Let’s face it, Jewish holiday merchandise used to be really boring. While we were spared the relentless commercialization faced by Christmas observers, our options were about as limited as our choice of kosher wines.
Remember the fountain pens, tomes about the Promised Land, and basic silver menoras? If you wanted to buy Israeli products, there were watercolor prints of Jerusalem and green-enamel Passover plates.
Now, just as the wine list has expanded exponentially, so too has the array of holiday-specific goodies. A brief exploration of what is available in the Greater MetroWest area turned up enough mouth-watering options to make one almost nostalgic for the temptation-free old days, and that’s without venturing to online sellers.
What follows is a sampling of items from a handful of local brick-and-mortar stores. Keep in mind, we Jews have more than one week to refine the genius of our gift giving.
Starting with menoras:
At the glamour end is a sparkling, crystal-adorned candelabra from the Dallas-based Olivia Riegel. Chai Judaica, 307 Millburn Ave., Millburn, $375.
For those who prefer something imaginative, try a puzzle menora, made of anodized aluminum, from Dubbah Judaica of Jerusalem. It comes in a wooden box and the pieces slide within a metal frame. When you are ready to light up, the frame can be opened and the individual squares flip over to hold a candle. Chai Judaica, 307 Millburn Ave., Millburn, $150.
Stepping back to tradition, but with a modern touch, Marcelle Rosenstrauch’s Quest collection offers a pomegranate design in metal and enamel. The South African-born, New York-based artist and her team draw their themes from nature, Torah, and everyday life. CBL, 459 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange, $230.
On to dreidels:
Making them out of clay can be fun for the family, but it’s hard to make ones that spin. This writer tried and decorated it artfully in beads, guided by the late, great fiber artist Ina Golub, but as it did not spin, it was no good for playing dreidel. Moreover, I accidentally wove a nun — the letter indicating that I get nothing — on two sides.
Dreidels range from super-elegant designs to chocolate-filled containers to tiny glass treasures. The aforementioned Marcelle Rosenstrauch makes a glowing orange-red pomegranate dreidel. But one of the most charming dreidels is a tiny metal and enamel carousel from the Crest Collection, complete with horses. CBL, 459 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange, $78.
A translucent, handblown glass dreidel by Orit Grader offers, as the artist says, “a glimpse into an inner world” that balances what is fragile with what is lasting. Evalyn Dunn Gallery, 549 South Avenue West, Westfield, $80.
If dreidels and menoras won’t cut it, there are all sorts of other gift options. For the young at heart, you can find a plush Hanukka bear sporting a blue kippa and stitched menoras on the paws. Evalyn Dunn Gallery, 549 South Avenue West, Westfield, $8.50.
There are also holiday games that play off familiar ones — like Jewish Holiday Dominoes; Red Dreidel, Blue Dreidel; or Color Match Lotto. You can also buy holiday-themed stickers and all kinds of craft kits.
And if you are open to something completely different:
You can find dreidel-themed leggings and babies’ onesies and socks decorated with menoras. But perhaps the cutest are snuggly flannel pajamas sporting cat and dog slogans with a holiday twist, such as “Happy Hanukcat,” “Latka Apso,” or “Happy Challah Days.” CBL, 459 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange, $60 for pajamas.
To illuminate the holiday (or Shabbat) candlelighting, how about a refillable butane wand lighter with a handsome leather handle known as a Social Light? Chai Judaica, 307 Millburn Ave., Millburn, $39.99.
Ready for a bedtime story with a difference? Try Lemony Snicket’s darkly funny The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story (illustrated by Lisa Brown). Words Bookstore, 179 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood, $12.
For those with a preference for the handmade, artists offer all kinds of wonderful. For example, ceramic artist Mimi Stadler sells Judaica and other items from her home in Hillside, including a menora for $240 as well as one-of-a-kind serving pieces such as bowls and platters. Or you can give the gift of a pottery lesson so someone can make their own piece of Judaica. A two-and-a-half-hour class for two people is $120, materials included. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-354-7799.
And finally, of course, there is food:
Too busy to make sufganiyot? Buy kosher doughnuts. Dunkin’ Donuts, 186 Elmora Ave., Elizabeth, $8.99 per dozen; or West Orange Bakeshop, 480 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange, $1 per doughnut.
Hanukka-themed chocolates come in packages of all sizes. Chocolate Works, with store locations in Millburn, Livingston, and Montclair, offers holiday boxes of various sizes as well as dreidels, pops, and personalized items. (The Livingston store is certified kosher; other stores stock kosher packaged items.)