Give: A Hanukkah Gift Guide

The practice of giving and receiving gifts on Hanukkah has been the topic of much debate. To what extent does it represent assimilation to Christian practices? Is that assimilation problematic or natural? Does a focus on gifts distract from other important themes of the holiday? However we seek to answer these questions, what remains clear is that gifts are, for many American Jews, a crucial part of their Hanukkah experience. Here are some ideas for gifts that you can give (and request from others!) this year to honor this custom. 


Hanukkah Gear:

GeltFiend:

Unfortunately, GeltFiend's last official season was Hanukkah 2015. But some of their gear is still available to be purchased on AmazonGet it while you still can, because once their current stock of products sells out (including their high-selling Hanukkah sweaters), it won't be possible to purchase them anymore!

Kid-Friendly, Flameless Menorahs:

Lighting the menorah is major cause for excitement, and sometimes kids can't get enough. For fun that they can enjoy endlessly for eight nights, check out these flameless options to buy or make yourself. Even if you don't have kids, many of these are a fun way to "unbound" your candle-lighting. For other options, visit our own Judaism Unbound page that offers 8 different ways to light your menorah.

Kveller's 10 Hanukkah Items that are "Perfect for Everyone:"

Kveller put together a list of 10 fun Hanukkah clothing items to get for your loved ones. Here's their pitch: "Yes, we all love ‘ugly Hanukkah sweaters,’ but there’s so much more you can wear than just that. What about dreidel leggings, headbands, and ties? There’s even the most adorable baby shoes for the smallest member in your family."


Books: 

It Can't Happen Here, By Sinclair Lewis

Salon calls it "The novel that foreshadowed Donald Trump's authoritarian appeal." A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during The Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press.

The Plot Against America, By Philip Roth

In an astonishing feat of empathy and narrative invention, an ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American history. In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected President. Shortly thereafter, he negotiates a cordial 'understanding' with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism. For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh's election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America -- and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.

The Dictator's Handbook, By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith

For eighteen years, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have been part of a team revolutionizing the study of politics by turning conventional wisdom on its head. They start from a single assertion: Leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don't care about the "national interest" -- or even their subjects -- unless they have to. This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind but only in the number of essential supporters, or backs that need scratching. The size of this group determines almost everything about politics: what leaders can get away with, and the quality of life or misery under them. The picture the authors paint is not pretty. But it just may be the truth, which is a good starting point for anyone seeking to improve human governance.

Hanukkah in America: A History, By Dianne Ashton

In New Orleans, Hanukkah means decorating your door with a menorah made of hominy grits. Latkes in Texas are seasoned with cilantro and cayenne pepper. Children in Cincinnati sing Hanukkah songs and eat oranges and ice cream. While each tradition springs from its own unique set of cultural references, what ties them together is that they all celebrate a holiday that is different in America than it is any place else. For the past 200 years, American Jews have been transforming the ancient holiday of Hanukkah from a simple occasion into something grand. Each year, as they retell its story, they bring their ever-changing perspectives to its celebration. Providing an alternative to the Christian dominated December, rabbis and lay people alike have addressed contemporary hopes by fashioning a Jewish festival that blossomed in their American world.

Inventing Jewish Ritual, By Vanessa Ochs

Vanessa Ochs invites her readers to explore how Jewish practice can be more meaningful through renewing and even creating new rituals, such as naming ceremonies for welcoming baby girls, mitzvah days, egalitarian wedding practices, and commitment ceremonies. When we perform ancient rituals in a particular place and time they are no longer quite the same rituals they once were. Each is a debut, an innovation: this Sabbath meal, this Passover seder, this wedding—firsts in their own unique ways. In the last 30 years there has been a surge of interest in reinventing ritual. Ochs describes the diversity of interest in this Jewish American experience and examines how it reflects tradition as it revives Jewish culture and faith. 

Aphrodite and The Rabbis, By Burton Visotzky

Historians have long debated the (re)birth of Judaism in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple cult by the Romans in 70 CE. The Greco-Roman culture in which rabbinic Judaism grew in the first five centuries of the Common Era nurtured the development of Judaism as we still know and celebrate it today. Arguing that its transformation from a Jerusalem-centered cult to a world religion was made possible by the Roman Empire, Rabbi Burton Visotzky presents Judaism as a distinctly Roman religion. Full of fascinating detail from the daily life and culture of Jewish communities across the Hellenistic world, Aphrodite and the Rabbis will appeal to anyone interested in the development of Judaism, religion, history, art and architecture.

Competing Against Luck, By Clayton Christensen

After years of research, Christensen and his co-authors have come to one critical conclusion: our long held maxim--that understanding the customer is the crux of innovation--is wrong. Customers don't buy products or services; they "hire" them to do a job. The "Jobs to Be Done" approach can be seen in some of the world's most respected companies and fast-growing startups, including Amazon, Intuit, Uber, Airbnb, and Chobani yogurt, to name just a few. But this book is not about celebrating these successes--it's about predicting new ones. This book carefully lays down the authors' provocative framework, providing a comprehensive explanation of the theory and why it is predictive, how to use it in the real world--and, most importantly, how not to squander the insights it provides.


Chrismukkah Presents:

Yamaclaus:

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or the hybrid 'Chrismukkah', this comfy and fashionable one-size-fits-all headcap will bring joy and laughter to your holiday celebration. Yamaclaus is the perfect Festivus gag gift, Chrismukkah cop out, or simply a stylish way to keep the crown of your head warm.

Mixed Blessing:

In December 1988, Elise and Philip Okrend pondered over what kind of holiday greeting cardto send to their friends in interfaith relationships. Instead of sending two separate cards or one non-denominational card, Elise doodled a card with a Star of David merging with a Christmas tree, that would go well for both faiths. Their friends loved the card and the idea so much that MixedBlessing was born. 

My Two Holidays.jpg

My Two Holidays (Children's Book):

When Sam's classmates take turns talking about which holiday they celebrate, Sam becomes very nervous. Some people celebrate Christmas and some people celebrate Hanukkah. But Sam celebrates both! Written by a clinical psychologist, My Two Holidays offers comforting explanations that shine a light on how special it can be to celebrate two treasured holidays instead of one!