The Menorah and the Vatican

What happened to the menorah, the iconic Jewish symbol that once stood in the First and Second Temples, is a question that has caused speculation for generations. The most popular theory claims the menorah is buried deep within the Vatican. Is there any truth to this enduring rumor or is there another explanation for why the menorah vanished from history? After watching the video, use the prompts below to learn more and get your students thinking.

  • Review
  • Discussion
  • Activities
  • Reflection
  • Further Learning
  1. What is the oldest Jewish symbol?
    • Star of David
    • Menorah
    • Sevivon (Dreidel)
    • Kippa
  2. What is the emblem of the State of Israel?
    • Torah
    • Star of David
    • Menorah
    • Latkes
  3. Where is the ransacking of the Second Temple depicted?
    • In the Tanakh (Bible)
    • Kotel (Western Wall)
    • Coliseum in Rome
    • Arch of Titus
  4. The Spanish Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela reported in his diary that:
    • The Jews of Rome knew that Jewish treasures were in a cave under a Roman church
    • The menorah was in the Vatican on full display
    • The Jews of Rome had the menorah
    • The menorah was being stored in Constantinople
  5. When the Israel Antiquities Authority sent a team to search the Vatican store rooms they found:
    • Nothing
    • The menorah
    • The Ark of the Covenant
    • Pillars from the Second Temple
  1. Why do you think the “alleged” connection between the menorah’s whereabouts and the Vatican has sparked such interest throughout the Jewish world for so many centuries?
  2. What do you think is more interesting to people: the mystery surrounding the location of the menorah or the thought of actually finding it? Some other interesting mysteries that have captured countless imaginations throughout Jewish history are the location of the Ark of the Covenant, the location of Noah’s Ark and the truth about what happened on Masada.
  3. The Temple Institute is an organization that researches and educates the public about the Beit Hamikdash (the Temple) in Jerusalem and recreates the proper vessels needed for the Beit Hamikdash. One of the vessels they’ve already developed is the golden menorah which is on display in the Old City of Jerusalem. If there is already a replacement for the menorah, does it matter what happened to the original one?
  1. Judaism has many famous symbols such as the Star of David, the menorah, the hamsa (palm-shaped amulet) and the word “chai”. If you were tasked with artistically creating a new symbol for Judaism and the Jewish people, what would it be? Design it!
  2. Israeli religious authorities (including Israel’s Chief Rabbis) have asked the Pope about the whereabouts of the menorah. In a short skit, role play how you think this potentially awkward conversation would play out using knowledge gained from the video.
  3. Give your students our Kahoot about the Menorah and the Vatican!

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