Maurice Sendak is best known as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, most famously, “Where the Wild Things Are,” and more recently, “Bumble-Ardy,” published this year. Sendak, who was born to Polish Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn and lost much of his family in the Holocaust, also illustrated Isaac Bashevis Singer’s children’s story “Zlateh the Goat,” which received the Newbery Award, and “In Grandpa’s House,” written by his father, Philip Sendak. Needless to say, his Jewish roots run deep.
Now, Sendak has giving those feelings a different kind of expression by curating The Jewish Museum’s annual exhibit of Hanukkah Lamps, or Hanukkiot, selected from the museum’s extensive collection. Many of Sendak’s choices originate in Eastern Europe and recall the family that he lost there during the Holocaust. “I stayed away from everything elaborate. I kept looking for very plain, square ones, very severe looking,” he said. “Their very simplicity reminded me of the Holocaust. And I thought it was inappropriate for me to be thinking of elaboration.” The exhibit, on view until January 29, also includes original drawings from Sendak’s collaboration with Singer and with his father.
View a slideshow of Hanukkah lamps selected by Maurice Sendak:
Slideshow: Maurice Sendak’s Hanukkah Lamps
Ezra Glinter is the critic-at-large of the Forward.