Oil menorot grow in popularity, though ones with candles still rule

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. — Oil, candle or electric: What type of menorah do you have?

Candle menorot are by far the most popular. But in recent years, oil menorot — once a Chanukah standard — have made a resurgence.

"Technically all [types of menorot] may fulfill the mitzvah," said Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, dean of the undergraduate program at Yeshiva University in New York. "But electric generally are only used if there is no alternative." Safety or health concerns would be reasons to use an electric menorah, which are more common at institutions such as nursing homes.

Smador Parness of Judaica Gallery in Highland Park, said the largest percentage of oil purchasers are younger Orthodox Jews.

Oil does offer some perks. It lasts longer, which makes it easier to make sure the flame last the minimum 30 minutes after sunset, Charlop said.

Miriam Rosenblum of East Brunswick has an oil menorah at home. She bought it as a gift for her husband, Howard.

"I grew up with an oil menorah," she said.

Still, she said, oil isn't without its problems. Oil wicks are more difficult to light and oil menorot are harder to clean.

With open flames floating in oil, are such menorot more dangerous?

Dr. Irving Kaufman, a family practitioner in Somerset, doesn't believe so.

"There's more danger in the kitchen on Chanukah than from a menorah," Kaufman said. In his practice he's never seen a menorah-related burn but has seen oil burns from cooking latkes.

Still, he cautioned, there are important safety tips to consider with menorot. One should remember that any form of fire, whether it's from oil or candle menorot, is potentially dangerous.

"Remember children's bed clothes should be nonflammable and menorahs should be out of reach of small children," Kaufman said. "Put a flame retardant material underneath the menorah, like aluminum foil."

Three years ago, the Kaufmans actually had a menorah-related fire. They had four menorot burning on placemats on the table. One menorah tipped over and a placemat caught on fire.

His wife, Reva, concerned about her four children, then ages 2,4, 6, and 8, grabbed the flaming placemat and threw it in the trash can.

But she forgot to douse the can after taking it outside. So it grew into a bonfire in several trash cans outside the back of their house, Kaufman said.

"My neighbor, Nessa Rosenstein, saw the fire and called the fire department."