Give the Gift of Kitsch Fast Forward

Hanukkah

By Lisa Alcalay Klug

Published December 16, 2005, issue of December 16, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When it comes to the Festival of Lights, there is no shortage of gift schmaltz. What qualifies as kitsch? From the excellent to the terrible, kitsch that doesn’t know it’s kitsch automatically draws attention. Instead of kvetching “Bah, humbug,” we’ve opted to offer our recommendations for the kitschiest of the kitsch this holiday season. To fully embrace the spirit of schlock, we’re adopting a candle-rating system, linking gifts to each night in ascending order until the kitsch glows in full eight-candle regalia.

And should you find these items irresistible for the loved ones on your shopping list, we’ve simplified letting go of your gelt by including prices (sans shipping) and all the relevant ordering information. (Phone numbers are provided if available.)

Our first candle contender is a wire garland with blue-and-silver dreidels and Jewish stars. Garland? Who ever heard of Hanukkah garland? And if the item itself weren’t bad enough, the online description at PlumParty.com definitely qualifies: “Where would you not put this? That is the more reasonable question when contemplating the decoration of any interior for the celebration of Hanukkah. It glimmers, it shines, it makes us remember what the holiday is even about, the celebration of the oil burning for eight nights when it should not have lasted past night one. Just think of this garland as a miraculous offspring of the blessed oil, only this will never be a concern as a fire hazard.” PlumParty.com, (800) 227-0314, $5.

The idea of scrubbing away Christmas envy with laundry-like soap earns Ultra Happy Hanukkah Body Detergent the third candle. If your loved ones need still more pampering, there’s an entire line: body wash, bar soap, lotion and sponge in a zip-up case. Bariff Shop for Judaica at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Bariff.org, (888) 322-1740, $20.

Giving dreidels and menorahs a tasteless new purpose, Shepsil Scheinberg’s Hanukkah Tic Tac Toe board takes the second candle. Like a chess set, stand-up dreidels and menorahs vie for supremacy amid candles and faux gelt. Such a hit, don’t be surprised if it’s sold out. Judaism.com, (800) JUDAISM, $17.

Chabad and Jerry Stiller joined up for this fifth candle doozy: Latke Larry, billed as the world’s “first Hanukkah action gift.” Plush, 7-inch Larry shakes his tuchis as he sings a cheesy ditty about the holiday, to the tune of “Maoz Tzur.” First he commands you to “eat my chow.” Then he scolds, “Stop eating my latkes.” Never mind the contradictory message. This friend to “play with and chew on, too!” is redeemed by dedicating proceeds to Chabad’s Friendship Circle, which assists children with special needs. LatkeLarry.com, (888) LATKE-LARRY, $18.

We didn’t believe it until we ate it. Scoring candle number four is Ruthie & Gussie’s “kvetch-proof” Latke Gram. Imagine a frozen care package from Bubbe, with two kinds of ready-made batter, apple sauce and sour cream, all certified kosher. To be honest, we did kvetch a bit. The batter didn’t taste like Mom’s, and we preferred the sweet potato batter to the traditional. But hey, this is one super-fast way to cook up dinner. And we loved the bonus dreidel (included with delivery) for those mindless frying moments. Kosher.com, (866) 567-4379, $28.

The big eighth candle winner is a pair of Magen David holographic spectacles. This two-buck bargain has a purity and genius of its own, simultaneously defining and transcending kitsch by turning your friends’ Christmas lights into Jewish stars. It’s the best revenge for those eat-your-heart-out Christmases when goyim take over the neighborhood. Bariff Shop, Bariff.org, (888) 322-1740, $2.

Wham! Bam! Manhattan writer and graphic designer Alan Oirich earns the sixth candle with his original comic book, “The Amnesia Countdown.” Superhero Menorah Man, with eight flame-shooting arms, battles a legion of criminal androids bent on destroying Jewish memories with a robot missile loaded with a Forget-Me-Chip. Oirich dreamed up Menorah Man and his fellow kosher crusaders — Magen David and his impenetrable shield; Dreidel Maidel, who causes matter to spin at incredible speeds — when he was just 8 years old. (Pictured above: Shabbat Queen) Bariff Shop, Bariff.org, (888) 322-1740, $4.

Snagging the seventh candle is “Bagels and Bongos,” a CD re-release by Reboot Stereophonic of a long-lost lounge classic by the Irving Fields Trio. The title, album cover and content are to live for, blending “melodies of [Fields’s] Lower East Side youth with the rhythms of the cha-cha, mambo, and meringue.” Get ready for “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” “Havanna Negila” [sic] and other danceable faves. No wonder it sold 2 million copies in 1959. ChosenCouture.com, $17.

“Offensive Mention” goes to designer Sarah Lefton of Jewish Fashion Conspiracy for her “miracle panties” that read: “A great miracle happened here.” Jewcy.com, $15.

Lisa Alcalay Klug, former staff writer for The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, has contributed to The New York Times, The Jerusalem Post and other publications.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.