This evening Jews will light their menorahs for the first night of Hanukkah. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the Jewish holiday begins at sundown on the 16th of December and ends eight days later on the evening of the 24th. Even though my half-Jewish mother is not religious at all (and this seems like the perfect time to ask “Who is a Jew?”), one of my memories as a kid was playing with a dreidel, a four-sided spinning top, which is used during Hanukkah.
There are a number of dreidel collections at Jewish institutions such as the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago and Yeshiva University in New York City, but Rabbi Sara Perman probably wins the game with a personal collection of 600 dreidels. Some of the diverse materials used include glass, clay, and crystal with sizes ranging from teeny-tiny to 3 feet high. She once had a dream that she would find “something” on a trip to Jerusalem, and sure enough, she did. It was her “mystic dreidel”, one of her favorites, carved by Catriel Sugarman, a well-known craftsman, out of a smooth piece of ebony.
But there are also some quirky items in the collection, like a ballerina dreidel, a Braidel with braille lettering, a dreidel from China that is erroneously lettered, a Mickey Mouse dreidel, and a pomegranate-shaped dreidel whose leaves open when it is given a spin. Perman’s collection has been displayed at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in her hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Let’s hope she doesn’t keep spinning נ (nun), because that means nothing happens, and that would be a shame if her dreidels weren’t on display in a museum again.