The ‘It’s just what I wanted!’ guide to Chanukah gift-giving

The ‘It’s just what I wanted!’ guide to Chanukah gift-giving

Merri Ukraincik of Edison is a regular contributor to NJJN.

Silver-toned mezuzot from Dubrovnik. Photo courtesy of Evalyn Dunn Gallery
Silver-toned mezuzot from Dubrovnik. Photo courtesy of Evalyn Dunn Gallery

Chanukah gift-giving can be fun or fraught.

It’s a pleasure when we know exactly what to get the folks on our list. But what do we buy for the friend who has everything or the cousin with finicky tastes? There isn’t much shopping time remaining before the holiday lights up on the evening of Dec. 22.

Gelt (money) may be one-size-fits-all. But for those who relish the quest for that perfect present to wrap and tie in a bow, NJJN presents the 2019 Chanukah gift guide, a curated list of unique items — most available in New Jersey stores and boutiques.

There are too many options for the quintessential holiday objects — dreidels and menorahs — so here’s a small sampling to get started:

When it comes to spinning for the gimel-takes-all win, the small plastic dreidels still rule. Yet this acorn dreidel by Quest Collection makes a gorgeous display piece year-round. The dreidel is brass over pewter and enamel. $90 at CBL Fine Art, West Orange, 973-736-7776,

Israeli artist Yair Emanuel’s contemporary menorah features multicolored dreidels layered with a metal floral cutout. It’s laser-cut stainless steel with anodized aluminum. $200 at CBL Fine Art, West Orange, 973-736-7776,

Also by Emanuel is this adorable, laser-cut, and hand-painted firetruck menorah for a child, or someone young at heart. $50 at CBL Fine Art,
West Orange, 973-736-7776,

These chic and colorful cups of anodized aluminum, made in Jerusalem by artisans in the Agayof family, can be set up in a row as a menorah or in two columns to be used as Shabbat candles. They stack for storage in a nifty travel bag. $106 at CBL Fine Art, West Orange, 973-736-7776,

Though not Chanukah-specific, these Judaica items resonate with the holiday’s themes of rededication, light, and divine protection:

Silver-toned mezuzot from Dubrovnik, Croatia, handcrafted with blue and silver stones, are reminiscent of the sea. $110 Evalyn Dunn Gallery, Westfield, 908-232-0412,

The images and colors practically jump off Ahuva Elany’s striking 3D-copper pieces, like her plaques that feature a blessing for the home and this hamsa with birds and pomegranates, all handmade in Israel. $135 at Judaica Gallery, Highland Park, 732-828-7722,

Books make great gifts for the youngest People of the Book:

“Goodnight Bubbala: A Joyful Parody” by Sheryl Haft and illustrated by Jill Weber (Dial Books) is a new release with text and illustrations riffing on the classic “Goodnight Moon.”

These wonderful volumes might appeal to older readers on your list:

In “All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah” (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House, 2018), Emily Jenkins revisits Sydney Taylor’s classic series about a Jewish immigrant family on the Lower East Side, with masterful illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky. Technically the picture book is suitable for early readers, but devotees of Taylor’s original “All-of-a-Kind Family” (Yearling, 1984) will appreciate it, too. $17 at booksellers; like-new copies for $7.99 at Labyrinth Books Princeton, 609-497-1600

“It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories,” edited by Laura Silverman and Katherine Locke (Knopf), is a new anthology of modern Jewish stories for young adults. $17.99 at [words] Bookstore,  Maplewood, 973-763-9500,

For the sports fan on your list, check out “The Jewish Baseball Card Book” by Bob Wechsler, Peter McDonald, Martin Abramowitz (Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc. with the Jewish Baseball Museum). $29.95, National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia,

Cookbooks are so popular they merit a category of their own, and Chanukah is a great time to explore diverse Jewish food traditions with one of these new volumes:

Adeena Sussman offers her personal adaptations of Middle Eastern cuisine in “Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen” (Penguin Publishing Group). $35 at [words] Bookstore, Maplewood, 973-763-9500,

The just-published “The Jewish Cookbook” by Leah Koenig (Phaidon),
a treasure chest of contemporary global Jewish recipes, is destined to become a classic. $49.95 at Bookworm, Bernardsville, 908-766-4599,

Jewelry, clothing, and accessories are always great go-to gifts:

These fun and elegant, new-school Magen David bracelets made by the mother-daughter design team at Alef Bet Jewelry come in sterling silver or 14K gold-dipped styles. Adult sizes only. $60 at Evalyn Dunn Gallery, Westfield, 908-232-0412,

British designer Rhonda Church sells these cute latke earrings through her Etsy shop NeatEats. She makes them to order. $18.79 plus shipping,

Wear your Jewish identity and holiday spirit proudly with Midrash Manicures’s Chanukah designs, including nail decals, dreidel leggings, and preppy Maccabean attire, like this argyle dreidel dress with matching socks.

Show some Chanukah affection to your four-legged friends with this “kosher” hot dog plush toy.  $10, Modern Tribe,

It’s party season, and many of us are in search of tasty — and tasteful — gifts for our hosts:

Pick up a delicious (and certified kosher) Chanukah candy platter ($25 and up) or holiday-themed hand towels and coasters by Israeli artist Barbara Shaw ($10 and up). Sweets to Nuts, Highland Park, 732-246-4686,

Wrap up delicious Oxygen jams from Israel in exotic flavors like pear-blackberry or pomegranate ($5.95), bags of irresistible Popinsanity Gourmet Popcorn ($7.95/6 oz., $12.95/12 oz.), or a popular Michel Design Works aromatic gift set ($22.95). Robert’s Florals, Highland Park, 732-828-1107,

Handmade by a local crafter, these sweetly wrapped soaps make great party favors to give your guests or to add festive flair to your powder room ($4.50). This store also sells an assortment of handmade holiday cards. The Eclectic Chic Boutique, Montclair, 862-221-0644,

Need a few more ideas and want to shop local? Support the arts and tick a few items off your holiday shopping list while visiting one of New Jersey’s many museums. Treat family and friends to an annual membership and check out the gift shops while you’re there. For instance, the Morris Museum in Morristown sells a cute menorah craft set ($7). The Montclair Art Museum offers an assortment of menorahs, Chanukah cards, dreidels, and other holiday items ($15 and up).

Have fun shopping and may all of your gifts be received with delight.

Merri Ukraincik of Edison is a regular contributor to NJJN. Follow her at

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