Start off the new year of studying the Torah with a naturalist’s original and insightful observations on the text. From a noted authority on plants and herbs who lives on a small farm in the Adirondacks, “Seeds of Transcendence: Understanding the Hebrew Bible Through Plants” by Jo Ann Gardner (Decalogue Books) is infused with the author’s deep love and knowledge of the land and native flora of Israel. In her research, she spent a lot of time with the late Nogah Hareuveni, founder of Neot Kedumim, Israel’s Biblical Landscape Reserve. Her clear writing brings together the material and spiritual worlds of the text.
$29.95 paperback, $49.95 hardcover. Decalogue Books, (800) 697-0402.
Give a gift of sight. For every pair of sharp-looking Blue Planet reading glasses that you buy, the company will donate a pair to someone in need. Made of recycled materials with bamboo temples, the eyeglasses come in a variety of colors. So far, the company has given away 100,000 pairs of glasses.
$24 per pair of glasses (and a pair will be given away). Magpie, 488 Amsterdam Ave., (646) 998-3002, magpienewyork.com.
Support the improvement of Bedouin women’s lives through beautiful hand-made items with traditional Bedouin embroidery. The Association for the Improvement of Women’s Status, Lakia is the first Bedouin women’s nonprofit organization in southern Israel. Through its website and the sales at its Visitor’s Center, it is generating income for Bedouin women, preserving traditional handcrafts, teaching small business skills and supporting its ongoing work to improve educational opportunities for women and youth — Lakia runs a mobile library as well as local educational programs. Making items like colorful embroidered iPad covers, it is bridging tradition and modernity.
Two representatives of the organization were in New York earlier this summer — their first visit to the U.S. — to present their products and their powerful stories of underfunded schools, domestic violence against women, polygamy and unemployment — always stressing the importance of women’s education. One activist, the daughter of illiterate parents, who speaks several languages (and has two sons studying medicine), spoke of embroidery as empowerment.
Greeting cards from recycled paper with embroidery inserts (and blank insides) are $6; an iPad case is $38. Small items range in price from $5 to $50 (pillows); larger items, like the triangular shawls, range from $65 to $120. (Prices do not include shipping and handling.)
Desert-embroidery.org. For pricing and orders, contact email@example.com.
Prepare a seasonal apple pie in this colorful stoneware dish from Yachad Gifts. Or order apple-shaped baskets filled with marzipan, honey and other kosher sweets. The baskets are beautifully assembled, the caring work of individuals with disabilities who receive training to gain diverse employment skills from Yachad/The National Jewish Council for Disabilities, affiliated with the Orthodox Union. All proceeds go toward forwarding the work of Yachad.
Dish $30, baskets, $18 and up. Yachadgifts.com. New store location: 1090 Coney Island Ave., Suite 401, Brooklyn.
“Happy bees make better honey,” says Claire Marin of Catskill Honey, the producers of raw, natural, kosher-certified honey, in Long Eddy, N.Y., in the Western Catskills. For fall, wildflower honey is available in jars and pieces of honeycomb (that go really well over apples). One of the secrets to keeping her bees happy is to harvest gradually.
Jar of honey, $12 online. (Jewish Week readers receive a 20 percent discount on the jars by ordering online with the code EATING WELL.) Honey comb, $29.95 for about 10 ounces. Catskillprovisions.com. Also available at Zabar’s and Dean & DeLuca.
Make and serve the perfect honey cake in a colorful baking dish made in Israel by the pottery group A Half Cup of Sugar. The design features date palms, the words “for soft and fragrant honey cake” in Hebrew and, of course, a bee. Recipes are included.
Baking dish, $38. The Jewish Museum, Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, (212) 423-3333, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spread sweetness and drizzle honey from a striking stoneware honey pot, embossed with a honeybee. To avoid spills, the dipper is attached to the natural wood lid. Designed in Massachusetts by a studio called Beehive, the pot is hand cast by fair trade artisans in the Andes Mountains in Peru.
Honey pot, $88. The Jewish Museum, Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, (212) 423-3333, email@example.com.
Susan’s House in Jerusalem was founded in 2002 as a memorial to Susan Kaplansky, who worked to help at-risk young people living on the street, with rehabilitation through training in art. With training from professional artists and craftspeople, the teens produce high-quality pieces in art glass, jewelry and ceramics. Visitors are welcome. The Pickman Shop at the Museum of Jewish Heritage carries a splendid Susan’s House colored glass honey dish. Other items are available online from Susan’s House.
Glass honey tray, $35. Pickman Museum Shop, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, (646) 437-4243, pickmuseumshop.com. Shop online at Susanshouse.org.il.
Add to the beauty of your sukkah and support the people of Nepal, who are slowly recovering from the devastating earthquake earlier this year, along with more recent aftershocks and landslides caused by the monsoons. These colorful eco paper garlands, handcrafted by fair trade women’s cooperatives in Nepal — whether a string of butterflies, fish, flowers of birds — are six feet long. The garlands and fold-out rosettes, designed with cheerful detail, are crafted of Lotka paper, made from the bark of the daphne plant through an ancient papermaking process.
Paper garlands, $11; Rosettes, $6. Magpie, 488 Amsterdam Ave., (646) 998-3002, magpienewyork.com.
Time moves ahead, at great speed, it seems, and time moves in circles that spiral upward: Each year, we find ourselves back at the beginning of the cycle, but changed, and in a higher place. (Rabbi Edward Greenstein has compared the journey to going up the spiraling ramp of the Guggenheim Museum, when we can look down at last year at each curve, and look ahead as well.) The Misaviv Hebrew Circle Calendar, 5776, from Deuteronomy Press, honors the traditional circular view of time, for “a new old path for the new year.” (Misaviv means “around.”) Beautifully designed in full color, the 13-month calendar features new paintings with original imagery, infused with symbolism, for each month by different artists including Elke Reva Sudin (Kislev), Rebecca Shenfeld (Tevet) and others, with calligraphy by Ted Kadin. Elisha Mendl Mlotek of the band Zusha is creative director. For each month, the weeks begin in the outer circle and moves toward Shabbat in the center; holidays and the weekly Torah portions are noted, along with Hebrew and English dates. We share publisher Jorian Polis Schultz’s greeting, “with blessings for a year of joyful and spiraling ascent.”
Calendar, $25. Circlecalendar.com.