For the polite Passover guest, it’s nice to show up with a dish or gift in hand. For those taking the latter route, here are a selection of gifts that have both beauty and meaning, with some fun, too.
This gorgeous wooden bowl looks like the fair trade, eco-chic version of my grandmother’s Passover chopping shissel. Hand-carved by artisans in Yanesha, Peru, the round bowl with two handles is made of sustainably sourced higuerilla wood from the Amazon rainforest. “Sobremesa,” the name of the company, means “over the table,” meant to capture the idea of savoring conversation and company at a meal — so inherent to the Passover seder.
$124. Magpie, 488 Amsterdam Ave. (646) 998-3002, Magpienewyork.com
The themes of the holiday align so closely with the life of President Abraham Lincoln. Buy tickets for guests and hosts to see the exhibitions “Lincoln and the Jews” at the New-York Historical Society and “Lincoln Speaks: Words that Transformed a Nation” at the Morgan Library, both in Manhattan, and take in his greatness. Read history or biographies, Jewish studies or fiction — or a Haggadah — and use this Abraham Lincoln brass bookmark for inspiration and to keep your place. And the closest thing to following in the footsteps of the 16th president may be to walk in these Lincoln socks (for men and women, green and black).
Abraham Lincoln Bookmark, $11.95; Abraham Lincoln Socks $10; New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, 170 Central Park West, (212) 485-9202, shop.nyhistory.org, Morgan Library, 225 Madison Ave.
Modern and traditional cooks have come up with endless varieties of charoset — the mix of fruit, nuts and spices meant to resemble mortar, served at the seder. Made by the Israeli pottery group A Half Cup of Sugar, this dish, especially made for charoset, features folkloric decoration along with a recipe in Hebrew printed on one side, with the English translation included.
$38 ($34.20 Jewish Museum members)
The symbolic foods at the centerpiece of the seder table can be shifted, reconfigured and made your own, with the Tangram Seder Plate, with its triangular and square-shaped dishes handmade in Israel by Studio Armadillo.
$288 ($259.20 Jewish Museum members)
To get the texture of this ceramic matzah plate to resemble the texture of matzah, artists Ran Amitai and Gilli Kuchik of Bakery Studio in Tel Aviv used actual matzah to make the original model and mold. The tactile handmade plate that really does feel like matzah can be used to serve sheets of the unleavened bread or other Passover specialties.
$115 ($103.50 Jewish Museum members) The Jewish Museum Shop, 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, (212) 423-3233, shop.thejewishmuseum.org
At the 2013 state dinner hosted by then-President Shimon Peres in honor of President Obama’s visit to Israel, Flam Blanc wine was served. Drink the same fine blend of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay from the Judean Hills at your seder.
Give the gift of discovering new kosher wine through a membership in the Kosher Wine Club, which features many fine Israeli wines. Each monthly shipment includes two bottles of featured wine with information about the vintages and the regions they come from, along with tasting notes — geared to novices, aficionados and connoisseurs.
Flam Blanc, $29.99 (free shipping if ordering a case), and at local wine shops.
Kosher Wine Club available at three levels: Discover. $34.99 monthly (plus shipping), Premium $59.99 monthly (free shipping), and “90+Rating.” $79.99 monthly, (free shipping). All orders include a $50 credit. Kosherwine.com
For 30 years, Jeannie Gesthalter has been selling hats in Cedarhurst, L.I., attracting customers from all over to Jeannie’s Dream. Now, Gesthalter is living out her real dream of opening a second shop in Manhattan, where she makes her home. Last month, she opened Jeannie’s Dream on West 72nd Street, with a collection of more than 500 handmade hats from New York, England and Italy. “Every hat is fitted to the person,” says Gesthalter, who has a good eye for creating one-of-a-kind hats by adding flowers, feathers and other decoration. They also sell all kinds of hair accessories. “It’s always a great time for a hat,” she says, noting that Passover marks the change of season, back to brighter colors and softer fabrics.
Hand-sewn, collapsible hat, with trim $279 (trim, as shown, an additional $109), Jeannie’s Dream, 245 W. 72nd St. (between Broadway and West End), (212) 595-0100, jeanniesdream.net
The goldfinch symbolizes new beginnings, appropriate as the month of Nissan is the first month of the Jewish new year (not to be confused with the month of Tishrei, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar and the time of Rosh HaShanah, when the year rolls over into the next). This detailed embroidery, designed in Brooklyn and manufactured in India, features a stunning goldfinch with an open door in the background. The piece is presented in a white wooden frame
$104. Magpie, 488 Amsterdam Ave., (646) 998-3002, Magpienewyork.com
Celebrate spring with an air plant that lives — and thrives — on air and water (no soil necessary). The graceful and petite hanging planters in glazed ceramic pots are handmade in Brooklyn by Cor Pottery.
$29. Magpie, 488 Amsterdam Ave., (646) 998-3002, Magpienewyork.com
“The easy-way-out-of Passover Cookbook” by Mindy Ginsberg (Gefen) presents simple, flavorful, contemporary recipes for the holiday, including hard-to-find staples and adaptations of year-round recipes. Ginsberg’s easygoing, flexible style is a boost in the stressful days leading up the holiday. And the book, with its spiral at the top, has a built in stand for convenient use in the kitchen.
$12.95 in bookstores. Gefenpublishing.com
Drawing on the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, a new line of “Desert Jewels” is inspired by the mountain people living in the deserts of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The hand-enameled bracelets and pendants allude to the colors of desert landscapes and painted tiles.
North African Openwork Charm Necklace, 24k` overlay, $375.
Berber enameled cuff, small, $225. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave. (or one of its stores), (800) 662-3397, store.metmuseum.org
A startling statistic as we plan our Passover celebrations: Today, there are still some 30 million people who are slaves.
Rabbi Debra Orenstein of Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson, N.J., is leading a campaign to free people still held in slavery around the world, and to use the seder as an opportunity to discuss issues related to contemporary slavery. She calculates that if every Jewish person attending a seder were to donate $18 to Free the Slaves — an organization working to end slavery and the conditions that allow it to exist — sufficient funds would be raised to free 75,315 people. That assumes an average cost of $950 to free a slave.
Free the Slaves works with community-based organizations in Africa, India and South America, freeing slaves and keeping them free, with resources they need to sustain themselves. Based on past experience, with $1800, Free the Slaves can rescue 1-2 people, provide services to three survivors, pay for protective services for 1-2 villages, educate about 65 people on how to protect themselves against traffickers and train one police officer or other government official.
As Rabbi Orenstein says, “There is no better expression of our gratitude or use of our freedom this Passover than to extend an ‘outstretched arm’ and free someone now enslaved.”
To make a contribution, FreetheSlaves.net/Judaism (free online seder resources are available here)