Curated by our arts and culture editor, here’s some gifts we recommend this holiday season:
The Light of Hope
On this Festival of Lights, give the gift of sight. Seva is a global nonprofit eye-care organization that restores sight and prevents blindness worldwide, bringing services to the most vulnerable, including women, children and indigenous peoples. The organization — about to begin its 40th year of service — helps people see new possibilities in their lives. Seva, which means selfless service to others in Sanskrit, provides sight-saving surgery, eyeglasses and sustaining eye care programs.
For a gift of $50, you can restore sight to a person who is blind with cataract surgery; for $150 you can restore a child’s sight. Seva will send a beautiful color gift card with acknowledgment of your donation.
Seva.org/gifts, or (800) 223-7382, or send check to Seva Foundation, 1786 Fifth St., San Francisco, CA, 94710-9725.
Cycling the Calendar in Ladino
The celebrated singer-songwriter Sarah Aroeste, who has been creatively exploring her family’s Sephardic roots in Greece and Macedonia through music, presents original new songs in Ladino and English. Her new CD, “Together/Endjuntos,” joyously celebrates the Jewish holidays, including Chanukah. The song “Bimuelo” features Jewish rapper Kosha Dillz, who joins her to sing about the Sephardic fried specialty that’s a counterpart to latkes and sufganiyot.
CD, $12.99; MP3, $9.49; Amazon or iTunes.
Lighting Up the Night
Inna Olshanksy’s ceramic ram and goat menorahs.
Israeli artist Inna Olshanksy, who was born in Russia and now runs a Tel Aviv art gallery, makes bold and delicate ceramic menorahs by hand. Her colorful ram and goat are made of clay, decorated with special paints and kiln-fired, each one signed by the artist.
$400 (members, $360). The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave., (212) 423-3333, shop.thejewishmuseum.org.
In the Holiday Spirit
Enjoy organic kosher whiskey and bourbon, handmade by Koval, the first distillery in Chicago since Prohibition days. Henry Meer, formerly chef and owner of City Hall Restaurant, now operates Pure Liquid Wine and Spirits in the Oculus (Westfield World Trade Center), one of the few independent shops there . He’s offering the award-winning single barrel whiskey and bourbon as single bottles, or as a gift set with Single Barrel Whiskey (“a kiss of spice on the finish”), Single Barrel Bourbon (corn mixed with millet) and Single Barrel Whiskey “4 Grain” (oat, malted barley, rye and wheat). Sip neat or over ice.
Gift box $59.99; 750 ml. bottle, $48.99. Pure Liquid Wine and Spirits, Westfield World Trade Center, LL2370 South Concourse Balcony Level, (212) 227-7777, drinkpureliquid.com.
Dress for Peace
“Peace through the eye of a needle” is the tagline of Two Neighbors, a fashion company that brings together Israeli and Palestinian women to fashion beautiful garments. The company is the inspiration of a retired American couple that wanted to do something proactive for peace. They bring together traditional Palestinian embroiderers with Israeli designers and seamstresses, who work in partnership: The fine hand embroidery work is done in a Palestinian village in the southern Hebron hills and then brought to south Tel Aviv, where Israeli seamstresses create elegant dresses with simple, modern silhouettes. The Israeli and Palestinian coordinators meet regularly, and the whole group of about 50 women — all well paid for their work — get together once or twice a year, sharing ideas and news of their work and home lives.
While the idea — to integrate cultures, create jobs, add beauty, promote a pathway to peace — was inspired earlier, the first Two Neighbors line was launched in 2013. Various styles (pictured on the company’s website) are available, beginning at $80. The Nur dress is made of layered lightweight chiffon, with a striking triangle of metallic gold embroidery at the neckline, available in black or teal blue. Next season, Two Neighbors is launching a line of handbags — Italian leather with embroidered straps.
Nur dress, $220, 25 percent discount available. Two Neighbors,
twoneighbors.com, (310) 994-9624.
Handcrafted by a family of woodworkers in rural New Jersey, these “live edge” wood candle holders (line up nine for a unique menorah) are made of wood that would otherwise be discarded from furniture-making and home construction processes. The natural, unfinished edges add graceful beauty.
Small candle holder, $25; larger version, $45. Magpie, 488 Amsterdam Ave., (212) 579-3003, magpienewyork.com.
Links to the City
Wear a piece of New York. Gene Seidman makes limited edition cufflinks from granite found on the streets and sidewalks of New York City. A native Upper West Sider, he makes cufflinks, rings and earrings by hand from all sorts of found objects, including typewriter keys, bottle caps and MetroCards.
Granite cufflinks, $125 (mention the code JW for a 10 percent discount). OnTheCuff.nyc (Seidman sells his handmade wares outside of Zabar’s on the Upper West Side on weekends.)
Made in Brooklyn, Farm to People chocolates are organic, fair trade, handcrafted in small batches, kosher, great-tasting and newly available this season. Bars come in white (café au lait), milk (salted peanut praline) and dark chocolate (mint crunch); small boxes include almond cranberry clusters, chocolate covered pretzel poppers and chocolate covered animal crackers.
$6.99 bars; $9.99 boxes. Farm to People Chocolate Treats, an assortment (one of each variety), in a printed tote bag, $49.99, in a wooden crate, $59.99 (Enter code BP10 for $10 off online orders over $50.). Farmtopeople.com, and at booths in the Bryant Park and Union Square holiday markets.
Stay warm — and cool — this winter with a soft wool Jewish Tartan scarf, made in Scotland. The authentic tartan pattern was created by a team of heritage experts along with Rabbi Mendel Jacobs, the only Scottish-born rabbi living in Scotland, where there has been a Jewish community for more than 300 years. The blue and white colors represent both the Israeli and Scottish flags, and the other colors and lines in the weave have symbolic meaning too. The manufacturer has been making Tartans since 1892.
$58 (members, $52). The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave., (212) 423-3333, shop.thejewishmuseum.org.
Spreading the Light
For Rabbi Yael Buechler, Chanukah is about pirsum ha-nes, publicizing the miracle that the oil lasted for eight nights, and infusing holiday celebrations with meaning. Her newest Chanukah accessories include a dreidel (“cold shoulder”) top, a black long sleeve cotton shirt with dreidel designs cut out at the shoulders and a stretchy black headband with fluorescent dreidels.
Shirt, $36, at midrashmanicures.com. Headband, $12, at West Side Judaica, 2412 Broadway, and midrashmanicures.com.
A spirited blending of “Little Red Riding Hood” and the story of a smart little girl on her way to visit her grandmother, Bubbe Bashe, “Little Red Ruthie” by Gloria Koster, pictures by Sue Eastland (Albert Whitman), is a modern and delightful folk tale.
“The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story” by Renee Londoner, illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk (Kar-Ben), brings to life the letters on the dreidel and their meanings.
“Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor” by Ann D. Koffsky, illustrated by Talitha Shipman (Apples and Honey Press), recounts the tale of a contemporary Judah, who uses his Maccabee shield, a Chanukah gift from his bubbe, to protect his baby sister. And he learns about bravery, conquering his own fears and real heroism.