The peace sign menorah. The “Got Latkes?”â€ˆapron. The Maccabees board game. There are plenty of innovations in the world of Chanukah gifts this year, and local storeowners say they are eager to display the new products.
They’re also eager to see more than just one or two customers wandering the aisles, which — after a lean year — is finally beginning to happen.
“They started coming in during the last two weeks,” said Kevin Grenon, director of the museum store at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum. “And people seem to be the most interested in handcrafted Judaica this year — they like items with humor, color or a personal touch.”
Likewise, the Bay Area’s newest Judaica store, Beit Tzedakah at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, is starting to get a steady stream of customers in anticipation of the first night of Chanukah Dec. 12.
Beit Tzedakah store buyer Sharon Barkoff said opening the new store — which is actually a cart on wheels — “was very exciting … and while it is a bit of a tricky situation, being a mobile cart as opposed to a store, we are moving forward.”
Beit Tzedakah, which opened Nov. 1, features handcrafted items from Jerusalem, including silk wall hangings and tallits ($40-$100), hand-painted kippahs ($20), tzedekah boxes ($55).
At the CJM in San Francisco, artist Talia Abraham’s Metalace Judaica pieces are among the new handcrafted pieces at the museum store. Lace and embroidery inspired the intricate metal objects, which include mezuzahs, challah trays and decorative pomegranates ($110-$205).
Grenon says another popular gift item in these retro-inspired times is “Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners 1905-1953, Classic Yiddish 78s,” a three-CD box set ($28.98).
New this year to the museum is fair-trade Judaica: hand-painted dreidels from India ($6) and kippahs from Bolivia ($20-$30).
The store also will be selling a limited-edition mezuzah ($125) by world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, who designed the CJM. The design of the hand-cast pewter mezuzah is based on the two forms, the Hebrew letters “chet” and “yud,” that inspired Libeskind’s design for the museum itself.
Afikomen Judaica in Berkeley also is selling fair-trade items. Last year the shop offered wooden menorahs from El Salvador; this year it will have metal-and-bead fair trade menorahs from South Africa ($49.95).
Afikomen is also selling hippie-inspired menorahs in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, says storeowner Chaim Mahgel.
“There’s lots of cool, groovy stuff!” he says.
Among the menorahs, there is a peace sign made out of metal ($15) and a hippie van crafted in ceramic ($39). Either, Maghel says with a chuckle, go nicely with Afikomen’s already-popular “roll your own” beeswax candles.
At Alef-Bet Judaica in Los Gatos, artistic menorahs are often the best sellers, says owner Nurit Sabadosh.
Her store is offering a line of nature-themed menorahs by Israeli artist Shraga Landesman ($150 each), which feature tree branches and birds made of pewter. The store also sells twisty and knotted branch-like candlesticks to match.
In addition to the Landseman line, the store is again highlighting the Gary Rosenthal line of menorahs ($150) along with sport-themed menorahs for children ($30).
The Rodef Sholom Sisterhood Gift Shop, in the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, also boasts a line of metal and glass Gary Rosenthal menorahs ($85-$100) along with a new mini-travel menorah ($11). The travel menorah — a popular request of customers last year — is 4 inches by 4 inches with tiny candles.
The shop also is selling a couple of Chanukah aprons ($22 each): the “Got Latkes?” version is orange and white with images of latkes; the “Got Dreidel?” version is black and gold with dreidels.
According to Rodef Sholom gift shop manager Sharon Gordan, the most commonly asked-for item remains the traditional dreidel.
While the gift shop sells the standard wooden and plastic tops, it also has musical dreidels ($4-$7) — and the new Maccabees board game ($16), which is based on the dreidel game.
Shoppers also will be able to find the Maccabees game at Dayenu Judaica, located next to the JCC of San Francisco, where games such as Dreidel Roulette ($21.95) and Kosherland ($14.95), a riff on Candyland, also are available.
Another game, the Jewish edition of the party game Apples to Apples ($26.95), proved to be so popular last year that many local Judaica shops are once again offering it, including Dayenu and Miriam’s Well in Foster City.
While Miriam’s Well is set to move to the new Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto in January, it is still open in its Foster City location for holiday shopping needs, says owner Michelle Booth.
Games and menorahs are among the shop’s most popular Chanukah items, Booth says. One hot item this year is a steel-sculpted menorah ($260-$280) that features dancers with gold accents holding up their arms to form candleholders.
The shop also sells fused glass rainbow menorahs ($190) crafted by well-known artist Tamara Baskin. “[She] passed away last year, but her family continues to produce her art,” Booth says.
Where to buy Chanukah gifts
Afikomen Judaica (Berkeley)
www.afikomen.com (510) 655-1977
Alef-Bet Judaica (Los Gatos)
www.alefbetjudaica.com (408) 370-1818
Beit Tzedakah (Los Altos Hills)
www.betham.org (650) 493-4661
Dayenu (San Francisco)
www.dayenu.com (415) 563-6563
Contemporary Jewish Museum (San Francisco)
www.thecjm.org (415) 655-7888
Miriam’s Well (Foster City)
www.miriams-well.com (650) 341-4400
Rodef Sholom Sisterhood Gift Shop (San Rafael)
www.rodefsholom.org (415) 444-8098