A new Yom Hashoah candelabra for a new generation

Yom Hashoah candelabra

Renate Frydman
Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer


Amid the lumber and nails, the saws and sawdust in Dr. Burt Saidel’s basement workshop have emerged some extraordinary pieces of craftsmanship in wood.

Saidel, a retired dentist, opera buff, supporter of the arts, and Renaissance man, is also the creator of magnificent wood workings of artistic proportion.

Along with his creative vent is a generosity of spirit that allows him to donate his finished works to many Dayton charitable organizations; it is impossible to mention them all.

Saidel is always involved in several new projects. A most recent piece had its premiere on Yom Hashoah, the Day of Holocaust Remembrance, May 5, at Temple Beth Or in Washington Township.

It is a new six-branched candelabra that will be lit each year in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Dr. Ken Rosenzweig, past chair of the Dayton Yom Hashoah Committee, approached Saidel with the project a few months ago. Without hesitation, Saidel added it to his crowded list of requests.

The oak piece uses two Stars of David as its focal point. The lower one, which is a perfect Star of David, supports the upper one, which is misshapen, representing the suffering of the Holocaust.

“The upper one is crushed, but not broken. Transparent stain lets the wood speak for itself,” Saidel says.

He credits Wendy and Dr. Nat Ritter for coming up with the solution of having oil illuminate the new candelabra. Wendy Ritter brought the glass fixtures from New York.

The Hebrew inscription on the new candelabra, suggested by Rabbi David M. Sofian of Temple Israel, reads, “For our beloved souls who have gone to their eternal rest.”

Saidel does not take credit for his unique designs alone. He always says that his son, David, who was killed when struck by a car at the age of 19 in Greece in 1987, gives him the initial ideas.

“David was joined to my thigh from when he was little. We always did it together.”

Saidel and his wife, Alice, have been married almost 49 years. They have two daughters, Beth and Debbie.

He is assisted by his group of cronies called the “God Squad.” This includes his right-hand man, retired engineer Harold Prigozen, along with retired dentist Dr. Dick Cummings and retired physician Dr. Michael Jaffe.

The group has created and given pieces to Temple Israel, beginning with the Great Ark, a

Torah enclosure standing 17 feet high and 28 feet across.

Temple Beth Or, Beth Abraham Synagogue, Beth Jacob Congregation, the Jewish Federation and Chabad have all been recipients of the God Squad’s talent and generosity.

Saidel has also made benches for the Patterson Homestead, the conductor’s podium for the Schuster Center, and pieces for the Fraze and the Victoria.

He created a lectern for the Miami Valley School where the David Saidel Scholarships enable two students to join the incoming class of freshmen each year.

Beyond that, Saidel says, “I have carved more crosses than any Jewish boy ever,” recalling numerous pieces he has made for area churches.

The group made a chupah (wedding canopy) which has been used more than 50 times around the country and in Dayton; it is available for community use.

“We don’t make any drawings, we just start working,” he says.

He learned gold leafing from a reverend and carves letters and leaves using a dental drill. Each piece they design is dedicated to Saidel’s son and to friends who have recently departed.

Saidel, who graduated from Fairview High School in Dayton, Haverford College and Western Reserve Dental School, says he has been working with wood all his life.

“I used to make model planes and circuses. It always has a fascination for me. I didn’t think it would become my life,” he says earnestly.
“We do it with our hearts, our heads, and our hands. Our thanks is in the doing.”


© 2005 The Dayton Jewish Observer

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