My wife and I inherited this Chanukiah from my late father, who bought it in Cleveland in the 1950s. Could you tell us more about its provenance and Nordia more generally?
Yes, your Chanukah menorah, or Chanukiah, was made by the Nordia company, as it is marked as such under the base. Nordia was an arts and crafts workshop founded in 1950 in Israel by Hungarian Holocaust survivors living in the Sharon valley moshav (settlement) by the same name, referencing Max Nordau (1849-1923), co-founder of the World Zionist Organization, philosopher, writer, orator, physician, and also a Hungarian.
Reuven Dayagi was the designer of Nordia wares, many of which were heavily influenced by the older Art Deco style. Nordia produced an array of items such as trivets and napkin holders, and a few types of Chanukah menorahs. At its peak, Nordia employed 40 people from the Nordia moshav and the neighboring city of Netanya.
Doing some research, I located a color sales catalog of Israeli Chanukah menorahs offered at wholesale prices to American stores by the Israeli firm Wolsky. Your Chanukah menorah is depicted in it, and this catalog has a date of 1959. After Nordia closed its doors for business, Reuven Dayagi and his brother Moshe opened their own arts and crafts workshop called, naturally, Dayagi. They employed 50 people, including many who had previously worked at Nordia.
Your Chanukah menorah appears regularly in the marketplace, and has a value of $75-$100.
I hope this finds you well. I love your column. This besamim box used to belong to my grandparents. Presumably it was made in Israel based on the “Jerusalem” markings, but I know nothing about it. Anything you could tell me about it would be appreciated. Thank you.
Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate it. Yes, the outside of your olivewood box is stamped in black ink “Jerusalem” in Hebrew and English; however, it is not a box to hold spices for the end of Shabbat. Its original purpose was to hold stamps!
Your little box was one of a number of pieces that made up an olivewood lap desk set, which included an ink blotter, ink well, and more, that was marketed to tourists visiting Jerusalem. It’s understandable that this box was adapted as a besamim holder, as it suits that purpose well. However, it is a stamp holder, and judging by the font and styling of the Jerusalem markings, it was made sometime during the 1930s. The value is minimal, $10-$15.
My deceased brother bought this at an auction because it had his Hebrew name, Shimon, on it. It appears to be too small for either a tallit or tefillin bag. What was its function? So glad The Jewish Press publishes your column.
Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate it. Although it may appear to be too small to be a tefillin bag, that’s exactly what it is. We are used to tefillin boxes and straps made of a certain size, but if you come across tefillin made before World War II, you will often find that the boxes and straps are significantly smaller than what is generally seen today. In some cases, the tefillin are so small that when found, they are described as “miniature.”
Your bag was made in Morocco, sometime between 1900 and 1915, and it features the name of the owner, Shimon Atzeraf. Values of these types of Moroccan tefillin bags can vary, with factors such as condition, decoration, and overall eye appeal determining the dollar figure. Your bag appears to be in fantastic condition. Value: $300-$400.
I enjoy reading your articles in The Jewish Press and I was wondering if you could tell me any information about these Shabbos candlesticks that have been in my family for generations. They measure 13.5 inches high.
Silver Spring, MD
Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate it. In early 20th-century America, there was an industry based on the East Coast for manufacturing Judaica for the teeming numbers of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The two most blatant examples of brass candelabrums that fit this category are a three-light example with a pair of lions enclosing a Star of David, and a five-light example with rampant deer enclosing a cast Hebrew inscription stating “To Kindle the Light of the Holy Sabbath.”
Today, when found, these candelabrums are frequently misidentified as originating from Europe by descendants of the original owners. Your candlestick/candelabra is a common example of this “Jewish-American” type, and because there is no overt Jewish symbol or Hebrew wording such as those on the aforementioned examples, these were sometimes purchased by non-Jews as well. I have lost count of the number of examples identical to yours that I have seen at flea markets, as these were made in enormous numbers. Value: $20-$25.