This jingly freilich season, with Christmas falling in the middle of Chanukah, may be as good a time as any to examine an interfaith-oriented product called the Hanukkah Tree Topper. It’s a 6-inch plastic Star of David attached to a stainless steel coil that allows the star to sit atop a Christmas tree.
On a recent flight, I spotted the Hanukkah Tree Topper in the SkyMall magazine. Soon I found out that the ornament, which has been on the market for three years, also is available online at Home Depot and Sears.
According to its Jewish creator, Morri Chowaiki, the topper “has been the No. 1-selling tree topper on Amazon.com and has sold in the thousands,” including at hundreds of mom-and-pop stores. It has been successful enough to have spawned several competitors.
Would any board of rabbis endorse such an item? Not a snowball’s chance in sheol. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market of potential Jewish buyers.
Chowaiki, who has a background in marketing, cites the near 50 percent intermarriage rate of the year 2000 National Jewish Population Study in estimating the potential audience for his topper at “between 500,000 and 1 million households.”
He says he created the topper for his own family; Chowaiki is married to a non-Jew and raising his children Jewishly.
“I never intended it as a gag gift. This is not Hanukkah Harry,” he said, referring to a popular novelty item of previous holiday seasons and a character on “Saturday Night Live.”
“The most positive reviews are from people who are not Jewish,” Chowaiki said, adding that the topper could be seen by non-Jews as “a symbol of support for the State of Israel.”
Ultimately, he said, this twist on the tree reflects a growing reality.
“You can’t change interfaith families. I wanted to give these people something to celebrate with.”