As Chanukah appears on the horizon, our thoughts inevitably turn to two things: gifts — and fatty foods. If you’ve distributed all the socks, dreidels and menorahs in years past and are all out of ideas, rest assured, there’s more out there.
Reach for Art
Metal artist Joy Stember has been crafting contemporary pewter and brass Judaica in Abington, Pa., for the past two years. “I just finished a piece for the Einstein Medical Center Montgomery — a silver and pewter mezuzah for the front of the building,” she says.
Stember also makes kiddush cups, dreidels, menorahs, tzedakah boxes and other custom pieces that she sells on her website, (shop.joystember.com), at the National Museum of American Jewish History, at Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park and at Beautiful Wishes.
Two pieces available this Chanukah are the Negev Menorah, at $550, which has designs reminiscent of the pattern of the mountains in the Negev desert, and a $750 modular menorah whose individual candleholders can be moved into different places.
Chanukah is both an aromatic time of year in the kitchen, and a messy one. Which is why Angela Carlino’s new line of fashionable aprons might come in handy as a gift for someone hosting a Chanukah party. The chef and owner of Carlino’s Specialty Foods in Ardmore, Carlino offers high-waisted organic cotton aprons available in avocado, navy and hibiscus and are “super fashionable,” she says.
“They’d be great packaged with one of our specialty items such as olive oils, balsamic vinegar or the cookies that we make in-house.” The aprons cost $50 and are available at: carlinosmarket.com.
Light it Up
Most Jewish families are going to need Chanukah candles as this festival approaches, so a gift of decorative candles never has time to get stale. If your pet peeve is Chanukah candles that drip wax all over your countertops, you’re not alone. Safed Candles (www.safed.co.il ) makes dripless Chanukah candles at $11.95 for a box of 45, while Rite Lite Judaica (www.ritelite.com ) has two options: eco-friendly, hand-dipped multicolored beeswax Chanukah candles ($17.99) or regular hand-dipped candles at $15.04 — without the eco-friendly label.
Just for Laughs
CafePress.com is a website with a variety of cute gift ideas for Chanukah, some of them bordering on ridiculous. For $26 you can buy a yard sign that declares loudly: “If life gives you potatoes, make latkes.” There’s baby clothes that say, “Wanna Be Maccabee” ($18.50); greeting cards that state “Less Guilt. More Gelt” ($18); and $32 baseball jerseys with the phrase, “Blowing the shofar can get you only so far.”
Who needs Monopoly on Chanukah when you can play the Maccabee Adventure Game? In this board game players must lead a band of Maccabees to find enough oil to light the menorah, trying to avoid the roaming remnants of the Seleucid empire on the way. The game comes with instructions in Hebrew and English and offers up to 45 minutes of entertainment for up to four players age 8 and older. It’s available at: zionjudaica.com; it costs $27.99.
Another option for families who love games is the Chanukah Dreidel Game ($19.95 at: www.judaicawebstore.com ), wherein players spin the dreidel on a wooden playing board, aspiring to knock their game pieces into the board’s point-scoring holes.
Chanukah is all about kids, so if you’re stuck for a gift for the special children in your circle, look no further than Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. In this story, Hershel of Ostropol gives a Jewish village the gift of celebrating Chanukah by taking care of a series of nasty goblins that haunt the old synagogue, blow out Hanukkah candles, throw potato latkes on the floor and break dreidels.
Illustrated by the careful hand of Trina Shart Hyman, the goblins are mesmerizingly hideous and the story of their defeat is at once scary, defiant, courageous and humorous as they are shown to be cowards, easily fooled by Hershel’s tricks. This book is a must for any Jewish kid’s bookshelf, a text that gets pulled out year after year and captivates kids as young as 3.
This story was originally written for the Chanukah Gift Guide, a special section of the Exponent. South African native Lauren Kramer is an award-winning writer based in Western Canada.