Architect Richard Meier is best known for his light touch. From his soaring glass condominiums on Perry Street and Prospect Park to classically modern Hamptons estates, Meier has made a career of stately yet straightforward buildings.
That is what makes the menorah he just created for the Jewish Museum such a shocker.
Each of the eight candleholders (not counting the shamash, of course!) represents a different catastrophe visited on the Jewish people. Here is how Meier described it in a release:
Each candleholder is an abstracted representation of an architectural style from significant moments of persecution in the history of Jews. The first being the expulsion of the Jews from Egypt and the last symbolizing the towers of the concentration camps in Germany. These are not intended as literal representations of specific events but rather as reminders of the common past and struggles that Jewish people have suffered and their resilience and strength that is so wonderfully captured by the Hanukkah story.
As the illustration above shows, the eight are: an Egyptian obelisk, from the time under Pharaoh; a Roman column, for the expulsion from Palestine; a castle tower, representing the 1290 eviction from England; a cathedral window, for the 1310 French expulsion; the Toledo Synagogue, for the Spanish Inquisition; a bit of baroque Vienna, the one happy holder celebrating the 1890 emancipation; a Russian Constructivist tower, representing the pogroms; and an ominous smokestack, for the Holocaust.
That’s some heavy stuff for what is normally one of the few celebratory Jewish holidays. (What do you want? We’re a complex people!)
Should the menorah’s $1,000 price tag prove too much, Meier has also turned out three of the towers as mezuzot, also available from the Jewish Museum for $125 a pop.