For the first time since 2019, Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) will be in person! The event, beginning with a communal candle-lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15, will showcase local talent and the artist behind the United States Postal Service’s 2022 Hanukkah Forever Stamp. To round out the evening, there will be musical performances curated by Nat Seelen of the klezmer band Ezekiel’s Wheels and head of the Boston Festival of New Jewish Music. Simona Di Nepi, curator of Judaica at the museum, and Marietta Cambareri, curator of decorative arts and sculpture, will be on hand to give spotlight talks about the museum’s Judaica collection.

The Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts) has been integral to the annual Hanukkah at the MFA celebration. Laura Mandel, executive director of JArts, recently told JewishBoston that compared to past years, the 2022 event will be scaled back. “I’m excited for this year because it is a magical moment of the Boston Jewish community and beyond coming together to celebrate as one community.” She explained that the spirit of Hanukkah complements this year’s pared-down approach. “Hanukkah is the perfect example of how we can make ‘less is more.'”

Stand Up for What You Believe In With “Brighter Ignited”

“Brighter Ignited” (Courtesy: Tova Speter)

Attendees will get a chance to engage, connect and play with art firsthand. This year, local artist Tova Speter has designed what JArts describes as “an illuminated public art experience.” A mobile art exhibit, “Brighter Ignited,” is a 12-foot illuminated peg board to which 16 communities contributed art. The interactive light display will be parked at the MFA’s Huntington Avenue entrance.

“In the spirit of the Maccabees who kept the flame of their religion, culture and peoplehood alive, viewers are invited to share what moves them to acts of social justice, what they fight for and how they ignite action to stand up for what they believe in,” Speter told JewishBoston. “Viewers move colored pegs to illuminate the designs of over 300 community participants. The shapes on the pegs are all different light sources that connect to a way one might ignite action. People can contribute to ‘Brighter Ignited’ online.”

In many respects, the piece is a continuation of last year’s “Brighter Revealed,” which consisted of artwork from more than 300 participants and more than a dozen partnering schools. A large lantern showcasing this art was placed on a trailer with wheels, traveling to more than 300 locations in the Boston area. It is currently on display at The Station in Fenway and will move to a Christmas tree farm for the rest of December.

Be the Shamash, Bring the Light

“Eight Approaches” by Joshua Meyer

The Hanukkah celebration will feature Joshua Meyer’s MFA debut. The Cambridge-based artist is honored to have his work shown near paintings such as Rembrandt’s self-portraits and the work of Jewish artist Philip Guston.

“I’m thrilled I can be there with all the great artists in the MFA, the Boston Jewish community and Boston’s art community,” Meyer told JewishBoston. CJP awarded Meyer an arts and culture grant to work on what became “Eight Approaches,” eight striking life-size panels shown side-by-side. He began the piece as an early member of CJP’s artists beit midrash.


Meyer did not intend for “Eight Approaches” to be an overtly traditional menorah (with seven candle holders) or hanukkiah (a menorah with nine candle holders specifically for Hanukkah); instead, he aimed to emphasize the representation of light so fundamental to Hanukkah.

“We mark time through the light during Hanukkah. I started to experiment with the concept of how Judaism thinks about time and light using the same kind of tools and techniques that I’m already using,” he explained. “I thought putting these paintings together would be a way to highlight aspects of Hanukkah during which we seek and search every day.”

Meyer uniquely layers his paintings to obscure and reveal figures in a work. In “Eight Approaches,” he deploys that technique and explores extending Hanukkah’s light in metaphor and color. He notes the panels capture “the moment of painting where you’re striving for more light.” As for encapsulating the spirit and energy of Hanukkah in the work, Meyer explains that, in the Hanukkah story, “there isn’t enough oil to light the menorah for more than one day. There is a desperate search for more oil to eke out another day of light. The miracle is that the oil lasted for eight days.”

For “Eight Approaches,” Meyer further notes the viewer is the missing shamash, symbolically bringing their own narrative and interpretation to the work. “The paintings present questions and the viewer has to step in and answer them with their stories. They keep the work alive by interacting with it.”

Get Inspired by the Judaica Artist Who Designed the 2022 USPS Hanukkah Forever Stamp

Jeanette Kuvin Oren
Jeanette Kuvin Oren (Courtesy photo)

Thirty-eight years ago, Jeanette Kuvin Oren stepped away from her Ph.D. work in epidemiology to devote herself to creating commissioned art and graphic design that explicitly integrated Jewish themes. Over the years, Oren’s work has included Torah covers, ark curtains, donor recognition walls, ketubot, wall hangings and many other Judaica items. Additionally, she specializes in large-scale installations that use glass, fiber art, mosaic and papercutting.

Oren’s work is found in more than 400 synagogues and temples from Alaska to Florida. Her creations also appear in international venues. In the Boston area alone, Oren has designed Judaica for 16 synagogues. A wall hanging for which she created a seven-branched menorah for the glass doors of an ark in Temple Shalom in Medford impressed postal service designers looking for the next Hanukkah stamp. At their request, she redesigned the wall hanging menorah into a hanukkiah.

Oren will be at the event handing out papercut art kits she designed and inspired by the art she made for the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) 2022 Hanukkah Forever Stamp. “The kit will enable people of any age to make their papercut version of a nine-branched menorah using a design inspired by my Hanukkah stamp,” she told JewishBoston.

The USPS commission came at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Oren was grateful for the distraction “The news gave me a big lift. The only rule the USPS imposed was that I could not tell anyone. I had to keep it a secret for almost two years and that was hard.”

Hanukkah forever stamp designed by Jeanette Kuvin Oren (Courtesy: Jewish Arts Collaborative)

Once the embargo lifted, Oren drove from her home in suburban New Haven, Connecticut, to Cleveland, Ohio, for the stamp’s unveiling. After the ceremony, stamp collectors lined up to receive “first day covers”—an envelope with the new stamp in the right corner canceled by USPS on the date it was first issued, Oct.20, 2022. After the ceremony, she sent a smaller version of the original wall hanging with nine candle holders to Washington, D.C, to be put on display in the National Postal Museum.

Although having her artwork selected for the 2022 Hanukkah stamp was a great honor, for Oren, it was also personal. She fondly associates philately—stamp collecting—with her grandfather’s impressive collection of American stamps: “My opa [grandfather] was from Berlin. Just before the Holocaust, he brought his immediate family to upstate New York, where he set up his medical practice. And he had a hobby of collecting stamps, particularly American stamps. He was very grateful to the United States for giving his family a home after they escaped from Germany. His beautiful collection was stolen when I was a child, so designing the Hanukkah stamp closed an important loop for me. He would have been so proud to have this strong connection to a U.S. stamp.”