Sunday, October 29, 2006

Candelabra, not Menorah

I promised you the story of the candles at Belfast's synagogue when I posted about our fascinating visit there last Sunday.

An overseas donor heard that the new synagogue was being built on Belfast’s Somerton Road and commissioned an Israeli artist (N H Azaz, now based in the UK) to design a large bronze menorah for the new building to be mounted on the Portland stone east well. (See the second entry under 1965.)

Side note: A menorah normally has seven candlesticks, all the same length, with none more prominent than the others. Those are the important features.

But artistic licence took over from religious observance when shaping the bronze menorah. When it arrived in Belfast they discovered that the normal symmetry was missing, and the candle holders were all over the place. Beautiful, not no longer religiously appropriate.

Should they send it back? Well the cost of postage would be prohibitive! And the donor might be offended. So they came to a typical Northern Ireland compromise.

They asked the shipyard (Harland and Wolff) to weld on another two bronze candle holders, bringing the total number to nine, so there would be no chance of confusing it with a traditional menorah. (Though some menorahs do have nine candlesticks.)

And so the “candelabra” was affixed to the East Wall.

But the story’s not over. Guess how many times they’ve lit the candles? Although it has no religious significant, it would still be good to light the nine candles during services, particularly important festivals.

They’ve been lit four times. Three within the first month. Then they realised that the hot wax dripped down over the important luminaries who sit in the front pew.

And the fourth time? For a wedding about a year ago (a fairly rare occurrence given the shrinking number of young people). The bride’s mother scoured Belfast and found non-drip candles And so the candelabra shone out once more.

Since then the non-drip candles have remained in place, but un-lit. Probably too much hassle to reach up to get them lit!


Anonymous said...

so where did she find the candles?

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

In a shop opposite St Marys chapel in Chapel Lane at the side entrance of Castlecourt.