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  1. German artist Gebrder Gutgesell, 190326
    During World War II, this menorah's Belgian owners fled to the United States, leaving the heirloom in their apartment. When they returned after the war, they found the artifact intactand continued to light it with their family (the lamp was donated to the museum by the couple's daughter after their deaths). "Hanukkah is a holiday about a miracle," notes Libeskind. "The miracle of light and the miracle of a menorah that was to be saved in those horrible times."

  2. Photograph: John Parnell
    Photograph: John Parnell

    NYC architect Richard Meier, 1985
    This copper lamp's candleholders symbolize trying periods in Jewish history. The candlestick farthest to the right resembles the chimney of a crematorium, evoking the Holocaust; on the left, an obelisk represents slavery and exodus in Egypt.

  3. Photograph: Richard Goodbody
    Photograph: Richard Goodbody

    Unknown artist, 186772
    When former President George W. Bush requested a menorah from the museum to be used during the White House's Hanukkah celebration in 2001, Braunstein sent him this 19th-century silver piece. Measuring nearly three and a half feet tall, it is among the most ornate lamps in the museum's collection.

  4. Photograph: Richard Goodbody
    Photograph: Richard Goodbody

    Unknown artist, 18th or 19th century
    This antique menorah features a depiction of the Greek myth "The Judgment of Paris," in which the Trojan mortal Paris (who would later abduct Helen and cause the Trojan War) deems Aphrodite the most beautiful goddess. The menorah suggests that during the 18th and 19th centuries, when ancient Greek mythology and iconography became popular, Italian Jews were also caught up in the trend. "Everyone [in Italy] was hot for classical themes," explains Braunstein. "Jews were just like everyone else, collecting and ordering things that had classical motifs on them."

Daniel Libeskind's "Hanukkah Project"

The Jewish Museum partners with a starchitect for its new exhibit.

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RECOMMENDED: Guide to Hanukkah in NYC

Hanukkah may not begin for two more weeks (the official start is at sundown on December 1), but the Jewish Museum invites visitors to mark the occasion a bit early with the debut of its latest exhibit, "A Hanukkah Project: Daniel Libeskind's Line of Fire," opening Friday 19. The show is a collaboration between the museum and famed architect Daniel Libeskind, whose projects include the master plan for the new World Trade Center; for this installation, Libeskind worked with Susan Braunstein, the museum's curator of archaeology and Judaica, to commemorate those eight crazy nights. "Hanukkah is a celebration of freedom," says Libeskind. "[It's] a 2,000-year-old expression of the Jewish will to live in liberation from oppression." A 32-foot-long, bright-red pedestal that looks like a jagged lightning bolt anchors the exhibit; it also represents the titular line of fire, and is a motif that appears throughout Libeskind's body of work (his design for the Jewish Museum in Berlin incorporates a similar shape). The platform holds 40 menorahs from the museum's extensive collection (which were chosen by Braunstein), dating as far back as the 17th century. For the architect, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Poland after World War II, the exhibit symbolizes the conviction of the Jewish people to continue in the face of hardship. "The zigzags make up a line that moves across many difficulties and obstacles and in unexpected ways, but ultimately is always directed to the ideal of human dignity," he explains. Visitors are invited to walk around and examine each lamp closely, enjoying a more intimate experience than simply looking at pieces behind glass. "[People will] almost feel like they can lift the menorahs up and put them on their windowsills," says Libeskind. Find out the stories behind four of our favorites.

LIGHT THE CANDLES! "A Hanukkah Project: Daniel Libeskind's Line of Fire": The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave at 92nd St (212-423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org). Mon, Tue, Sat, Sun 11am5:45pm; Thu 11am8pm; Fri 11am4pm. $12, seniors $10, students $7.50, children under 12 free. Nov 19Jan 30.

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