A menorah for each night of Chanukah
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A menorah for each night of Chanukah

Roslyn Handler can be excused if she isn’t quite sure which menorah she’ll be lighting to celebrate Chanukah next month.

Her apartment at Lester Senior Housing in Whippany, one of the five communities that make up the Jewish Community Housing Corporation in northern New Jersey, houses a collection of menorahs that at present consists of about 50 pieces – with many others having been passed on to her five children over the years. They cost anywhere from a couple of dollars to as much as $2,500, come in all shapes and sizes, and are made of everything from silver to wood, glass to iron, seashells to brass.

These menorahs will be on display next month in an activities room at the independent and assisted living facility to help kick off Chanukah, which begins on Dec. 11.

They include classic menorahs as well as ornate, one-of-a-kind designs (including a replica of a menorah on display at the Jewish Museum). Some artists’ creations stretch the imagination as to what constitutes a menorah.

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Roslyn Handler displays one of her many menorahs.

Several of Handler’s menorahs are so heavy, two hands are needed to lift them, and one, which rests behind a sofa in her living room, stands nearly five feet tall. They include a carved Moses-like figure holding aloft a candleholder, both wood-carved and cast-iron figures of menorahs designed with lions, and a gold-plated menorah with retractable branches.

Handler, who traveled extensively with her late husband Archie, a physician who practiced for many years in Passaic County, bought many of her treasures while shopping abroad. She purchased her first while traveling in Israel soon after the 1967 war. Each evokes memories of past travels, whether it was to the Arab section of Jerusalem, a Haitian factory, a Caribbean Island, or an underground “city” in London.

“In each case, there was something that just struck me about the menorah,” she said. “It’s just something you feel…. There is really none of them that I could point to as my favorite. I love them all.”

Born in Jersey City, Handler raised her family in Passaic and Clifton before moving to South Florida. She returned to this area about five years ago to be closer to her children.

It’s no surprise that they are also collectors, with collections that include antiques, dolls, silver coins, and baseball cards.

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