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Press Release

December 10, 2023

Capital Jewish Museum Announces the Loan of a Hanukkah Lamp to the White House Office of the Second Gentleman

Washington, D.C. – The Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum is thrilled to announce the loan of a Hanukkah lamp from its collection to the White House Office of the Second Gentleman, where it will remain for the duration of the holiday. A total of three lamps, from three different organizations, were selected for use across the Vice President’s and Second Gentleman’s home and offices.

The Hanukkah lamp on display in Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff’s office was created by Erwin Thieberger (1908-1987), a Holocaust survivor and coppersmith. Created out of flattened nails and scrap metal, Mr. Thieberger modeled this and his other more recent menorahs after the ones he made in the concentration camps of Europe during WWII.

Thieberger came from a metal working family in Silesia, Poland. He and his wife Hilda, a seamstress, used their skills to survive in work camps during the war, while caring for their young daughter Renee. In 1949, the Thiebergers left a Displaced Persons camp in Germany and emigrated to the United States.

Immigration support was provided by the Gichner family, iron workers who had settled in D.C. in the 1880s and sponsored many of their Jewish relatives in the 1930s and 40s. Thieberger worked as a roofer for the Gichners upon arriving in the DC area. In 1963 he opened an art metal shop in Kensington, Maryland, where he sold hand worked lamps, lanterns, pots, and pans. A recognized artisan, Thieberger’s metal craft was on display at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in 1970, 1972, and 1981.

The idea for a series of menorahs, also known as hanukkiahs, made from nails, evoking the menorahs he had made in the Camps, was to express the darkness of the Jewish past while also providing the light of hope. Thieberger, a proud Marylander and American, gifted his menorahs to the Governor of Maryland and the President of the United States in the late 1970s. This menorah, now in the collection of the Capital Jewish Museum, was presented as a gift to Thieberger’s rabbi, Tzvi Porath of Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Ivy Barsky, Executive Director, noted the important symbolism of the hanukkiah’s visibility, “We are so proud to have this beautiful, humble object grace the Second Gentleman’s office this Hanukkah—and for how well it complements the work he has been doing to shine a light on antisemitism and the resilience of the Jewish people. Made by the artist in Maryland, after having survived the Holocaust, the story of the of this hanukkiah is pointedly local, but has international resonances, like the Capital Jewish Museum itself.”

About the Collection
The Capital Jewish Museum’s collection is composed of historic artifacts, personal and family papers, as well as archival documents and photographs that provide a rich, multifaceted glimpse into Jewish life in Washington D.C., suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia from the 1850s to the present day. It is a collection which reflects a history that is at once local, national, and international. The collection includes more than 24,000 digital and print photographs, 1,050 objects, and 800 linear feet of archival materials.

About the Capital Jewish Museum
The new Capital Jewish Museum opened to the public in June 2023. The Museum explores the Jewish experience in the national capital region and inspires visitors to connect, reflect, and act: connect personally and collectively, reflect on the relevance of the past to today, and act on behalf of their communities and values. With its experimental spirit, the Museum connects the past to the present through thought provoking exhibitions, dynamic programming, and creative public experiences.

For more information about the Capital Jewish Museum, please visit: https://capitaljewishmuseum.org.

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Contact

For additional information, please contact:

Maura Scanlon, Communications Specialist
[email protected] | (o) 202-735-352