Maccabee was a serious warrior, but surely he would have appreciated these Chanukah samples of fun. After all, he is associated with Games.
With all the holiday decorations going up in the malls just days after Halloween, I find myself making lists and checking them twice to seek the perfect item for my parents, BFFs and bosses. Inevitably, by Thanksgiving, my parents remind me Chanukah was a “children’s holiday” for generations until Hallmark and Madison Avenue found a market in Jewish families wanting to keep up with the Joneses (who no doubt were celebrating Christmas).
Thanks to marketing and product placement, people from all backgrounds have been keeping up with the mythical family for decades, to the point they may have forgotten about the special significance behind the holidays that they were supposed to be observing in the first place.
Though we’re already past the biggest holidays on the Jewish calendar, which — of course — place a bigger emphasis on our relationships with our faith and each other, we are compelled to bring a little joy to our friends and family with tokens of our appreciation.
A good place to start is with Judah Maccabee, and the accomplishments that inspired Chanukah. He’s known for his bravery, resilience, organization and compassion in guiding his people through a very dark time in history. With that in mind, his best qualities could serve as a guide for selecting gifts that are not just appropriate but also encourage the recipients to give back to friends, family or the world in some creative way.
Though there are plenty of tech goodies everybody wants (hello, iPhone 5 calling, with iPad on standby), we’re sure Mr. Maccabee would go for stuff rooted in the values he embraced in some way. We hope this guide will light the way, so to speak, when you hit the shops or your favorite retail websites.
What: The Family iBoard, a desktop (and soon-to-be mobile) application that helps family members stay connected by sharing and preserving content in a social network that is only accessible to selected family members. It is a secure, advertisement-free place for families to preserve and share photo albums and the stories behind them, as well as permanently archive family histories and traditions for future generations. The social network interface also helps members of the extended family stay connected. Features include: Family News, Family Calendar, Family Gallery, Family Library and a Family Post Office.
The recipients: Your entire family.
Where & how to buy: The Family iBoard is available via a free 30-day trial. After the trial period, there is a one-time Private Family Network set-up fee of $19.99. The yearly membership cost is $7.99 for each Family iBoard member. The 30-day trial can be found here: www.familyiboard.com/CreateAccountAndPFN .
Fueling Your Army
Corporate & Office Gifts
What: Balance Bar’s Kosher Gift Assortment, because a good leader should always offer nourishment to help his team get through some of the daily battles at the office and out in the field. In lieu of fruitcake or cheesecake, offer your staff healthy treats in such holiday-season right flavors such as Almond Brownie, Cookie Dough, Mocha Chip, Yogurt Honey Peanut, Café Cinnamon Bun, BARE Blueberry Acai, Gold S’mores and Lemon Meringue Crunch.
The recipients: Your army of colleagues and co-workers, especially with the holiday season often being a demanding time of year. The blue and silver box also makes the Balance Bar’s Kosher Gift Assortment perfect for the tastemaking boss’ corner office.
Where & how to buy: Balance Bar Healthy Hanukkah Gift Assortment is available exclusively at: www.Balance.com  while supplies last. The price of $47 includes free ground shipping and handling within the U.S. (Tax where applicable is not included.) Orders must be placed by Dec. 18 to qualify for free ground shipping.
What: Votary Scarves, made in the USA from luxury materials, are reversible and feature utilitarian detailing that can go from the boardroom to the hiking trail, and everyplace else in between. The wools and textiles are also hypoallergenic and super-soft against the skin. There are several styles and colors available, including Black Charcoal Gray, Black Red, Green Red Ecru, Black Navy and a range of contemporary designs.
The recipient: Bosses, colleagues and friends who’ve kept you covered in the workplace’s trenches.
Where & how to buy: All scarves are 12” x 67” and cost $75. For stores and where to buy, visit: www.VotaryNY.com .
What: Tyla Rae Tech Accessories, to protect the tools used daily by the good soldiers on your team, including such weapons of choice as smartphones, iPads and laptops.
The recipient: Secretaries, assistants and others essential in ensuring the success of your workplace.
Where & how to buy: The leather and patent leather wares created by Tyla Rae Bohbot, a nice Jewish woman from Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, are available nationwide via her website, TylaRae.com. Prices range from $69-$99.
Lighting Up Her Days
Gifts for Socially Conscious Wives and Daughters
What: Twisted Silver Jewelry, an ingenious line that redefines the term “precious metal,” with necklaces, bracelets and earrings fashioned from earthy base metals, recycled materials, found objects and vintage elements. Celebrity fans include Karina Smirnoff, Mindy Stirling, William Shatner and several cast members of the CSI television franchise.
The Recipient: Fashionistas who appreciate function within their fashion, and ways to express their love for the planet and society’s well-being.
Where & how to buy: These socially conscious pieces range in price from $30 to $160 for one-of-a-kind, limited edition pieces and are available at: www.twisted-silver.com .
What: Nahui Ollin Arm Candy Bags and Totes. Eatontown, N.J.-based Nahui Ollin founder Olga Abadi made an amazing discovery while on a buying trip to Mexico — that candy wrappers can be fashioned into quality handbags instead of landfill. Using a Mayan paper-folding technique, up to 4,000 used candy wrappers are miraculously transformed into durable, statement-making handbags and totes. They also benefit craftspeople’s communities.
The recipient: Ladies making a bold name for themselves while carrying their load in life.
