Outside-the-box gift ideas for the Chanukah season

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Jarrad Saffren | Staff Writer

If you want, you can Google something like “best Chanukah gifts for 2022” and find plenty of options.

The Ahava necklace at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History’s Chanukah store (Photos courtesy of the Weitzman National
Museum of American Jewish History)

Town & Country magazine lists an agate cheese board, a Jewish-themed puzzle and golf-ball whiskey chillers, among others. The New York Times is featuring a Barbra Streisand T-shirt, matching menorah pajamas for a family and a baseball cap that says “Mensch,” as well as other gifts that are more practical and less silly. And Good Housekeeping is suggesting wall art that says “shalom,” a children’s book about Chanukah and a candle that smells like latkes.

But while those outlets list their recommendations as “for the golf lover” or “for the puzzle enthusiast,” they will not give you what you really need. And that is detailed suggestions for every type of family member that you have to stretch your credit limit for this Chanukah.

That is why we turned to Kristen Kreider, the managing director of business operations at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, to provide you with those types of gift ideas. Kreider is the buyer for the museum’s Chanukah store.

For Your Spouse
Ahavah means “love” in Hebrew; as such, the Weitzman’s ahavah jewelry collection is a popular selection for wives, according to Kreider. Necklaces, earrings and bracelets all spell out the word in Hebrew. No one has ever returned a gift from this collection, according to the buyer.

As for husbands, I am one, so I’m going to step in for Kreider here. I spotted mini-sufganiyot candies on the first page of the museum’s Chanukah store. Ever since I discovered sufganiyot (jelly dougnuts) a year ago (I’m 31; shame on me), my entire Chanukah experience has been transformed. If your husband likes to eat, and I’m guessing he does, buy him these.

For Your Parents
Kreider said there are many options here since parents, in their advanced age and wisdom, appreciate things more than younger people do. (I added that last part.)

You could give your parents the gift of yourself, meaning a picture frame with a picture of you, your significant other and your kids in it. Or you could get them the gift bag with gelt and chocolate dreidels. Or, if they are coffee drinkers, you could go with a Chutzpah blend that, according to Kreider, “packs a bigger punch.”

For Your In-Laws
You always need to please them, right? Perhaps even more than your parents. But before we get to the items that Kreider does recommend, we should be clear about one that she doesn’t: the Weitzman’s Pain in the Tuchas mug. Do not get your in-laws a Pain in the Tuchas mug.

OK, now for the good ideas. There are Jewish calendars, autographed cookbooks by Joan Nathan and Deb Perelman and more than 200 Ashkenazi herbal items.

For Your Children
Let’s assume that they are still young and will appreciate everything. For the
really young, Kreider suggests bibs, including one that says “Schmutz Happens.” For those slightly older, she recommends books. And for those old enough to both read and build stuff, she offers kids’ books, build-your-own menorahs and baseball cards, among other items.

For Your Siblings
The Baltimore Jewish Times has a mature audience, so by siblings here, we mean young adult or even adult siblings. What do your brothers and sisters still need to, as the millennials say, adult?

Maybe they don’t have a menorah, says Kreider. Or perhaps they still need a mezuzah, she adds. Or maybe they just need candles to put in the menorah and light it up, she concludes.

Point being, your siblings may not be great at adulating just yet. Help them out in the Jewish sense.

“Something people always mean to get and don’t get themselves,” says Kreider.

For Your Extended Family Member
If your extended family is like mine, you do whatever the Jewish version of a Secret Santa (or pollyanna) is each year. This means you will have to buy for a person you’ve never lived with. Even if you know the person, this is a little harder than a normal
gift purchase.

But the Weitzman has a few creative answers. There’s a “Smitten Kitchen” cookbook with recipes “where you don’t have to be a chef to follow them,” says Kreider. There are “Freudian Slippers” through which your toes can make the legendary psychologist’s tongue wag at the front, and there’s a “banned books” mug listing out titles that will make your gift recipient look smart.

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