By Harriet P. Gross
O.K. Thanksgiving leftovers are gone. Let’s stop talking turkey, and start thinking Chanukah!
Once, it all was so simple — light some orange candles in a little tin menorah; spin a dreidel, collect or pay out your almonds or pennies; that was about that. But today, we have options our ancestors never dreamed of! We want something special to accompany our latkes, and we want to look very good when we serve them. So — have I got a hint or two for you!
If you’re not familiar with the name Jennie Rivlin Roberts, it’s time to get acquainted. She founded Modern Tribe, a business that “helps Jews take their Judaism out of the closet,” she says.
Ironically, Rivlin-Roberts continues to keep some of hers in an actual closet: an old brass menorah and a tarnished pair of Shabbat candlesticks she somehow never gets around to polishing.
“These were handed down to me by my parents,” she says. “They’re sentimental, but they don’t fit my personal style.” Rivlin-Roberts lives in a high-ceilinged, open-floorplan home, and wants clean-lined, modern Judaica to match.
“Burning Chanukah candles in the window is symbolic of our freedom,” she goes on. “So shouldn’t we also be free from shlocky design?” Tired of the usual, she went into business herself. First, a new game, “No Limit Texas Dreidel,” a takeoff on Texas Hold’em poker, for her annual holiday party. Then, other alternatives to tradition, including menorahs and candlesticks that are really reconfigurable sculptures for year-round display.
Anticipated as a best-seller this year: “Dreidel Hustler,” newest member of Kamibashi’s String Doll Gang. Every one of the Gang’s more than 80 members (already including five for Christmas) has a special power: Hustler’s is “to make sure your dreidel comes up gimel every time.” He’s a kooky-looking little kid appealing to children and the kid in all of us adults.
You get the picture. You can get actual pictures at www.moderntribe.com.
Become a doll yourself, or turn others into Chanukah dolls, with Susan Fischer-Weis’ “Jewish Holidaywear.” Go to www.yontifications.com to see stout Aunt Gertie, wearing her floral-trimmed lace best, all decked out with dangling dreidel earrings and a necklace to match. The words in her mouth-bubble are “Oy! Are these cute!” And they are!
Think ahead with Chanukah gifts from Yontifications for future holidays, including a set of 10 Plagues wineglass markers guaranteed to do away with confusion next Pesach. Who would have thought it? Well, Fischer-Weis sure did!
Speaking of drinking — raise a glass to “267 Infusions,” the brainchild of Californian Stacie Parker Shonfeld, company founder, owner and chair. Actually, raise a Chanukah glass OF her infusions — high-class spirits that come with fruits or veggies in every beautiful bottle, just begging to be part of your winter holiday high (and maybe next year’s High Holy Days!).
You can even make foods from these infused alcohols, for your special Chanukah menu. How about Firecracker Chicken to go with your latkes? Very good if you’re intrigued by a marinade that includes chili pepper tequila along with the more usual Worcestershire and soy sauces. If you want a very different holiday meal this year, start out with chips and rum mango salsa before the chicken, and end with vodka cranberry shortcake afterward. (Adults only at this party, please!) Just take a look at www.267.com for many exotically entertaining suggestions.
My grandson Robert has fallen in love with Jones Soda since he started college last September — something he found in the big city (Chicago) that he never tasted before in his small-town hometown. And since he’ll be here this year for a happy holiday visit, I’ve special-ordered this treat for him: Jones Happy Chanukah Pack. The four flavors included are designed to “stir up sweet memories from Chanukahs past,” the company promises: They are Latke, Apple Sauce, Chocolate Coins and Jelly Doughnut, and a real dreidel is included. (Other odd-but-fun flavors available are Green Apple and Blue Bubblegum, but I’ve decided to be “traditional.”) Get a full bottle of info at www.jonessoda.com.
Ah, tradition! I will have bright new pennies and almonds in their shells to spin with the Jones Soda dreidel, and I’ll also include a big handful of the venerable Hershey’s Kisses, now coming to the end of their yearlong 100th birthday celebration. But their new flavors — peanut butter, mint, vanilla crème — don’t move me. I’ll stick to the old faithfuls in their plain silver foil wrappers. And I’ll tell you a bit more about Kisses next week!
By Harriet P. Gross