Where & how to buy: These hip bags and purse accessories are available in a variety of designs and colors worldwide via Nahui’s website (www.ollinarmcandy.com ). Prices range from $21 for small wallets up to $231 for a weekender/carry-on travel satchel.
Design brace-lets by Lori Cohn, which blend traditional symbols of the Jewish faith with modern, utilitarian fashion elements. Cool styles include the leather protection bracelet (available in several colors with a hamsa, tree of life and evil eye), the “Peace” bracelet (a leather wrap bracelet with a hamsa, evil
eye and peace sign) or something a little more ladylike (a silk wrap bracelet with a hamsa, peace sign and turquoise teardrop bead).
The Recipient: Your BFF, who deserves something more than a woven friendship bracelet for having your back and your trust, year in and year out.
Where & how to buy: Charmed Design bracelets run around $37 and are available at: www.charmeddesign.com .
Goods and Gear
Gifts for Parents and Kids
What: Tour De France Bicycles, the only premier line of bicycles officially licensed by the Tour de France, now makes bikes for adults and kids. What says Chanukah more than a brand new bike adorned with a big blue and silver bow? Furthermore, while “Maccabee” may be derived from the Hebrew word for “hammer,” Judah would probably be fine with just a screwdriver assembling this awesome bike for one of his sons.
The Recipients: The kid in everybody, looking forward to spring’s first thaw, as well as those determined to burn off those latkes after Chanukah’s over.
Where & how to buy: Children’s models start at $82,while adult models with the bells and whistles run around $249. The bikes are available at: Target.com, Walmart.com, SamsClub.com, Amazon.com, Sears.com and CycleFG.com.
What: Campfire in a Can. Though camping season and picnics are months away, we think outdoorsy guys as well as Judah Maccabee would appreciate the idea of having an easy and safe source of light, heat and cooking at arm’s reach. These environmentally friendly, user friendly and safe outdoor fire pits offer a warm, welcoming campfire experience anytime, anywhere.
The Recipients: Those who love the romantic, time-honored notion of bonding and sharing stories around a campfire or a family cookout — or a Philadelphia Eagles tailgate party.
Where & how to buy: Pay $279.99, and these eternal flames as well as essential accessories can be purchased at: www.campfireinacan.com .
What: Q-i-Sound Stereo Bluetooth Speakers by Qmadix. Judah Maccabee needed to be heard by his armies but also had to travel light. Thanks to modern technology, a music enthusiast — especially one heading to college — can do just that with these portable but stylish speakers available in black or white that zip together into a pert egg shape.
The Recipients: Tech-obsessed guys and “early adaptors” who, like Maccabee, march with conviction to their own beat. Qmadix was also one of the first companies to offer iPhone 5 Covers.
Where & how to buy: $150, available at: ShopAndroid.com, Globalphonecompany.com, www.samsgadgets.com , www.ipadinstyle.com  and other electronics retailers.
What: The Kinekt Gear Ring, a fashion statement for guys who are connoisseurs and admirers of tools, engineering and gadgetry. This unusual design in stainless steel has both design and utility patents on it, according to designer Glen Liberman, who is based in Livingston, N.J.
Attorney/jewelry designer Sarah Feingold agrees that even the most traditional Jewish symbol — the Magen David — will resonate with the modern man if the design has “warrior’s edge.” This takes the form of her Jazzy Jewish Star.
The Recipients: Men who like to accessorize themselves the same way they accessorize their offices and “man caves,” but in ways women will also appreciate.
Where & how to buy: The Kinekt Gear Ring retails for $165 and is available at the Kinekt Design website (www.kinektdesign.com ). Sterling silver ($99 to $106) and 14K gold versions ($340) of the Jazzy Jewish Star are available at: www.sarahfeingold.com/stars .
Playthings with a Purpose
Inspired Low-Tech Gifts for Children and Children at Heart
What: Artifact Puzzles, a perfect way to get kids working on hand-eye coordination the old-fashioned way, while simultaneously bringing the whole
family together for bonding once all the chocolate “gelt” is claimed in the dreidel tournament. Clever designs and vibrant artwork are used in fashioning the laser-cut wooden jigsaw
puzzles that will be treasured for generations.
The Recipients: Over-programmed children who need to slow down to better learn how to think strategically. You and they may be surprised to learn there are plenty of knights, warriors, monsters and animals to keep everybody entertained. They also offer a puzzle map that charts the Hebrew’s exodus out of Egypt for families who want a little education thrown in with their fun.
Where & how to buy: Most of the puzzles range from $18-$100 and are available at: www.artifactpuzzles.com .
What: Adorable critters from the 2012 IKEA Soft Toys for Education campaign. Running through Dec. 29, this annual event raises money to educate children around the world. Since 2003, the IKEA Soft Toys for Education campaign has donated $61.75 million to UNICEF and Save the Children, helping 8 million children through over 70 programs.
The Recipients: Young children whom you want to teach the values of creativity and human interaction — qualities that made Judah Maccabee successful in his pursuits.
Where & how to buy: The menagerie of stuffed animals, finger puppets and books range in price from $.49 - $19.99, and are available in all IKEA stores nationwide. For every IKEA Soft Toy purchased, $1.35 US is donated to the Soft Toys for Education Campaign.
This story was originally written for the Chanukah Gift Guide, a special section of the Exponent.