Gifts for the young at heart

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There may be many things to yearn for at this time of year: a 26-hour day, warm weather, world peace.

But shopping for Chanukah gifts — with crowds, traffic and frivolity — may not be high on your list. And anyway, who really needs another menorah?

Think again.

“The newest menorahs are gifts that will be displayed all-year round and not stuffed in a closet,” says Eileen Velen, coowner of L’Chaim in Danville. “These are truly beautiful, functional gifts that last a lifetime, l’dor va dor [from generation to generation], to pass on to your children.”

At this time of year, L’Chaim and other Judaica stores around the Bay are brimming with new and unusual gifts for adults. From collectible menorahs — also called chanukiot — to artful books, sparkly jewelry and fun matzah ball candles, you’ll find many unusual gifts.

Matzah ball candles? A dead-ringer for a bowl of soup with one big matzah ball, the fanciful candles ($16.99) will brighten the day for your favorite cook, or non-cook, says Velen. And how about serving Chanukah cookies on glass cake plates with dreidel legs ($21.99 and $26.99)?

Does your friend love golf? Or shoes? Then select a golf or shoe menorah ($44.99 or $39.99). For under $50, animal lovers will kvell over their own cat- or dog-themed menorahs. On a more artistic, less-cutesy note, the Gary Rosenthal Collection of modernistic, fused-glass menorahs with brass accents ($90) makes a beautiful gift, Velen suggests.

The fashionable jewelry this year may not all be gold, but it sure glitters. L’Chaim stocks sparkling, tiny rhinestone-adorned styles of bracelets and necklaces, including a Hhamsa.

Known as a book-hound, Velen recommends “Seek My Face: A Jewish Theology” by Rabbi Arthur Green, which speaks to those beginning or already on a spiritual journey; “The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook: Traditional Recipes from the Contemporary Kosher Kitchen ” edited by Joan Michel, is an update of an old favorite; and just for fun, there’s Alan King’s “Great Jewish Joke Book.”

To relieve stress during the holiday, Velen suggests a CD with calming background music, “Kabbalah Music: Songs of the Jewish Mystic” ($17.99).

The CD collection at Alef Bet in Los Gatos includes one of owner Nurit Sabadosh’s favorites, “Jewish Instrumental Music Collection II” ($19.99), which sets a relaxing, low-key mood when company arrives.

Also at Alef Bet, look for candles and artistic votives designed by Idit, an Israeli craftsman. Made of copper and silver, the votives are covered in multicolored beads in the design of stars, a hamsa or chai ($13 to $25).

For fun items, Sabadosh points to colorful key chains ($4 to $20) and bookmarks ($6 to $12). And who can resist magnetic note pads ($2.50) with sayings like “Oy Vay, the Pressure”?

Israeli jewelry is a specialty at Alef Bet. This year, intertwined gold and silver earrings and bracelets ($50 and up) are popular.

To address the growing number of people who collect window art, the store also has a new line of whimsical window/wall designs and self-standing pieces by Gerstein Art of Israel. Colorful, cheery scenes include a butterfly flying across the “window” or a cactus sitting on a windowsill ($56 to $150).

For menorahs and dreidels, Sabadosh recommends new designs of C.J. Art from Jerusalem, whose laser works are etched on crystal. The three-dimensional, crystal menorahs are etched with laser designs of the Western Wall, the Holy Days or Judaic symbols (from $100). Small cubes with Judaic symbols or biblical scenes are $40 to $60.

Menorahs often catch a shopper’s eye at Afikomen in Berkeley, says owner Jerry Derblich. “More people collect them, and they are always popular as wedding gifts.”

For that “little something” for college kids, Derblich proposes a $4 tin bench-style menorah. While most menorahs there range from $30 to $40, heirloom styles range from a 32-inch tall Israeli brass menorah ($423) to sterling silver pieces ($700).

This year, Derblich sees a resurgence in jewelry made from ancient glass. Crafted by the Romans 2,000 years ago, the glass is excavated on Israeli archaeological digs, certified authentic and sculpted into necklaces, bracelets and earrings with a unique patina.

Visiting friends or family during Chanukah? Derblich touts candy as a welcome gift to offer your hosts. He features 8-ounce boxes of the Sweet Shop’s almond toffee or pecan milk chocolate toffee ($12.95) or handmade truffles (10 for $14).

In the book department, “Jewish Museums of the World” edited by Ellin Yassky ($75), is a beautiful choice for art lovers, says Derblich. “The compelling photographs and text on art and architecture cover Jewish museums around the world, from Bosnia to Bologna, Natchez to Berkeley.” Another notable book is “The Israelis: Ordinary People In an Extraordinary Land” by journalist Donna Rosenthal ($28), which, in an apolitical way, reveals the full human spectrum of Israelis today.

For pampering during the hectic holiday period, Derblich suggests Ahava products from Israel, especially the advanced moisturizer ($27.99).

Ahava products also grace the shelves at bob and bob in Palo Alto.

“If you give gifts every night,” says bob and bob co-owner Ellen Bob, “then Ahava foot cream is a welcome addition — and it contains a small [mineral] touch of the Dead Sea ($12.50).”

Other small gifts: Chanukah spreaders with blue and gold tops resembling dreidels and menorahs ($10); Chanukah tea towels in white cotton with blue embroidered menorahs ($5); and blue and white, thick cloth trivets with either a menorah or dreidel ($7).

Showcased jewelry includes kinetic items from Jerusalem artists Mick and Nurit. The silver earrings and necklaces, shaped like animals or Stars of David ($28), have intertwined parts. If you shake your head while wearing the elephant earrings, for example, the animal’s front legs, back legs and trunk all move.

New collectible menorahs and dreidels by Yair Emmanuel from Jerusalem are made from hand-painted wood in blue tones. One menorah folds up, accordion style ($136). Others, Bob says, are more Chagallesque with a Russian look.

On the bookshelf, Bob recommends “Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness” by East Bay storyteller Joel ben Izzy ($22.95), with stories about the meaning of life. Bob’s CD pick for a contemporary collection of Chanukah songs is “Light These Lights,” by Debbie Friedman.

No matter how busy everyone is at Chanukah, there’s usually time for a game of dreidel. Bob contends that collectible, handcrafted wooden dreidels by Elliot Landes, a Northern California artist, portend a good game ($19). “This is an artisanal gift made in California with Jewish meaning, ideal to send to out-of-state friends and family.”

And, Bob reminds, “You can always select non-seasonal gifts. After all, when you arrive as a guest to the seder table, it’s too late to bring the seder plate.”

Where to shop

The gift items featured on these pages are available at the stores below, and a number of the selections may be found at several of these shops. Many of them are also sold at local synagogue and Jewish community center gift shops and on Jewish Internet sites.

Afikomen Judaica, 3042 Claremont Ave., Berkeley; (510) 655-1977.

Alef Bet Judaica, 14103D Winchester Blvd., Los Gatos; (408) 370-1818.

bob and bob, 151 Forest Ave., Palo Alto; (650) 329-9050.

L'Chaim!, 179 Hartz Ave., Danville; (925) 743-8303.