It’s really not about the gifts. Still, giving gifts on Chanukah feels so good. Finding the right gift? Not so much. Maybe we can help.
WHO AM I?
AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Kit is just one of the many DNA kits on the market that help uncover a family’s ethnic mix. With just a few drops of saliva, the testing technology will survey your genome and compare your DNA to over 150 world regions and ethnicities. $79 at amazon.com
Buy someone you love a piece of the moon. Literally. The Moon Standard Gift Package includes a legal document and moon map detailing the location of your celestial property — packaged in a futuristic envelope. $29.99 at lunarland.com
BLOW YOUR MIND
Heat things up with this private two-hour glass-blowing or flame working class for two taught by expert glass artisans. Take home a unique piece of art work! At Mission Hill in Boston. $199 at cloud9livinginc.com
FIT FOR A FOODIE
The Food Styling Precision Tool Set contains everything you need to turn dishes into works of art: precision tweezers, fine scissors, culinary scalpel with two replacement blades, culinary syringe with two tips, an oil mister, and two spatulas. $44.95 at uncommongoods.com
Chanukah-themed, brightly-colored, soft cotton footie pajamas come in sizes 6 months to 6 years. Coordinating nightgown and two-piece pajama set also available. $36; $32.40/Jewish Museum members at shop.thejewishmuseum.org
When it first appeared in 1980, Andy Warhol’s Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century was adored by Jewish audiences — and aroused antagonism from critics. Why did Warhol create this series? How did he select the 10 figures? This illustrated book by Richard Meyer examines the history of Ten Portraits, discusses the celebrated subjects, and more. $20; $18/Jewish Museum members at shop.thejewishmuseum.org
PLAY IT AGAIN, SHLOMO
“Mazel Means Good Luck,” the fifth album released by Metropolitan Klezmer, was recorded live at The Emelin Theatre and includes a rare Yiddish ballad of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. $21.95; $19.76/Jewish Museum members at shop.thejewishmuseum.org
Sixty coupons that make it easy to celebrate Jewish customs and culture year-round while gifting a sweet token of appreciation — from a homemade challah to a one-day grant for kvetching to your heart’s desire. $8.95; $8.06/Jewish Museum members at shop.thejewishmuseum.org
Oy vey, bubelleh, the kinder are going to kvell over Yiddish for Babies by Janet Perr! The farbisseners, the alte kockers, the pishers, the machatunim…the ganseh mishpocheh! $12.99; $11.69/Jewish Museum members at shop.thejewishmuseum.org
For the golfer who has everything — more golf! The Go Play Golf eGift Card offers a choice of 5,000 public golf courses or 1,000 private clubs nationwide. Golf lessons provided by PGA instructors at most courses. $100 at cloud9livinginc.com
This gorgeous Chanukah-themed gift-box from Israel’s all-natural Lin’s Farm, is packed with gourmet treats — plus a bottle of Israeli wine from internationally acclaimed vineyards. $99 at judaicawebstore.com
BOOK OF LIGHTS
Luminous Art: Hanukka Menorahs of the Jewish Museum by Susan L. Braunstein showcases more than 100 menorahs, ranging across centuries and continents, and shedding light on the Jewish tradition that produced them. $19.99; $17.99/Jewish Museum members at shop.thejewishmuseum.org
Perfect to wear to your favorite exercise class is the “Shvitz It Out” muscle tank from Unkosher Market. Comes in sweats, bags and more. Fabric sourced and sewn in Los Angeles. $48; $43.20/Jewish Museum members at shop.thejewishmuseum.org
Learn to fly a helicopter. Introductory session includes 15-minute briefing, 45 minutes of flight time. Share the experience with two friends. At Danbury Municipal Airport, $335 at cloud9livinginc.com
8 DAYS OF DELICIOUS
Wrapped in a beautiful Star of David gift box, each night of Chanukah the recipient opens a new part of the container to reveal a delectable kosher treat. Part of the Harry & David’s Signature Light Fruit-of-the-Month Collection. See holidays at harryanddavid.com
Genetic Testing? Now that’s a gift!
Parents can find out if their future children are at risk for life-threatening genetic disorders with JScreen, a public health initiative at Emory University dedicated to preventing Jewish genetic diseases through carrier screening. Now with “JGift” you can buy loved ones a gift certificate for JScreen’s at-home saliva test, which helps to determine if one’s children are at risk for more than 200 genetic conditions. $149; https://jscreen.org/gift/
WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS CHANUKAH
SUNDAY, DEC. 10
Amherst – Hanukkah at The Carle Art Studio with the Lander-Grinspoon Academy, geared for children 3-5; featuring Chanukah stories and songs in the library, followed by a Chanukah art project exploring themes of light and darkness, 10 -11:30 a.m., Eric Carle Museum of Picutre Book Art, 125 Bay Road, Space is limited; Pre-register: (413) 584-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Great Barrington – Community Chanukah Warm-Up Party, with musical guests David Grover and Grover’s Gang, latkes, hot cocoa, Chanukah gifts and supplies for purchase, 3-5 p.m., Fuel, 293 Main St., email@example.com.
Longmeadow – Chabad Hebrew School pre-Chanukah children’s menorah-building workshop, with appearance by Judah Macabee, holiday music and donuts; noon – 2 p.m., at Lowe’s, 1560 Boston Road, RSVP: Rabbi Lavy Kosofsky at (413) 567-8665 or Lkosofsky@LYA.org.
