Gifts With An Inner Light
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Gifts With An Inner Light

Our annual guide to cool and socially conscious items for Chanukah.

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

Serve your challah with good news. Desi Mei-Dan, who lives in Modi’in, Israel, recycles newspapers and rolls and weaves the paper into attractive and durable items, like a challah tray. Going through old newspapers, she selects only the good news and photographs for her work, creating beautiful objects out of things we ordinarily dispose. The Aesthetic Sense is a shop in upstate Mt. Kisco relaunched last December by Karen and Jay Schecter, specializing in ethically sourced, fair trade products — most of the items are Judaica and/or objects and artwork by Israeli artisans.

$75, The Aesthetic Sense: Goods for the Soul, 222 E. Main St., Mt. Kisco, (914) 864-1600, theaestheticsense.com

Israeli artist Vered Otmy’s small bowls are brightly colored in regal tones, patterned with the influence of the Middle East and Far East, with pomegranates, paisleys and other designs. She works in papier-mâché, using recycled paper, plastic and wood, and produces these washable round bowls (5 7/8 by 1 ½) in a Tel Aviv workshop she leads for adults with disabilities.

$65, The Aesthetic Sense

Surprise loved ones with a subscription service that delivers boxes of high quality, innovative Israeli goods, many organic and handcrafted, from small Israeli businesses that are socially progressive and environmentally friendly — with good stories behind them. Emily Berg, who made aliyah from Toronto in 2012, founded Blue Box as a way to enable people in the disapora to connect with Israel through supporting these vendors, whether artisans, farmers, designers, small business owners or kibbutzim. Each box includes items from one vendor, along with the vendor’s story. The name “Blue Box” is inspired by the JNF tzedekah box that was in Berg’s great-grandmother’s home, as a symbol of Zionism and connecting communities. Recent packages have included honey from Kibbutz Ein Harod, distinctive Israeli spices from Derech HaTavlanim and hand-woven baskets from Kuchinate: African Refugee Women’s Collective. All food products are kosher. The Chanukah box is still a surprise

Price depends on subscription plan: $36 each for 12 months, $40 each for 6 months; $46 each for 3 months, or $50 for a single box. Shipping included. Blueboxisrael.com

Read, reread and share Yehuda Amichai’s unforgettable, gorgeous poetry. Just published, “The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai,” edited by Robert Alter (Farrar, Straus, Giroux) is the largest selection of Amichai’s poems to appear in English, featuring translations by a distinguished group including Chana Bloch, Ted Hughes, Stephen Mitchell and Leon Wieseltier, along with new translations by Alter. Amichai, the best known poet of modern Israel, draws on daily conversation, biblical phrases and their cadences, dreams and personal reflections in these poems, originally published between 1955 and 1998. In his introduction, literary scholar Alter suggests that love and war were the two poles in Amichai’s life.

At bookstores, $35

Martin Lowenberg, an 87-year-old survivor of the Shoah, crafts mezuzahs by hand out of brass, sterling and nickel silver, in his own striking designs with rich detail. He learned metalwork as a child in Germany, and the skill helped him to survive several concentration camps. A retired traveling salesman who is now a Holocaust educator and artist in Southfield, Mich., Lowenberg offers buyers an optional wood base for the mezuzah — the wood was reclaimed from a German railway car that transported Jews to concentration camps, and that is now part of a Holocaust Memorial Center in Michigan. As the wood deteriorated, the Museum replaced the boards. Lowenberg, a docent there, was able to use the wood in his artwork in an effort to keep memory of the Shoah alive. Lowenberg also makes cuff links, tallis clips, Torah pointers and other objects out of a variety of metals.

Orders by phone only, (248) 356-3622

Designed by a French woman and made by artisans in Bali, these necklaces spread light. Both delicate and bold, they are made of shimmering Swarovski crystals, lava beads and pearls. Each one is different, with beautiful details like metal leaves and elephants and colorful silk tassels; all of them come in single and double strands. Domus Unaffected Living specializes in high-quality, handcrafted, sustainable items “that show the individual mark of the artisans who made them.”

