Everyone has their holiday traditions. Whether it’s singing certain songs, or eating specific foods, or even let’s say, collecting eclectic menorahs.
For Randi Weinstein collecting this most iconic Jewish object is exactly what she’s done for 20 years.
With 30 menorahs, the collection ranges from designs with flowers, to alligators, to shoes, to intricate metal work, and to Noah’s Ark. Weinstein’s collection represents the artistry in Judaica and the sheer joy of Hanukkah.
“I try to get a new menorah every year. It’s kind of like my tradition,” Weinstein told me over Facetime, from her home in Charleston, South Carolina.
Weinstein doesn’t look for just any menorah, when scouting for a new piece it her “goal” to maintain the eclectic nature of her collection.
But she doesn’t search for hours on the internet, obsessively looking for more religious objects to fill the glass cabinet in her living room. She mainly buys menorahs from a Temple that has a large gift store with a curated collection of over 20 unusual menorahs. Weinstein likes to make the purchase locally, and where she can physically see the handmade piece before her.
“I get all of these from the same Temple every year and they have a beautiful collection. It started off in this closet-like shop and now it’s in this whole big store within the Temple. They go to New York and various shows and buy different things. . . some of them are works of art and I try to get things that I don’t have, and that don’t look like anything else.”
For Weinstein, one of her favourites is the individual figures that each act as a candle holder and can be moved in various formations.
“You never get bored of it, you can move them in different positions. They can all be dancing around and I feel like the story they alone can tell is kind of cool,” she described.
Then there’s the enamel menorah that has vines and flowers covering the stems with little jewels encased in the design.
“It is the total antithesis of the other ones that are strikingly metal and hard. This is just so delicate. But it’s hard to say, because I do like the ones that are a little bit more contemporary. I have a couple that are truly traditional because I like to go the different route. These are artistic pieces.”
Weinstein first began collecting Judaica 20 years ago, around the time she married her husband. Both brought with them a Tree of Life menorah from their previous marriages, “we both came to the marriage with the same menorah with different finishes that we used to light.”
It was then that she bought her son the Noah’s Ark menorah, which helped her form the start of her collection.
But growing up Hanukkah wasn’t a holiday that especially stood out for Weinstein. The occasion was a fairly traditional affair with one menorah being chosen to light, with another electric one placed on the windowsill. So when she got married to her now-husband she said it was like “Hanukkah reinvented.”
While most of the menorahs have been collected, some have been gifts, like the one her mother-in-law bought from Mexico, or the crocodile menorah bought by her step-daughter, or the fun one from her son which has different shoes as the stem for each candleholder.
For the past few years they’ve been using her mother’s menorah, to commemorate her passing. And while her children have grown and it’s just her and her husband in the house, they still light the candles every night.
“I just love them,” Weinstein said, as she looked at her collection.
The header image and all photos are courtesy of Randi Weinstein.
Clarrie Feinstein is a journalist based in Toronto where she is currently a reporter for Toronto Star. She previously was a reporter for Metroland Media where she covered education in Peel Region. Her other work can be seen in Daily Hive, Business Insider, Salon, and Bedford + Bowery. Clarrie earned her M.A. in journalism from New York University.