The Sweetest Of Gifts

The Sweetest Of Gifts

Jams for coexistence, fair-trade yads and freedom napkins.

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

Few things make us as conscious of time passing as the approach of the New Year. “So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom,” the psalmist writes. A wall clock by Israeli designer Barbara Shaw, who makes gift items out of hand-designed fabrics, features her striking pomegranates in deep reds. The clock, assembled by hand, is printed laminate on wood composite, and works by battery. (You’ll also find a vase, a tote bag, place mats, cushions and more in the same pattern.)


Breaking bread together is all the more sweet with homemade jam — especially when breaking bread is a way of building bridges. “Jam Session: Recipes for Friendship, Jams and Remembrance” is a gorgeous book with color photographs. It is published by The Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF), an organization of Palestinian and Israeli families that have each lost an immediate family member to the conflict. Their message is one of reconciliation rather than revenge. In spite of their tragic losses, they have resolved to work together, through dialogue and promoting mutual understanding, toward creating a framework for lasting peace.

The book introduces some of the women participants and their recipes. Tamara Rabinowitz, who joined PCFF after she lost her son Idor, contributes her recipe for sugarless strawberry jam, along with a recipe for pickling cucumbers in a plastic bag. Amna Al-Nafnouf, who lost her brother Muhammad and her uncle Abd El-Jab, contributes grape and eggplant jam, along with spicy pickles. Also featured are recipes for wild orange and apple jam, pumpkin jam, pickled peppers, fig jam, Danish prune preserve, yellow plum jam and more. Israeli television personality Gil Hovav, a culinary journalist, guided and cooked and ate with the women, with the assistance of chef Hussam Abbas, who owns the El Barbour restaurants in Israel. Proceeds from sales will be used to further the work of PCFF.

$36 contribution. Online, through, or send a check to American Friends of the Parents Circle, 301 E. 57th St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10022.

The closing of shuls is always painful, but this story has a happy ending. In the northeastern corner of Connecticut, two shuls with long histories in the nearby towns of Moodus and Deep River sold their buildings and land and joined together to form a new shul. Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, Conn., was completed in 2001. The spectacular building — designed by Chester architect Stephen Lloyd and the late great American painter Sol LeWitt, who was a member of the shul — brings to mind the wooden shuls of Poland. LeWitt also designed the ark to hold the Torah scrolls — it features a geometric pattern with strips of bright colors forming a Star of David. The design inspired the synagogue’s signature kipa — a vivid symbol of the community’s continuity — now in its seventh edition, that features bright blue trim. The four-paneled leather kipa is available at the synagogue in Chester and also at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, site of the Sol LeWitt exhibit, “Wall Drawing #370,” on view through September 2015.

$36 through Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek. (860) 526-8920. Also available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Mezzanine Gallery Shop, (212) 570-3767 for customer service, $40.

Shmita, the biblical sabbatical year in which the land is left fallow, begins on this Rosh HaShanah. Hazon, the Jewish environmental organization, is taking a lead role in promoting awareness of the tradition and the spiritual values associated with it — the organization just published the first-ever English translation of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook’s introduction to his 1909 book “Shabbat Ha’aretz” (Sabbath of the Land), in which he explains the concepts of Shmita and its meaning for the modern world. The book is translated by Rabbi Julian Sinclair, an educator, environmentalist and solar energy developer in Israel. Rav Kook, the founding chief rabbi of Israel, envisioned much more than a legal observance of prohibitions against agricultural labor. As Rabbi Sinclair writes, he also envisioned “a periodic outbreak of justice, equality, psychic rebirth, and restored universal human dignity amounting to a comprehensive spiritual and social renewal.” The beautifully desig

$18, at or, and at West Side Judaica, 2412 Broadway (89th Street), Manhattan.

These vividly colored printed cotton napkins do triple duty: They’ll grace a holiday table, cut down on trash and add sweetness and possibility to the lives of the young women in India who make them. Salila Rising: Threads for Freedom is a project created by Ashira Greenbaum and Andy Katz; they collaborate with an Indian NGO that works to stop trafficking and oppression of women and children. Their efforts include rescuing children from brothels, training police and judges to identify cases of trafficking and to provide healthcare, education and job opportunities to the girls. Salila Rising helps to provide dignified work.

$15 for a set of 6 napkins.

For Simchat Torah, when the Torah is turned back to the very beginning to be read anew, present someone with a new Torah yad, or pointer. Fair Trade Judaica offers two beautiful hand-made selections “that will bring even more blessings when reading.” From Bali, the wooden yad is made from sustainably harvested wood. The carver, in the village of Tapaksiring in Bali, Indonesia, has been carving for about 20 years and enjoys new opportunities to express his creativity. Ilana Schatz of Fair Trade Judaica presented the challenge to him through an American group that works with Indonesian artisans. From South Africa, the challenge was answered with this wire and beaded yad, designed and created by a self-taught wire and bead artisan working with a fair trade organization in Cape Town.

$36 (wood), $20 (beaded).

Shop in the lobby of the JCC in Manhattan on the Upper West Side to find very appealing gifts — the shop is run by young adult members of the Adaptations program, a community of adults in their 20s and 30s with developmental and/or learning disabilities and a high level of independence. Through the group, members learn job and social skills and gain a sense of community. All proceeds from sales benefit the Jack and Shirley Center for Special Needs.

They offer Shabbat items (challah, candles, flowers, grape juice, etc.) every week, and at holiday time, also offer a wider selection, including a memorial candle holder from Israel ($20), a honey dish in the shape of a pomegranate, made in Israel ($25), challah covers designed and made in Israel ($40), glass vases handmade by Adaptations members from recycled wine bottles ($72), and organic local honey from Silvermine Apiary — run by fourth-generation beekeeper Andrew Cote — with dippers ($16).

The shop is open every Friday (Shabbat items are available every week) from 8:30-4 and also will be open on Thursdays, Sept. 11, 18 and Oct. 2. JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave.

For those who have the tradition of bringing a book to services to tuck inside the siddur, Marcia Falk’s new compilation, “The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season” (Brandeis University Press) is a great choice. A poet and translator, Falk offers new, reimagined and reinterpreted liturgy. As in her siddur, “The Book of Blessings,” Falk recreates Jewish prayer from an inclusive perspective, evoking the sacred.

At bookstores, $24.95; ebook $21.99.

Rabbi Yael Buechler, founder of Midrash Manicures, has added new designs for this holiday season, “as visual reminders that the High Holiday season is a time for us to reflect about our past year and an opportunity to look forward to growth in the year ahead.” Apply a shofar nail decal and think about a wake-up call to create change.

$11.99. Also available at J. Levine Books & Judaica, 5 W. 30th St., Manhattan, and West Side Judaica, 2412 Broadway (89th Street), Manhattan.