Presidential menora casts light on NJ men
Manfred Anson did not live long enough to see the menora he designed lit at this month’s White House Hanukka ceremony.
But, according to Morganville physician and art patron Dr. Aaron Feingold, who spoke to the artist’s family, they reveled in the glory.
Anson, a Holocaust survivor who died last year at the age of 90, designed the “Liberty Menora” in 1986, each candle held aloft by a miniature Statue of Liberty.
Feingold had campaigned for a number of years to have the menora used at the White House.
Last week, just days before the White House candle lighting on the last afternoon of Hanukka, word came that the menora would be used in the first of two gatherings.
Feingold, chief cardiologist at JFK Medical Center in Edison, got word in a letter from the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia that the version chosen for this year’s ceremony was the one, cast in 2011, which he had donated to the museum.
An avid collector of art and other memorabilia, Feingold met Anson, who lived in Bergenfield, 22 years ago. They became firm friends, and the doctor supported the artist’s efforts in various ways. Whenever an institution would ask if they could have one of the Liberty menoras, he would serve as patron, paying for its casting.
“I think they are in four different museums now, as well as 20-30 brass ones in private collections,” he said.
He donated the one used at the White House in honor of his 24-year-old twin daughters, Zara and Rachel Feingold.
In pursuit of an invitation to the event, Feingold asked the mayor of Marlboro Township, Jonathan Hornik, who asked his congressman, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Dist. 6), who asked the White House if the patron who had donated the menora could attend.
“They said, of course!” Feingold told NJ Jewish News.
He and his wife, Brenda Leibowitz, joined the 300 or so other guests. “It was a terrific party,” he said. “After a while, it felt like a bar mitzva.”
Lighting the menora was the family of Jacob Schmitter, who is deployed in Afghanistan.
In remarks at the event, President Obama described how Anson escaped from Germany and went on to serve in the Australian Army during World War II. “Like the Maccabees…, he fought against tyranny.” Anson, said the president, “sought a place where he could live his life and practice his religion free from fear,” ultimately settling in America. The menora he designed serves as “a reminder that our country endures as a beacon of hope and of freedom wherever you come from, whatever your faith.”
A second gathering was planned that evening to accommodate the large guest list. Obama told the celebrants that they were having “our own little Hanukka miracle — the party that was supposed to last only one hour will go on for eight!”