Holiday gifts to entertain, educate, enlighten and enjoy

This year, Bay Area Judaica retailers are aiming to satisfy the burgeoning market of conscious consumers: shoppers who prioritize the social, environmental and ethical impact of their purchases.

Chaim Mahgel, co-owner of Afikomen Judaica in Berkeley, is promoting “Keeping Your Gelt in Your Community”— a Jewish rendition of the “Buy Local Berkeley” movement, which promotes shopping at local businesses rather than national chains.

“This translates to encouraging and supporting shoppers to purchase their Chanukah necessities and gifts from local independent retailers like Afikomen, rather than from online retailers,” he said. “We encourage this through the selection of merchandise from local artists, whether it’s menorahs, music, jewelry, art or beyond.”

Afikomen also does well with the ecoconscious, offering organic vegetable-wax Chanukah candles in assorted colors ($11.99) and a recycled menorah made from 55-gallon steel oil drums from Haiti ($99).

Organic vegetable-wax Chanukah candles come in saturated colors.

Ilana Schatz, founding director of Fair Trade Judaica, has teamed up with Afikomen and Dayenu in San Francisco to offer a variety of fair trade Chanukah gifts at the two stores. Schatz said fair trade principles mesh perfectly with Jewish values.

“Providing fair and timely wages is supported in the Bible and the Talmud,” she said. “And Maimonides’ highest level of tzedakah is to support someone by entering into partnership, or create a job so that they can support themselves and no longer need support from others.”

Fair Trade Judaica works directly with communities in Nepal, Guatemala and India to create and source original Judaica items. With every purchase of fair trade goods, such as dreidels made of recycled magazines, hand-embroidered tallits or Hebrew prayer flags, the artisans benefit. “It is a wonderful way to shop and do a mitzvah at the same time,” said Dayenu co-owner Eva-Lynne Liebman.

Kevin Grenon, director of the store at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, also has seen a continued interest in fair trade Judaica products. “We’ve expanded our selection this holiday season,” he said. The museum shop is offering whimsical wire and bead animal menorahs from South Africa ($50), hand-painted wooden menorahs from El Salvador ($36) and jeweled crocheted women’s kippahs from Guatemala ($45-$52).

Israeli artist Yair Emanuel’s aluminum menorah provides storage for an eight-day supply of candles.

Several new board games with Jewish themes can engage the whole family. The Jewish edition of Sequence ($25 at the CJM), for ages 6 and up, has players match Jewish cultural symbols on playing cards with those pictured on the game board. Dreidel, haggadah, gragger, shofar … the fifth match wins the game.

Dayenu has the Jewish edition of Taboo ($34.95), guaranteed to trigger laughing fits as players struggle not to break out into Yiddish.

Alef Bet Judaica in Los Gatos represents more than 45 Israeli artists and a variety of handcrafted items. The Modular Menorah Game is a new offering by artist Itai Magar. “It’s a chanukiah, a dreidel and a game all in one,” says owner Nurit Sabadosh, who has a good selection of chanukiahs in her store.

Need a new way to light up your home for Chanukah? Israeli artist Yair Emanuel has produced two clever menorah designs that incorporate multiple functions. An aluminum star menorah provides storage for an eight-day supply of candles ($75), while the dual-purpose candleholder has two spots for Shabbat candles in one position and eight spots for Chanukah when unfolded ($65). Both designs are available at Miriam’s Well in Palo Alto.

For the ultra-modern set, Stanley Saitowitz, architect of the Congregation Beth Sholom remodel in San Francisco, designed a threaded steel menorah ($395) that’s featured in the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s current exhibition “Stanley Saitowitz: Judaica.” On the other end of the price spectrum, the keyboard menorah is perfect for the tech-savvy person on your Chanukah list. Designed by DCI, it’s made of nine ceramic computer keyboard letters spelling out “Hanukkah.” It’s $15, candles not included.

For families that spin the dreidel and kiss under the mistletoe, this is a special year because Christmas falls right in the middle of Chanukah. Afikomen Judaica has the highly-sought-after holiday decoration that celebrates both. The Hanukkah Tree Topper ($19.95) is a silver Star of David that adds interfaith sparkle to the top of the holiday tree.



Where to shop

3042 Claremont Ave., Berkeley
(510) 655-1977

Alef Bet
14103D Winchester Blvd., Los Gatos
(408) 370-1818

Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission St., S.F.
(415) 655-7888

Dayenu JCC of San Francisco
3220 California St., S.F.
(415) 563-6563

Miriam’s Well Oshman Family JCC
3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
(650) 494-9900