A new take on the traditional form of the menorah is now on view at the South Street Seaport. Created by artist and Chasidic Rabbi, Yitzchok Moully, the nautical menorah was inspired by the maritime history of the seaport and is meant to evoke the image of a ship’s sail. The 15-foot-tall structure embodies the blending of Jewish tradition and a hopeful look toward the future.
The tradition of lighting a giant public menorah only dates back to the 1970s in the United States when the tradition started in cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia. Jewish law dictates many aspects of the design of public menorahs, so building one can get complicated. The main body of the largest menorah in the world, which stands outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, tops out at the highest permissible height of 32 feet (an extended shamash stretches it to 36-feet giving it the record). The artist Yitzchok Moully is creatively pushing the boundaries of what a menorah can be.
His latest design, the stainless steel Seaport Menorah commissioned by the Howard Hughes Corporation for the historic Seaport District, doesn’t look much like a traditional menorah, but more like a boat about to take sail. The shamash, the central candle used to light the others each night, stands tall at the top of a central pole. Eight lights reach out on a perch that juts out of the right side of the structure. A cable connecting the shamash to the perpendicular pole creates a triangular shape which gives the illusion of a ship’s large sail. A triangular metal plate on the other side looks like a smaller sail. These nautical references pay homage to the Seaport’s important history as a world-class port.
“A fundamental element of the Mitzvah of Chanukah is to light the candles in public. To light up the darkness. In my work as an artist and rabbi, I want to take that concept one step further and not just create light in the public sphere, but create beautiful artistic expressions of the joy and love of Judaism, in the public sphere,” Moully told Untapped New York. He has been creating interactive Hanukah-inspired art for years in different cities across the country. Last year, he unveiled a “Living Lights” menorah outside the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn. In order for the lights to glow, they had to be activated by human touch.
You can see the Seaport Menorah lit up for each night of Hanukah at the Heineken Riverdeck on the north side of Pier 17, overlooking the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge. The Seaport Menorah will be a permanent fixture of the district’s annual Hanukah celebrations. Moully plans to unveil a new special menorah every year moving forward. He already has multiple plans in the works for next year’s menorah which will be placed in London, England. “We have multiple concepts in the works, one being a mechanical Menorah where each of the arms rotates independently. I’m working on a green, self-sustaining, self-powering Menorah, as well as using light, not just for the top of the menorah but the body as well,” Moully told Untapped New York. The future of creative Menorah art is looking bright!
Next, check out 8 Giant Menorahs in NYC