Poster Menorah
The Menorah that Mindy Ratner found in a curio shop in Chinatown in Philadelphia.
MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

A special menorah

I've managed to collect several menorahs over the years, and one of my favorites came into my hands quite unexpectedly. It happened in the early 1980s, and I lived and worked in Philadelphia at the time.

Just at the edge of Center City (that's what "downtown" is called if you're from Philly), and not far from my workplace, was the city's Chinatown — modest in size, and with some very good restaurants.

I happened into a shop in the neighborhood one day, looking for a particular item; my beau at the time had little interest in my errand, and he idly gazed around at the offerings of the store.

All of a sudden, he pointed upward and exclaimed "What's that doing here?!" I looked up and saw, balanced on the top of a display case, an old-fashioned menorah. I asked the owner if I could look at it, my heart pounding all the while, and when it was brought down, I saw that it was tagged "Jewish brass $20".

And when I inquired as to how it had come into her shop, she told me her son had found it in the garbage! They knew it was something Jewish because of the Hebrew on it, but had no idea of its ritual significance.

I don't use it every year, but when Chanukah comes, the image of that old menorah with its Ten Commandments tablets and its lions is always with me…

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