Photo Credit: courtesy, Thomas Gelb
A 19th century menorah from pre-Holocaust Prague, now owned by Judaica collector Thomas Gelb, becomes the centerpiece at a Hanukah party hosted by the Turkish Consulate in New York.

A 19th century synagogue menorah from Prague will be the centerpiece next week at the first-ever Hanukah menorah lighting ceremony to be held in a Muslim embassy.

This 19th century menorah from pre-Holocaust Prague is now owned by Judaica collector Thomas Gelb.

The Consulate General of Turkey in New York, and the Embassy of Turkey in Washington DC are set to host the Hanukah celebration on the evening of the fourth candle, December 21, at “Turkish House” in New York City.


But how did a 19th century menorah from Prague end up being the star of a Hanukah party hosted by Turkey?

It started with a man named Ron “from Chabad” who is president of the Turkish Jewish Society in New York and New Jersey, and his friend named Thomas Gelb, owner of an extensive Judaica collection, who purchased the menorah decades ago.

“I was invited by my friend Ron to a special Hanukah party being held of all places, and to my amazement, at the Turkish Consulate in New York,” Gelb told in a series of email interviews this past week.

“The party was all ready to go, but the Turkish Consulate does not own a menorah, and reached out to Ron for help. Ron knows about my extensive Judaica collection and asked me to help him,” Gelb explained.

“This candelabra was rescued along with Sefer Torahs and other pieces from a Czech shul shortly before it was set ablaze and destroyed during Kristallnacht by the Nazi occupiers,” he went on.

Gelb’s specialty, however, is not menorahs; it’s Havdalah spice boxes (“Besamim”). The collector owns several hundred of the sacred objects from the 17th century on up to modern and contemporary pieces, and it was this collection that prompted his friend Ron to ask about a menorah.

Some of the magnificent Havdalah Besamim spice boxes owned by Judaica collector Thomas Gelb.

The menorah has been kept in a safe deposit box and taken out only for Hanukah, but not lit — but for the first time, Gelb said he agreed to light the menorah “at [his] Chabad” on Sunday, the first night of Hanukah. It will then be lit on Wednesday, the fourth night of Hanukah, at the Turkish Consulate.

The menorah is more than two feet tall, made with silver plate resting on a heavy Rococo base, hand formed with bulb decorated arms in a typically Eastern European style. The flower-designed candle holders are repousse formed and “amazingly all intact, including the original shamash,” Gelb said.

“I am very glad that this precious artifact was selected and will be lit up and shown at this special event in lieu of a previously suggested menorah from Walmart,” he added. “I am very moved and proud and looking forward to this great event.”


Previous articleLights, Latkes, and LEGOs
Next articleTaking Responsibility
Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.