NO, YOU CAN’T USE A DIPTYQUE CANDLE FOR SHABBAT. Help! I’m Shopping for Judaica for the Very First Time

NO, YOU CAN’T USE A DIPTYQUE CANDLE FOR SHABBAT. Help! I’m Shopping for Judaica for the Very First Time

By Mathew Swenson

Shopping for Judaica is something I’ve never done. Now that Chanukah is around the corner, I’ve been rethinking about what it means to own Judaica, which feels like a step not only into adulthood, but a way for me to tangibly get a grasp of my own spirituality and traditions. The issue here? I’m lacking basic supplies. I don’t have a menorah, as I stopped celebrating the holiday as a child. My relationship with Shabbat is more present but a bit more pathetic. In the past, on the off chance I lit Shabbat candles, they were two random ones I had scavenged from my home, one portly and one slender—both scented!—that had been lying around. Only recently did I pick up modest tea lights from a Hasidic store. As for the plastic mezuzah I have on my door? Well, it’s hanging on by an adhesive thread. (Full disclosure: It fell I used gum to re-stick it.)

So where to start as I intend to upgrade? Luckily, there are a few new labels seeking to modernize traditional wares. Via Maris, by Dana Hollar Schwartz, has created designs that are elevated and streamlined, meaning they can really fit in any home. The brand’s Shabbat candle holder comes inter-connected in soothing colors with names like “Sand,” “Clay,” and “Cloud.” But my favorite offering is a mezuzah which Vogue contributor Lauren Mechling referred to as “a brilliantly conceived mezuzah that looks not unlike a high-design vape pen.” Talk about speaking to my millennial soul. 

Then there’s Judaica Standard Time, the line of Jewish objets d’art ideal for menschy fit gods. It was created out of Los Angeles by an artist trifecta including Michael David, Jesse Kivel, and David Kitz. Their menorahs remind me of an avant-garde pier: The main candle to light, traditionally in the middle, is now at the end. With the “Modular Menorah,” each candle holder is disconnected from the others and can be arranged in a straight line or as a clumped-together square. These pieces come in hues—or what they refer to as glazes—such as “squid ink” and “sparrow.”

When I ask my friends what they are into, their choices run the gamut. Some of them are obsessed with this new world of cool Judaica. They love these redefined classics which feel a world away from those physically cumbersome old-world metals. Some friends have taken to shopping from Etsy, like one who sent me swirly candles resembling a funky pasta. I did some browsing of menorahs there and was totally taken by an electronic menorah that was described as “proudly techy.” It was decked with circuits and is titled “Model 1.” (It might be a good option for me: My apartment’s smoke detector doesn’t work!) Another featured the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a candle sprouting out of her head that read “I Dissent.” (It’s cheeky and surely a fit for someone out there but I'll admit it gets an “oy vey” from me.)