Recent events in the world have affected the lives of Jewish Americans in all sorts of ways.
And Kristen Kreider, managing director of business operations and curator for the museum store at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, has noticed an underappreciated one: It has affected Jews’ purchasing decisions, with many customers embracing an increased affinity for Jews and Israel, and buying things in a way that reflects that.
“People’s buying trends have really changed since the war started,” Kreider said. “We’re selling a ton of symbol jewelry — everybody all of a sudden has to have a chai or Star of David around their neck.”
She also noted that the museum store is “selling Shabbat candle holders and Shabbat candles like never before,” indicating that a lot more people are embracing the Shabbat dinner tradition.
Sales have also ticked up, she said, of Israel-made products from those wishing to help Israel during a time of war.
With the holiday shopping season well underway, especially with Chanukah falling on the early side this year, Kreider is also already seeing clear sales trends for the Festival of Lights. What are the big Chanukah gifts this year?
The trend toward purchases of Jewish stars, chai necklaces and other jewelry is continuing into the Chanukah season, Kreider said.
“What I’m reordering all the time are the symbol pieces,” she said. “For men, I’ve never, in 30-some years of retail, I’ve never sold so many men’s pieces. I’ve sold more in the last six weeks than in probably the last 30 years combined.”
“Men have been buying such things for their wives — and also for themselves, she said.
One recent arrival is “My Name is Barbra,” the long-awaited memoir by Jewish showbiz legend Barbra Streisand.
“The men are buying that for their wives, for sure,” Kreider said. “And bragging about how many points they’re going to get for giving it to them.”
For parents and grandparents:
Indeed books, as always, are popular gifts at the museum for moms and dads.
Kreider specifically mentioned autographed versions of the new cookbooks by Adeena Sussman (“Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals From My Table To Yours”) and Jake Cohen (“I Could Nosh: Classic Jew-ish Recipes Revamped for Every Day”), as well as “Jewish Space Lasers,” the recently published book by Mike Rothschild about the history of antisemitic conspiracy theories. (The museum store also offers a “Secret Jewish Space Laser Corps” Baseball Cap.)
The humor book “How to Raise a Jewish Dog” has also moved copies for years, she said.
Beyond books, the store’s No. 1 item for parents and grandparents in recent months has been a hat with the Yiddish phrase “Alta Cocker.” “It basically means ‘old grouchy guy,’” she said. Pickleball paraphernalia has also become a popular gift, as have mahjong and canasta clothes.
For the Yiddish lovers of the world, the Museum offers a “Yiddish insults” mug, along with hats, books and more.
Very popular with the kids this year has been the Interactive Sticker Countdown set, in which they can open a window for each of the eight nights of the holiday.
Chanukah-themed pajamas, the curator said, are a popular item this year as always, although they’re beginning to also become more popular in adult sizes, as well as matching sets of five for whole families.
Travel menorahs are popular this year, Kreider said, especially since Chanukah falls this year when many college students are still in their dorms and not yet home.
Gelt, she added, is selling especially well this year, as are Chanukah candles.
She added that some storybooks aimed at interfaith families have been popular sellers this year, including “Daddy Christmas, Mommy Hanukkah” and “Latkes for Santa Claus.”
“Sesame Street”-related Chanukah books are also available.
Stephen Silver is a Broomall-based freelance writer.