Hanukkah lamps, or Hannukiot, are candelabra characterized by nine candle branches and used in the ritual candle-lighting associated with the celebration of Hanukkah, the festival that commemorates the 165 B.C.E. liberation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah lamps were made up of eight oil wells or candle-holders, separated from a ninth traditionally used as a shamash, or server, to light the others. These lamps remain distinct from menorahs, which generally have seven candle branches and are not associated with a specific use or holiday. Hanukkah lamps were present in European synagogues by about the 13th century, and often designed in the form of menorahs or as standing table lamps.
The Hanukkah lamp currently on display was made in 1999 by New York City silversmith Bernard Bernstein in his Bronx, New York workshop. A quintessential New Yorker, Bernstein was born and raised in the city, attended the High School of Music and Art, graduated from City College of New York and New York University, and began his career as a teacher of industrial arts in New York and New Jersey schools. He began making silver Judaica in 1959 after taking a class with the German-Israeli silversmith Ludwig Y. Wolpert (1900–1981), a world-renowned expert in Jewish ceremonial metalwork. The lamp was acquired by the New-York Historical Society in 2010 and will be through January 8, 2012. The lamp will also be featured in the forthcoming catalogue and 2012 exhibition, Stories in Sterling.