Photo Credit: Mod Schwalbe

Psychological studies have shown that an unexpected side effect of trauma can be a surge in creativity. The actual research on this topic is sparse, and much of it anecdotal, but after my sister-in-law Chaya Miller called me for advice about a new art project she was undertaking in response to the massacre in Israel, a quick Google search confirmed that she was not alone in her desire to create something beautiful to counteract the ugliness.

One of Chaya’s inspirations for her project was Yaron Bob, an Israeli artist from Moshav Yated who fashions metal roses and jewelry out of Kassam rockets fired out of Gaza. His platform, called Rockets Into Roses, showcases his art and methodology; his goal is to transform an instrument of death into something beautiful. Chaya’s project, a menorah fashioned out of Bob’s rocket roses, real roses and wire, was born out of a similar sentiment, the desire for transformation.


In order to understand the origin of this unique menorah, it’s essential to understand its artist. As a young girl, influenced by her beloved grandmother’s gorgeous Shabbos and Yom Tov tables, Chaya became interested in presenting things in beautiful ways, creating striking tablescapes and shalach manos arrangements. After high school she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, studying display and exhibit design. As a young mother she started a business called Gift-wrapped, a gift store that offered unique, personalized items presented and wrapped in unusual and innovative ways.

Concurrently, she began partnering with Chai Lifeline, providing exquisite Yom Tov packages for hospitalized patients that included real tablecloths, flower arrangements, and holiday specific items such as honey dishes or seder plates; an ongoing project that continues to bring joy to those who are unable to spend Yom Tov at home. In 2018 she took a flower arranging course in the Botanical Gardens, subsequently falling in love with flowers and the esthetics of their presentation. In 2021 she started shopping for flowers in a new local shop in Brooklyn called Primrose, eventually taking classes there as well, further distinguishing herself as a talented floral artist. Since then she has traveled across the country and around the world to work with prominent floral artists, turning what was once a hobby into a lifelong passion; jokingly sharing with me that it took her 52 years to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up.

In the days following the October 7th massacre, while davening and saying Tehillim for the hostages and the soldiers, Chaya knew that since “creativity is her oxygen,” she needed to find a meaningful, personal way to express her feelings and emotions. Inspired by the increased ahavas Yisrael and unity, she searched for something tangible and artistic to help inspire and uplift other people. During this quest, she happened upon an article about Rockets Into Roses and reached out to Yaron Bob, but was unable to contact him because he had been displaced after the attack. After buying three of his metal roses, the idea for her menorah sculpture started to take shape.

Chaya articulated her thought processes to me as follows: “I am creating a menorah sculpture adorned with iron roses fashioned from the metal of rockets shot into Israel, but blooming with live roses as well. I love how although the roses are metal, their origin reflects real life, and their juxtaposition against the fresh flowers further enhances this theme. I also feel that I am elevating the rocket roses by attaching them to a mitzvah, that of lighting a menorah on Chanukah, a time of miracles. It is meant to represent the transformation of evil into holiness, death into life, and darkness into light. I would like my art to inspire hope as I feel that this menorah reflects our strength and resilience as a nation.”

During the many conversations I had with Chaya in the days leading up to the menorah’s construction, I tried to get her to explain to me exactly what the final product would look like. Much to my surprise, she had no concrete design plan, choosing instead to curate the raw materials and then allowing the creative process to unfold in real time. After the menorah was completed, after the photographer and the videographer had stopped filming, Chaya lit the menorah and one of the roses caught fire and turned black, an unexpected design element that emphasized the beauty of the fresh flowers and attenuated the cold steel of the rocket roses.

She also realized that the design of her menorah, although unplanned, flows in the direction of how you light the candles. It starts off on the left with the steel inanimate flowers, and as it goes to the right it transitions into muted gray carnations and then culminates on the far right into an explosion of blazing red roses. This progression from dark to light, from cold to warm, from death to life, mimics the progression of candles over the eight days of Chanukah, starting with one tiny flame on the left and ending with a full complement of eight glowing candles on the right.

At first Chaya wanted to place her menorah somewhere public in order to share her message of hope with the community. She reached out to flower shops and shuls and various Jewish organizations, but much to her disappointment, no one was interested in showcasing her project. After the menorah came to life she placed it in her front window and suddenly realized why no one had agreed to display her creation. It was obvious then, in a way that it hadn’t been before, that her heart’s work belonged in the place where she could truly make the most impact, a place where she could continue to inspire long after the flowers had wilted and the flames had been extinguished.

She knew that her menorah belonged at home.


Chaya Miller can be reached at @chayasgiftwrapped or 718-755-0323. Photo credit to Mod Schwalbe at 332-333-6543.

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Dr. Chani Miller is an optometrist and writer who lives in Highland Park, N.J., with her family. She is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.