorahs. Jeffrey Berger of Evansville owns one selected by his daughters that features eight floppy-eared dogs awash in gentle pastels, each with a candle holder perched atop its head like a halo. Also in Berger’s collection is a silver menorah adorned with a mosaic of colored glass squares, its candle zero anchored on the right side.

Nancy Drake and her husband Michael converted to Judaism about 15 years ago, and in the time since, the Evansville residents have amassed a variety of wildly different menorahs: electric-lit pieces with colored light bulbs; a sterling candelabra purchased in Florida; a brass menorah in the shape of the Star of David found at a flea market in France; a green ceramic piece with painted florals reminiscent of a Jay Armstrong jeweled picture frame; a folding menorah hand-carved from Israeli olive wood; even a delightful snow globe.

The Drakes enjoy inviting loved ones of all faiths to join them in lighting their menorahs each year, as a way of observing Judaism’s encouragement to “take care of your fellow man and take care of what’s around you,” Drake says.

Menorahs often represent true works of art. A friend once gifted Berger with a design carved from heavy plexiglass with a flutter of blue and silver flecks scattered throughout its curves. To signify its custom design, the artist’s signature is etched into the front left corner of the platform.

“It’s one of the most meaningful menorahs I own,” Berger says. After each Hanukkah concludes, he displays it prominently on his home’s mantel the rest of the year.

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