Ba’al Shem Tov Hanukkah lamp with back plate modeled after elaborate Torah ark

Zhitomir, Ukraine
Silver, filigree, cast, and partly gilt
H: 23; W: 29 cm
Received through JRSO (Jewish Restitution Successor Organization)
Wiesbaden collecting point number: 3208
Accession number: B50.02.0560;118/024
Filigreed Hanukkah lamps like these are known as Ba’al Shem Tov lamps because they were created in the region of the Ukraine where the Ba’al Shem Tov (Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, founder of the Hasidic movement) lived. Fashioned with silver-thread lacework, the lamps are all made to look like elegant sofas or benches, and their candle sockets like a row of tiny oil jars on a shelf. The lamps differ from one another in terms of the decorations on the back plate, which include a row of columns, a small Torah ark, and the eastern wall of a synagogue. The back plate is sometimes surmounted by birds, or a large crown flanked by lions, or by a crowned eagle, emblem of the Russian Czar.


Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Yair Hovav