A Hanukkah menorah Smulovitz created in 2009 made of hand-carved walnut, cast glass and sterling silver, which is part of the permanent collection of The Jewish Museum in New York City, is on display as part of the museum’s exhibition, Accumulations: Hanukkah Lamps.
Among the ritual objects associated with Jewish holidays, the Hanukah menorah, or Hanukiah, is among the most recognizable to those outside of Judaism, said Smulovitz.
Hanukah, also known as The Festival of Lights, commemorates the victory of the Jews over the Syrian Greeks in 164 B.C.E. According to the story, Jews found only enough ritual oil in the desecrated temple to light the temple menorah (a seven-branch candelabra) for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, allowing enough time to make more oil. Hanukiot (the plural of Hanukiah) have nine candles, one for each of the eight days of Hanukah, and a ninth candle, the shamash, that is used to light the others.
“Jewish ritual objects hold the essence of Jewish life and culture. Creating contemporary Judaica allows me to examine contemporary issues through the Jewish tradition,” said Smulovitz. “It is not a religious interest that draws me toward making Judaica, but a cultural interest and an interest as a silversmith in creating work that has a ritual function. I am drawn to functional objects because of their interactive qualities. The people who use these objects understand them both visually and tactilely, and relate to them on a personal level. I enjoy searching for the psychological ‘why’ of religious practices.”
The exhibition includes 75 Hanukkah Lamps from the museum’s permanent collection and runs through Sept. 19, 2019.
An exhibition, Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts, features two of Smulovitz’s necklaces from her White Collar series. The exhibition, curated by Suzanne Ramljak, former editor in chief of Metalsmith magazine, runs through April 21, 2019.