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The ultimate arty and ethical Hanukkah gift guide

By now we all know which of our possessions most enrich our lives — because we’ve been stuck looking at them for nine months. We also wrestle with the albatross of annoying clutter. So, when it comes time to Hanukkah shopping this year, apply this same lens to gift giving. Here are items that are useful, inspiring and ethical, and in some cases, provide the self-care and indulgence we all need.

Blocky modular chanukiah from Judaica Standard Time and BZippy & Co.

Blocky modular chanukiah from Judaica Standard Time and BZippy & Co. Image by David Kitz

1. Chanukiah from Judaica Standard Time and BZippy & Co.

Design enthusiasts who have been hoping for traditional Jewish objects to catch up with contemporary aesthetics have reason to celebrate this season. Multi-hyphenate creatives Michael David, David Kitz and Jesse Kivel harnessed their sensibilities and artist connections to develop Jewish products that newly resonate under their Judaica Standard Time banner. The blocky modular chanukiah made by Los Angeles ceramic artist Bari Ziperstein’s BZippy & Co. brand is one example of JST’s edgy yet hamish take on ancient rituals and accoutrements. Other collaborations include a menorah by ANK Ceramics, Vada Jewelry’s twist on a star of David gold necklace and Hanukkah cards by Mike Pare Studio, with more partnerships and goods in the works.


Via Maris Shelter mezuzah

Via Maris Shelter mezuzah Image by Justin Hollar

2. Via Maris Shelter mezuzah

Also in the vein of stylish millennial Jews looking share their tastes and worldview, Dana Hollar Schwartz’s own personal quest evolved into a business. The Shelter mezuzah she designed for her Brooklyn home helped plant the seed for Via Maris, the collection of Modernist inspired, sleek Judaica that the fashion industry communications specialist and designer Jamie Wolfond officially launched in September. All the elegant chanukiot, candle holders, paraffin wax candles, and steel mezuzot are produced according to strict ethical manufacturing and social responsibility guidelines, and the scrolls are crafted by sofrot (female scribes) in Israel.


Art of Tea, Tea for Two gift

Art of Tea, Tea for Two gift Image by Audrey Ma

3. Tea for Two set by Art of Tea

Tea maven Steve Schwartz landed on his career path developing unique blends for the likes of Wolfgang Puck and other leading chefs. Since 2004 his company, Art of Tea, has brought the best of global picks into your cup, all selected by Schwartz’s discerning palate and expertise. The Tea for Two set includes a pair of gorgeous handmade ceramic mugs and an Art of Tea sampler containing a dozen individually bagged varieties. For folks who have cupboards already brimming with mugs, then peruse other tea package options that appeal to all senses.


“Tchotchke” jigsaw puzzle from Piecework Image by Carl Ostberg

4. “Tchotchke” jigsaw puzzle from Piecework

Idyllic landscapes, animals and iconic paintings might be some of the jigsaw puzzles we’ve all tackled during quarantine. Ready for something different? Rachel Hochhauser and Jena Wolfe of Piecework make this endeavor a whole lot more fun and unexpected thanks to their original designs. The random objects featured in the 1,000-piece “Tchotchke” puzzle are more accessible to assemble while the blue background will satisfy the more accomplished puzzle masters on your gift giving list. Piecework is so dedicated to making sure its fans get the most out of their puzzling experiences, the company even shares Spotify playlists to set the right mood for each puzzle-tackling session.


Now foe Something Sweet cookbook

Now for Something Sweet cookbook

5. Now for Something Sweet cookbook by the Monday Morning Cooking Club

The ladies of the Monday Morning Cooking Club exhaustively collect recipes from their Jewish community in Australia and the global diaspora. Their fourth cookbook, Now for Something Sweet (Harper Collins), delivers what the enticing title promises, from a fig and caramel sour cream pavlova to chocolate and cherry kindlech, with tantalizing photographs, stories and baking tips woven throughout the text. Plus because MMCC is a non-profit organization, all proceeds are donated to charity. The only drawback to diving into these recipes is not being able to sit around their kitchens in Oz with the charming and engaging Monday Morning Cooking Club members themselves.

$35, available at Amazon and independent booksellers

Dona Chai hot cocoa set

Dona Chai hot cocoa set Image by Sam Hillman

6. Dona Chai hot cocoa set

Brooklyn-based founder Amy Rothstein’s Dona Chai has attracted loyal beverage enthusiasts who are drawn to the low-sugar complex flavors and conveniently packaged kosher-certified spiced concentrates. Simply add a pour of the bottled blend into hot milk (or milk alternative) and voila. Delish! The Dona Chai hot cocoa set includes a 16 ounce bottle of Dona Masala Chai concentrate, a bag of Markham & Fitz sustainably harvested, single-origin cocoa powder and a Bodum wand for frothing milk, along with a recipe card to make the perfect twist on this seasonal warm drink.


Succulent trio from The Sill

Succulent trio from The Sill Image by The Sill

7. Succulent trio from The Sill

Remember when potted plants and houseplants were punchlines? No longer. This year has been the time for indoor plants, with a plethora of Instagram feeds and websites dedicated to waxing poetic about people’s living green accessories. The Sill has brick-and-mortar locations in New York City, L.A. and San Francisco along with a website chock full of shippable real live plant gifts. The succulent trio set is a low-maintenance way of bringing new life into someone’s space — as well as beautiful reminder of our collective resilience. Or skip the cacti and go for something more lush from The Sill’s thoughtfully curated inventory.


Calm Balm from The NOW

Calm Balm from The NOW

8. Calm Balm from The NOW

The NOW, a hip network of accessibly-priced massage treatment and wellness spaces, has expanded into products including the Calm Balm. This salve is here to relieve mild aches perhaps caused by holiday season tsuris, quarantine anxiety and everything in between. The concoction that contains all-natural ingredient extracts such as carrot seed, apricot oil, peppermint, camu-camu berry and ashwagandha is also ideal for moisturizing skin in dry winter weather.


Jessica Ritz is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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