Domus Unaffected Living, 413 W. 44th St. (between Ninth and 10th Avenues), Manhattan, $55-$110, (212) 581-8099, Domusnewyork.com

Israeli designer Lior Gluska creatively blends modernity and tradition: She updates the traditional Eastern European menorah design, with its folk art motifs, in modern metal the color of deep blue sky.

$40 ($36 members), The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave. (92nd Street), Manhattan, (212) 423-3333, Shop.thejewishmuseum.org

Hug these joyful and colorful dolls, handmade by participants in a project including Arab and Jewish women, the Arous el-Bahar (Bride of the Sea) Association for Women in Jaffa, an NGO advocating for women’s empowerment and creativity. The women weave their stories into these dolls, all made of quality, environmentally friendly fabrics; some designs are inspired by graffiti. Each doll, with wide-open arms and a large smiling face, has an embroidered heart, signifying women’s love for others.

$34, Jaffadolls.com

From the rugged highlands of Nepal, fair trade artisans recycle silk saris and felted wool to make spectacular scarves, in a spectrum of vivid colors. Magpie is an Upper West side shop specializing in fair trade, recycled, organic and locally sourced gifts.

$54, Magpie, 488 Amsterdam Ave. (between 83rd and 84th Streets), Manhattan, (646) 998-3002, Magpienewyork.com

Add to the beauty and fragrance of Havdalah with small natural boxes made of cinnamon wood in Vietnam — they serve well as containers for the spices breathed in at the conclusion of Shabbat.

$16, Magpie

Celebrate and take a spin in the first-ever Chanukah leggings we’ve seen. In deep colors, with stylized dreidels on a black background, these are designed by Rabbi Yael Buechler, who was named to The Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” for her entrepreneurial educational work, including “Midrash Manicures.” Rabbi Buechler explains that her company is dedicated to finding new ways for creative Jewish expression, and the leggings “take the Talmudic idea of ‘pirsum hanes,’ publicizing the miracle, to a whole new level.” Child and adult sizes are available.

Midrashmanicures.com, $28

Made in South Africa by master beadsmith George Mahaso, this merry menorah features baby elephants, beaded in multi-colors with their trunks entwined. The artist has been making objects out of wire since he was a teen and helped support his family in Zimbabwe. He now lives in Cape Town and works with a fair trade organization.

$55, Fairtradejudaica.org

One of Israel’s most academic wineries offers terrific wine. Karmei Yosef Winery, in the foothills of the village of Karmei Yosef near Jerusalem, produces Bravdo Wines, named for Professor Ben Ami Bravdo, one of the founders, who is a longtime faculty member of Hebrew University and a leading international scientist in viticulture — and considered one of the grandfathers of the Israeli wine industry. In 1999, Bravdo, along with his former student Oded Shoseyov, also a faculty member of Hebrew University — whose family began growing grapes 120 years ago — established Karmei Yosef. Sadie Flateman, a buyer at 67 Wine & Spirits, Inc., whose specialty includes Israeli wine, praises their innovative techniques and scientific approach. He explains that Karmei Yosef may be the first winery to actually prove scientifically the health benefits of wine, referring to it Landmark 2B, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that is enriched with extra skins from Cabernet Franc. The double skin contact fermentation means twice the polyphenols and antioxidants. Flateman describes the style of the winery’s red wines as “bold, modern and gutsy with big spice and concentration.”

Bravdo Cabernet Sauvignon, $32.99, Merlot, 29.99, 67 Wine & Spirits Inc, 179 Columbus Ave. (68th Street), Manhattan, (212) 724-6767. (Bring this column into 67 Wine & Spirits for a 10 percent discount on all Bravdo wine through 2015.)

Carry a gift of wine in a great bag that helps fight world hunger and malnutrition and promotes education and healthy living. Every FEED wine bag purchased will provide five school meals for children in countries like Guatemala, Haiti, India, Kenya and Columbia. The bags, made of materials including cotton and burlap with different colored handles, are sewn by cooperatives that provide sustainable livelihoods in the regions where the meals are arranged.

$22, Feedprojects.com

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