Chanukah appeals to people of all ages because of its eternal association with miracles and the notion of lighting up the world in times of darkness.
However, this year, it takes on special meaning because it coincides with Thanksgiving, which of course is focused on gratitude for one’s health, family and local community — as well as our extended community in Israel.
Chanukah begins the evening of Nov. 27; Thanksgiving is Nov. 28.
Sure, the interesting timing of Chanukah and Thanksgiving will have an impact on what we choose to give friends and family. But it also brings additional weight to how we can give back to the greater community at large, including Israel.
“We have a great opportunity this year” with the overlap of holidays, “with the next occurrence of this being in, what, 79,000 years?” muses Linda Maizels, the head of the Israel Advocacy committee at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. “This alignment of planets changes the focus towards gratitude, but also gives us a little less time to get the message out” about her group’s campaign to Buy Israeli Goods (B.I.G).
According to Maizels, there are two new facets to this year’s Buy Israel initiatives. One employs the magic of social networking and technology while the other involves direct donations through the “BIG Philly” campaign website (jewishphilly.org/bigphilly). “In the past, our goal was to get people to go to a store and buy out all of the Israeli products,” explains Maizels. “However, in today’s high-tech busy world, that approach doesn’t work as well as it once did. Therefore, we’re offering one fun option via social networking.”
Here’s how it works: When you buy a gift made in Israel for a family member or friend, or even for yourself, take a picture of the item or yourself with that item and upload it to facebook.com/jewishphilly or to Twitter or Instagram using the hash tag #BIGPhilly. “When we see your item, we will estimate the cost of what you purchased, and we will donate 10 percent of that cost to Latet (www.latet.org.il/english ), an Israeli charity that feeds the homeless and needy in Israel,” Maizels said.
If hash tags and social networking are not in your programming, you can email your made-in-Israel photo to Maizels (email@example.com ), and 10 percent of the purchase cost will still find its way to Latet. The other way people can participate in the B.I.G campaign is to visit jewishphilly.org/bigphilly, and donate $18 or any amount you wish online.
Federation will use that donation to buy Israeli products and give them to the Mitzvah Food Project, which is run by the Jewish Federation and distributes items to food pantries around the city, Maizels said. “This means needy seniors and families will be getting items not always accessible to them, such as Israeli olive oil, a product that doesn’t always get into donated food baskets," she said. “In effect, you are doing a double mitzvah because you are helping two different sets of people in different parts of the world.”
Maizels said the website has extensive information on Israeli companies like Ahava, Kakadu, Michal Negrin and Edushape Toys, made-with-love items from Israel ideal for all members of the family.
And here are suggestions for some Made-in-Israel Gifts:
DiaNoche Designs Illuminated wall canvases
These decorative canvases are lit from within, brightening up every room, from the nursery to the man cave to the living room, with a variety of designs by up-and-coming and established contemporary Israeli artists, including Tooshtoosh, whose specialty is art for kids.
Handmade Falafel and Boureka Purses by Barbara Shaw
When the temperatures drop, our cravings for comfort foods go up, especially with seasonal favorites like bourekas and falafel. Here’s a stylish, “lo-cal” way to satisfy your craving — with purses styled like these Israel delectables. Alternatively, this is also a great way to “wrap” the gift of gelt for your child or grandchild.
The bags are $12 and are available through ModernTribe.com and www.barbarashawgifts.com .
The following Israeli-made gifts are available at the Museum Store of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia (www.nmajh.org ).
Spring Hamsa by Tzuki
The laser cut metal, hand painted 6 x 9 inch hamsa — an amulet in the form of a palm, extremely popular in Israel — is part of a larger collection designed by Shay Peled, who founded Tzuki Art, which provides various Israeli organizations that cater to the elderly with different types of therapeutic work.
Price: $110. Expanded collection also available at: www.canaan-online.com .
The blue and multicolor Kiddush Fountains turn a Shabbat and holiday observance into a festive party. Besides looking great, these fountains, constructed of the finest quality teflon and coated in anodized aluminum, bring fun and function together for large gatherings.
Price: $50 to $1,200
Elyse Glickman is a travel and health writer based on the West Coast. This article originally appeared in a special section, "Chanukah Gift Guide."