Joyce Brown’s Menorahs are featured at the Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery in Lake Worth.
Brown, of Greenacres, was raised in a secular Yiddish family by parents who wanted to preserve their culture and religion.
“Their pride in the struggle and survival of the Jewish people translated into the need to work for peace and social justice for all oppressed peoples around the globe,” Brown said. To that end, they organized and marched for peace, civil rights and civil liberties and ingrained that tradition in their children.
Brown has her own ways of keeping her family’s tradition alive. Making Menorahs is one of them.
And to pass those memories down, she lights one of her Shtetl Menorahs with her two grandchildren Ariana, 11, and Liana, 9 in celebration of Hanukkah
, which starts December 11.
“Many of the Menorahs I make are reflective of the Russian Shtetl, Kalarash, where my grandmother, Bella Deutsch, lived,” she said.
For Bella and her little sister, Hannah, chores were constant and necessary and education was limited, but they were taught to read.
The girls dressed in long wide skirts with plaid aprons tied around their waists. Their braided hair was covered with scarves folded in triangles and knotted in back at the nape of their necks.
The Deutsch family were the winemakers of the village, and Bella and Hannah, played among the grapes in their father’s vineyard.
“They played games that would take them into the barn, up into the hayloft and under the piles of hay and oats,” Brown said. “They loved to tunnel in the hay.
“Then there came a blackness in Russia that festered and oozed and erupted without warning,” she said. “The Czar’s Cossacks rode from village to village looting, destroying, pillaging and murdering Jews. In Russia, the Jews looked, dressed and worshiped differently and that made them perfect scapegoats.”
When the Cossacks arrived in Kalarash, they slaughtered everyone in sight. Then they burned the houses.
Bella and Hannah ran to the barn and hid in the tunnels of hay they had built. “The Cossacks came into the barn. They knew someone was hiding somewhere inside. They slashed at the hay with their pitchforks and axes.
“The girls had been trained to hide quietly, and even as the axes tore into their flesh, they did not cry out and their lives were saved. They bore the lifelong scars of that day.
“They never saw their parents again.”
She was told this story by her grandfather over and over. Brown has been making Menorahs for 15 years. She makes them to remember.
Presently, there are seven of her Menorahs at Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery. They can also be commissioned. The gallery is at 605 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday starting December. For information, call (561) 588-8344.