Forgotten Judaica Brings Ancient Craftsmanship to Modern Celebrations

This Providence-based maker keeps the ancient arts alive with cast menorahs and more

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It’s hard to fathom how old bronze is: Smiths have been mixing copper with other alloys for 5,000 years, and they’ve used wax molds to shape the metal for nearly as long. Ancient Israelites were already masters of the form before the Maccabees smelted their first menorah.

Tradition is a lynchpin of Jewish culture, and Forgotten Judaica was founded to keep these ancient arts alive. The online store offers high-quality items, such as Stars of David and Seder plates, cast in nickel, sterling silver, and, yes, bronze. Providence native Lisa Van Allsburg and her family have spent decades traveling through Eastern Europe and the Middle East, searching for authentic relics from the Hebraic diaspora. Van Allsburg started the website with her brother, David Morrison, along with other traditional crafters.

“It’s very important that these traditions, these Jewish rituals, are not forgotten,” says Van Allsburg in an introductory video, “that they continue to be practiced and are important in the home.”

Some of these items will look familiar, whether you celebrate Hanukkah or not: The Abraham’s Tree Menorah actually looks like a Mediterranean trunk with spreading branches. The Carpets of Jerusalem are handspun and depict sacred landmarks, such as Mount Sinai and King David’s Tower. You don’t have to be a Talmud scholar to know what Shabbat candlesticks are for, and these bronze sculptures look like leafy branches connecting two holders.

But the Forgotten Judaica catalog also lists some lesser-known artifacts, and traditionalists will be overjoyed to find Mezuzah cases, shaped like animals, which contain tiny scrolls and can be nailed to any surface. The Tzedakah box, topped with a realistic-looking bronze hand, is designed to collect alms for important causes.

Our favorite: The sterling silver Yad – or “pointer” – that any Bar/Bat Mitzvah veteran will instantly recognize. Devotees use these elaborate little rods to follow written scripture, ensuring that the reader doesn’t actually touch the Torah’s pages. Like all the Forgotten Judaica items, the Yadim are created to last – not just for years, but for generations. 

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