What do you love more- giving or getting? Giving gifts or getting gifts? Giving love or getting love? Before I became a mother, I was certain that getting was the preferred option, but as my five sons have grown — as well as my deep love for them — “giving” seems to feel so much more smushy and cuddly!
As a content writer for the online Judaica gift store aJudaica.com, I’m a daily witness to the sincere desire of people worldwide to demonstrate their love and attachment to others with trendy made-in-Israel gifts. Observing how selfless people can be in their goal of bestowing joy upon their newlywed neighbors or their grandparents at their 50th anniversary, I am constantly humbled and inspired.
So what are the most popular gifts? Who are the most popular Israeli artists? What unique philosophies and materials go into each product to infuse it with an unmistakably “sabra” feel?
My jaw dropped two years ago, about a week after I began working for aJudaica.com. I discovered what the #1 most popular gift item was. Not Star of David necklaces, not Kiddush cups, not menorahs, Shabbat candlesticks or even kippahs. The winner by a long-shot was, of all things, the shofar. At least 15 shofars are bought and shipped daily to such remote places as Bangladesh, Australia, the Phillipines, Portugal, Singapore, Nicaragua… you name it!
So the cool-Jewish-gift is a Shofar. And why not? Measuring 52” long, our most majestic shofar comes from a magnificent Kudu and produces up to 5 hauntingly spiritual notes. As the focal point of a breakfront, it makes for an incredible conversation piece during Friday night supper.
When it comes to Judaica artists, there are a few household names whose products comprise the bulk of our sales. Yair Emanuel and David Gerstein are well-known favorites who produce fun pieces, in unconventional shapes and colors. A brightly hued and highly detailed Chagall-inspired seder plate, fitted wave Shabbat candlesticks with a hand-painted psychedelic Jerusalem scene, and of course plenty of laser-cut cow sculptures who beckon their beholders to “wake up and smell the hummus beans”- these are but samplers of their beloved Israeli creative genius.
Laura Cowan and Avner Agayof produce sleek clean-cut modernistic, even futuristic Judaica designs using highly advanced metalwork techniques. Silver is the color of choice, followed by muted tones of sapphire, salmon and gold. Laura, a cool 40-something Londoner now living in Tel Aviv, is fascinated by the hype surrounding the 60’s mission to land on the moon; her space-age-inspired Judaica pieces prove it. Two of her futuristic rocket-shape mezuzahs have actually been to space in 2008 in NASA’s Expedition 17. Cowan and Agayof’s items are typically purchased by and for connoisseurs of modern Judaica (and are priced accordingly)!
During your upcoming trip to Israel, you must make a stop at the Kakadu Art Gallery in Moshav Tzafririm (near Beit Shemesh). World renowned wood artist Reut Shahar creates some of the most original painted wood products, ranging from the functional to the purely decorative. Pomegrantes, doves, scenes of Jerusalem and a whole bunch squiggly lines and dots in bold hues are expertly painted onto wooden place mats, lazy susans, vases, floor mats, cutting boards, candlesticks and serving trays. I have definitely noted an increasing demand for Kakadu products in the past year.
Kabbala lovers will love HaAri and Golan’s extensive selection of Kabbalistic silver jewelry. The popular Ana BeKo’ach prayer is etched into rings, necklaces and bracelets, decorated with hamsas and stars of David. The 72 names of G-d are painstakingly engraved in a circular pendant topped with a Chrysoberyl gem. ‘Ani Ledodi vedodi li’ (I Am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me) is etched onto a sterling silver pendant bordered by a romantic border. Ana Be’Co’ach is etched in various forms upon gold and silver pendants and rings adorned with colored stones. The effect is striking, the sensation powerful.
Earthenware and ceramics lovers will love Michal Ben Yosef’s original blend of rural tones of emerald, browns and sky blues with Biblical quotations. Her ceramic Mezuzah cases, radiating warmth and blessing, are all-time favorites, available in a plethora of styles and colors.
Dorit Judaica’s sleek laser-cut hamsas, home blessings, and ‘floating letters’ have made her a beloved and respected household name in Israel. Coordinating laser-cut mezuzas and wall hangings, all sporting her trademark intertwining pomegranate theme, enhance foyers, living spaces and kitchens in Israel and abroad. I especially love her newest line of Shabbat table essentials- matching Challah cover, challah cutting board, knife, salt & pepper shakers displaying a whirlwind of color and intricately intertwining flowers, pomegranates and circles.
I saved what I’d call there best for last: Barbara Shaw, a go-getter entrepreneurial creative genius, takes your Bubby out of her pot of chicken soup and makes her ultra-cool. Her stylish aprons, mugs, totes and trivets feature the most satirical Yiddish sayings, along with typographical Alef-Bet designs and Jerusalem scenes with a whole new twist. Her items are fun, funny, funniest! Her “Schlep” tote, one of her best-sellers, sports a humorous interpretation of the word ‘schlep’, while her “Man plans and G-d laughs” mug is classic Bubby! Other favorites are her Challah Basket featuring screen-printed Challahs and a fun “Welcome to Israel” kit containing an Israeli slang dictionary magnet, a mini map of Israel, a Herzl keychain and more!
This story "Judaica Items You’ll Want to Buy Right Now" was written by Revital Belz.