Making Hanukkiyot

by Laurie Bellet

I having been asked recently for project ideas to create functional, beautiful hanukkiyot that are fire safe when the candles burn all the way down. This is a tough one.

As many of you have painfully discovered, families do not always use proper caution when burning candles in the ‘traditional’ wood base with hex nut candle holders and the low flame has ignited more than one family’s holiday table. Others of you may have learned that, if you have used the projects featuring pieces that can be glued with ordinary school glue, the heat from burning candles can loosen the glue and render the creation unstable.

Before we consider the options, it is reasonable to second guess the value of making hanukkiyot in the supplemental classroom. I think that making hanukkiyot is best left to youth events, family education and party times because the time spent, while admittedly entertaining is not educationally productive. With that cautionary note out of the way…

Hex nuts are no longer a necessary component of class made hanukkiyot. You can purchase Hanukkah candle cups from Judaic Art Kits or from Benny’s. Benny’s also sells metal bases for hanukkiyot. These take mosaic tiles beautifully. Of course, send home a note of caution with any collage supply you attach because they can either melt or flame up. Benny’s also sells plaster molds for hanukkiyot. I am not too keen on these. Plaster mixes are not created equal and their strength is very dependent on the correct mixture balance. Plaster does tend to crumble and these are time consuming to mass produce.

The Craft Shop offers a fine selection of wood hanukkiyot wit metal candle holders embedded in the wood. Last year I used the RamBam style. The Jewish Studies teachers and I coordinated so that the children made their menorot in my art room at the same time that the other teachers taught Maimonides. In the art room we also compared this menorah with the menorah described in. the Torah.

All in all, I am a fan of hanukkiyot that are created for their display value. The Craft Shop has a foam style collage menorah that was a big hit with my kindergarteners.

This year we are using their wood menorah “with candles”(also wood). Although featured for young children, my 6th graders are loving this piece. (A quick word in my defense—I am an art specialist and this menorah is the ‘canvas’ for their final project in color theory!) I did find that this wood splits easily but is just as easily repaired with Carpenters Glue. The Craft Shop also sells a terrific and strong, self-standing cardstock menorah. A 4th grade Judaic Studies colleague is using this piece as the base for her Hanukkah writing assignments!

My friend Ahuva makes hanukkiyot with a wood base wrapped in 36 gauge copper tooling foil She tacks the foil under the wood base, wraps it around the front, over the top and then bends the foil so it extends upward as a back to the hanukkiyah. The students can engrave designs and color them with permanent marker. Candle cups are attached with Tacky Glue. My cautionary note is that I have never burned candles all the way down in this product so I cannot speak to its ultimate safety. As always, send it home with a ‘fire safety’ warning.

Happily, there are more basic art activities you can do for Hanukkah that are rewarding. Although many teachers fall back on using blue and yellow, I concentrate on doing art with warm colors such as red, orange and yellow. For students, illustrating the ways Hanukkah is ‘warm’is a thought provoking venture. Micrography, drawing with words and letters, intrigues students. You can draw hanukkiyot using the names of family members and friends, Hanukkah-related vocabulary or brakhot. Prismacolor colored pencils or Crayola metallic pencils will draw on dark color paper. To draw a dreidel, all you need is a square, a triangle and a small rectangle for a handle. Outline a dreidel very lightly; fill it with colorful words of a story, Maccabee history, brakhot and erase the outline. The result is delightful! Alternatively, outline the dreidel lightly; write your words with narrow marker or gel pen along the outline and gently erase the pencil outline.

Designing a Hanukkah blessing illumination is always splendid. At your office supply store, purchase translucent vellum paper. Run the paper through the copier with the Hanukkah brakhot. Offer students a variety of Hanukkah designs and clip art. The designs can be seen and traced onto the vellum with permanent markers. When the designs are completed, students can ‘illuminate’ their work with touches of gold paint.

There is so much you can do and, of course, not nearly enough time!