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Pulling off an ugly Chanukah Hoodie

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With ugly Christmas sweater contests all the rage this holiday season, what’s a Jew to do, if he or she wants to compete?

Where were the Chanukah sweaters emblazoned with bearded and bronzed Maccabees, anthropomorphized grinning dreidels, and mighty menorahs, that would be needed to compete with the long established garish patterned and appliquéd Christmas pullovers and button downs?

Where? Rina Sterling, an elementary school teacher (and my niece) who lives near Las Vegas, needed to buy one. She needed it for a party and ugly holiday sweater contest that she along with the staff at Estes McDoniel Elementary School in Henderson, Nevada, were invited to attend.

“We were asked to wear our most obnoxious holiday sweater,” said Sterling, who teaches art to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“I wanted to participate, but I wasn’t going to wear a Christmas sweater,” said Sterling, who was a Jewish Studies major at USC.

“I couldn’t find an ugly Chanukah sweater online, so I had to figure out how to make one for myself,” she explained. [[READMORE]]

To start, Sterling ditched the sweater idea and went for a hoodie. “I wanted to use something that I already owned,” she said of the “Chanukah cookie blue,” hooded sweatshirt that she found hanging in her closet.

Finding the right stuff to “uglify” her contest entry, however, called for a trip to mom’s.

According to Sterling, her mother, who lives nearby, has a collection of “Chanukah chochkies,” necklaces, earrings, pins, that Sterling — who has a background in jewelry — pulled apart, and using needle, thread, and glue gun, reassembled on the hoodie.

“I also had some leftover felt from Purim,” she said, which she used to cut out a giant dreidel with a menorah on it for the hoodie’s back. 

For that finishing touch she went to Target where in the Christmas aisle she found tinsel. “I was really excited. I thought it was relatable,” said Sterling, who used the silvery strands to line the hoodie’s hood.

How did her work go over?

“When I arrived to the party, every single person was wearing red and green, and I was all blue. I really felt the separation,” she recalled.

When it came time for judging, Sterling had to "explain what gelt pockets were for" — the purple felt coin holding pouches she had attached on either side. “Nobody got the joke.”

Her entry, which received the loudest applause, won anyway. “I guess mine was the only one that was different,” she said.

Or maybe it was the tinsel.

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