When it comes to unique gifts for Hanukkah, it's hard to beat moderntribe.com for its selection. Among some new gifts the website touts is "The Comic Torah: Reimagining the Very Good Book" by author Aaron Freeman and illustrator Sharon Rosenzweig. The irreverent reverent book casts God as a female with green skin, a love of grilling (see Leviticus for menus) and a bloody awful temper. Moses plays her romantic lead, one of many multi-ethnic characters featured, including Barack Obama as Joshua (yes, we Canaan!). Each weekly portion gets a two-page spread. Like the original, the "Comic Torah" is more suited for teens and adults and retails for $19.95.
Better for children ages 4 to 8 is "Hanukkah Scratchers Activity Book," which allows youngsters to scratch 40 tear-out cards to uncover Hanukkah-themed games, activities, and jokes. The cost is $9.95 at moderntribe.com.
St. Louisan Rick Bernstein created the adorable Sh'ma bear (pictured at bottom) that-appropriately-recites the Sh'ma prayer. On the Sh'ma bear website, www.shemabear.com, Rick and Heather Bernstein state the bear was the result of their "...desire to have a bedtime companion for our children to help them learn our most sacred prayer." Purchase the bears ($23.95) on the website, or visit them during Central Reform Congregation's "Art Shuk" on Dec. 9 and 10 (see page 4 for details). If you're ordering online, do so by Dec. 15 to receive the bear in time for Hanukkah. The couple also donates a portion of the proceeds to Jewish non-profits.
While we're on the subject of bears, every holiday season, Build-A-Bear, the national purveyor of bear-essentials with roots in St. Louis, showcases several holiday-themed bears. This Hanukkah, you can give bear hugs with a stuffed Happy Hugs Teddy ($16) dressed in a blue velvet jacket dress ($12.50) and gem bow heels ($7.50) to that special girl or boy, or take them to one of the local stores (at the St. Louis Galleria, West County Center and St. Louis Science Center) and make a Hanukkah bear together.
The perfect gift for any Jewish mother, or hostess, may just be Tree of Life Menorah Salad Plates, available at Pottery Barn in Plaza Frontenac and online at www.potterybarn.com ($50). Emblazoned with a menorah in the evocative form of the tree of life, these plates are a warm and welcoming addition to the Hanukkah table and are both microwave and dishwater safe.
In "Jewish Threads: A Hands-on Guide to Stitching Spiritual Intention into Jewish Fabric Crafts," journey along with talented Jewish fabric craft artists from throughout the United States and Israel as they retrace their steps in the creative process used to make 30 evocative projects. Then readers can tap into their own creativity by following step-by-step instructions to fashion family heirlooms with their own personal flair. The book sells for $19.99 and is available at most area bookstores and amazon.com.
DVDs always make great gifts, and this year there is no shortage of Jewish-themed ones or films that feature prominent Jews in some capacity. Newly released "Sarah's Key" tells the story of an American journalist living in Paris who uncovers a family secret while reporting on the anniversary of France's notorious 1942 Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in World War II. Director Woody Allen's romantic comedy "Midnight in Paris," set in that magical city, explores the illusion that a life different from our own is much better, and it does so with great style and good humor. It won't be released on DVD until Dec. 20 but it can be pre-ordered at areas stores and amazon.com. And for something completely different, consider a subscription to the Jewish Film Club, a bi-monthly subscription service that gives members access to award-winning, independent Jewish-themed films via online streaming and DVD. It costs $95 for a yearlong subscription (six films) or $55 for a six-month subscription (three films), plus $3.25 shipping and handling. At www.jewishfilmclub.com.
A couple of years ago, American Girl introduced us to Rebecca, the Jewish-American doll growing up in New York City in 1910. This year as we scoured for a new and different doll, we came across Tefillin Barbie, created by Soferet Jen Taylor Friedman. She comes dressed in the clothes of a Modern Orthodox girl-long skirt and beret-but also donning a tallit and tefillin. According to Friedman's website, www.hasoferet.com, responses range from "...seriously disturbing-like watching a car accident..." to "finally Barbie has done something I can be proud of" and "a witty comment on contemporary American Jewish life." A Mattel Barbie with tallit, tefillin and gemara is $130. Torah scrolls are an additional $40. Friedman sells them through her website and also at etsy.com.
Local baker Just Sweets, which uses local organic and fair trade certified ingredients, is offering new four-and-six pack gourmet samplers and a full array of luxury fair trade desserts for holiday giving replete in Hanukkah packaging. Baked fresh and deliverable anywhere in the United States, the company's four-pack sampler ($20) includes a Fair & Square cream-filled chocolate mini cake, spicy ginger mini cake, and a mini chocolate and mini cinnamon babka. The six-pack sampler ($30) includes everything in the four-pack plus a mini stack of chocolate chip cookies and raspberry crisscross squares. To order for Hanukkah, visit www.justsweetsdesserts.com and include "Hanukkah" in the notes section to insure special Hanukkah packaging.
Mavrik in Kirkwood (200 S. Kirkwood Road) has some amazing jewelry, 75 percent of which is designed by Israeli and other Jewish artists from around the world. Owner Igal Alon is more than happy to help customers find the right selection for that special someone this Hanukkah. For more information, go to www.mavrikjewelry.com. And for additional jewelry and other gift ideas that are reasonably priced, check out Diane Katzman Design at 8505 Delmar Boulevard in University City.
The Source Unlimited in Creve Coeur (11044 Olive Boulevard) is always a great place for anything and everything Hanukkah-related. From art-statement, handcrafted menorahs to whimsical ones designed with youngsters in mind, and with dozens of varieties of dreidels, the Source has something for everyone who celebrates the holiday. We especially liked several of the family games including Staccabees $19.95), a block stacking game similar to Jenga, and Alef Bet Bingo ($10) for ages 3 and older. Oh, there's even something called Chewish Treats ($9.95) so that Fido doesn't feel left out.
Don't forget that many area synagogues have wonderful gift shops and Hanukkah bazaars to hunt for holiday presents. In addition, several local Jewish organizations offer gift certificates and gift subscriptions for special occasions, including the Jewish Community Center (for both fitness membership and massage), the New Jewish Theatre, the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival, the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival and the St. Louis Jewish Light. On the shameless plug front, the Light is running a special through Hanukkah to all current subscribers, offering them a gift subscription for friends and family for only $22.50. To find out more, call Ann Kusher at (314) 743-3660 or go to www.stljewishlight.com
From all of us to all of you, best wishes for the happiest and healthiest of Hanukkahs.