MONTREAL — What is believed to be the earliest known Canadian-made ceremonial chanukiyah has been identified by Eiran Harris, archivist emeritus of Montreal’s Jewish Public Library Archives.
It was discovered in the collection of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Canada’s oldest existing Ashkenazi congregation, founded in 1858. The chanukiyah is now prominently displayed in the synagogue’s Edward Bronfman Museum.
In 1904, during his presidency of the congregation, Lyon Cohen donated the brass chanukiyah to the synagogue on the occasion of his son’s bar mitzvah.
The 40-by-32-centimetre candelabra was cast at the W.R. Cuthbert Brass Foundry, which was owned by the Cohen family. In his youth, prior to achieving international renown as a poet and singer, Lyon Cohen’s grandson, Leonard, worked at the foundry, Harris said.
On the base is engraved the following, “Presented to Shaar Hashomayim Congregation by Lyon Cohen, President, on the occasion of the Bar Mitzvah of his eldest son, Chanukah 5665, December 3, 1904.”
The eldest son was Nathan “Natty” Bernard Cohen, Leonard’s father.
Lyon Cohen would become the first president of Canadian Jewish Congress in 1919.
Harris is confident of his claim. “No other older Canadian-made chanukiyah in Canada or anywhere else has been identified,” he said.
“Hundreds of Chanukah lamps are displayed in museums throughout the world as examples of ornate Jewish art produced in various countries. Now a Canadian example is also proudly displayed,” Harris said.