Worcester – Congregation Beth Israel’s USY Annual Hanukkah Party, 2:30 – 4 p.m., at the Jewish Health Care Center, firstname.lastname@example.org.
TUESDAY, DEC. 12
Holyoke – Greater Holyoke Community’s Second Annual Chanukah Menorah Lighting, with songs, stories, socializing and holiday refreshments, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Holyoke City Hall, 536 Dwight St., email@example.com.
Northampton – Sixth Annual Grand Menorah Lighting in Downtown Northampton, with latkes and donuts, 5 p.m., 109 Main St., (908) 447-6953.
Springfield – LYA Community Menorah Lighting Ceremony, with elected officials and dignitaries, with latkes, cocoa and dreidels, 3:15 p.m., Court Square, Downtown Springfield.
Springfield – First Light Community Chanukah Celebration and Nava Tehila concert; menorah lighting at 5:30 p.m., concert at 6:30 p.m., Springfield JCC, 1160 Dickinson St., contact: Rabbi James Green, (413) 739-4715.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 13
Longmeadow – Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) Chanukah Dinner and “Magic Beyond Imagination” with Robert McEntee; adults-only event includes catered dinner and menorah lighting, 6:30 p.m., at LYA, 1148 Converse St., Reservations: Rabbi Yakov Wolff at (413) 348-4978 or Rabbiymwolff@gmail.com. $30
THURSDAY, DEC. 14
Longmeadow – LYA Menorah Lighting on Longmeadow Town Green, with Chanukah treats, fun, and town dignitaries, 4:30 p.m., 735 Longmeadow St., (413) 567-8665.
FRIDAY, DEC. 15
Pittsfield – Temple Anshe Amunim’s Annual Crib and Chanukah Shabbat and Dinner, with Shabbat service honoring music director Dr. Alan Gold, featuring members of the religious school, youth group, temple choir and guests; chicken and latke dinner to follow, 5:30 – 8 p.m., 26 Broad St., Reservations: (413) 442-5910 or firstname.lastname@example.org; $18/adults; $8/children 12 and under; $40/family max. * PFTY Youth Group will be collecting new clothing, books, toys, baby formula, diapers and other new items for children aged 6 months through 18 years old.
SATURDAY, DEC. 16
Great Barrington – Tot Shabbat: Chanukah Edition, with the rabbis, Cantor Cohen, “Shluffy the Sloth,” and “Barak-y Raccoon” and a special Chanukah project, 9- 10 a.m., Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, 270 State St., (413) 528-6378.
Shrewsbury – YAD’s Annual Havdalukah Celebration; bring your best latkes for a Latke-Off; trivia contest, dreidel tournament, and dancing, 7-10 p.m., at Legend’s Lounge at the Shrewsbury Athletic Club, 3 Tennis Drive, RSVP: Mhall@JFCM.org *bring a dairy or veggie appetizer or dessert to share; cash bar.
Springfield – Join LYA for Chanukah with the Springfield Thunderbirds; LYA students will open the game with “G-d Bless America,” and there will be a menorah lighting during the first intermission, game begins at 7:05, at Mass Mutual Center, $12 discount tickets must be ordered and paid for by Dec. 11: call Rochel Leah Kosofsky at (413) 567-8665 or email@example.com
Worcester – Temple Emanuel Sinai presents a “Magical Middle Eastern Chanukah” 5-8 p.m., at El Basha Restaurant, 255 Park Ave., Reservations required: (508) 755-1257 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SUNDAY, DEC. 17
Greenfield – “Light the Night,” Greenfield Chanukah Party, with music, crafts and latkes, music by the Wholesale Klezmer Band, 4-6:30 p.m., Hawks & Reed, 289 Main St., (413) 773-5884; admission: $5/adults; FREE for children under 16; latkes available for $5 a plate.
Longmeadow – Katz Family Chanukah Breakfast at Congregation B’nai Torah, honoring Sam Pava for his many years of service with the Vaad Springfield, with breakfast, musical entertainment by Daniel Gil, crafts and activities for children; 9:30-11 a.m., 2 Eunice Drive, (413) 567-0036. FREE & open to all.
Longmeadow – Glow in the Dark Menorah at Longmeadow Shops; join Beis Medrash Lubavitch for Chanukah activities including balloon twisting, juggling show, music, dreidels, hot cocoa, donuts, latkes and Starbucks coffee, 4 p.m., at Longmeadow Shops on Bliss Road.
Springfield – Hannukkah Road Race; flat, wheeled 5K course through Springfield and Longmeadow to benefit the Springfield JCC; begins 9:30 a.m. at JCC. $25/entry fee.
Springfield – Hanukkah Family Event: Oy the Candles We’ll Light! at the Springfield Museum; taste olives, learn to play dreidel, live animal demonstration, candle rolling and menorah making stations, latke tasting, Planetarium Show, and puppet show with Anna Sobel, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., contact: Sonia Wilk (413) 739-4715 (call for ticket prices).
Worcester – PJ Our Way Hanukkah Shmanukkah Play 2:30-4:30 p.m., at Jewish Healthcare Center, 629 Salisbury St., email@example.com.
MONDAY, DEC. 18
Longmeadow – “Chanukah in Motion,” LYA PTO’s Chanukah Dinner, with entertainment by Motion Man (pantomime, lyrical movement, giant bubbles and inspirational improvisation); dinner includes meat and pasta dinner with latkes and donuts, (vegetarian option available upon request), menorah lighting and performance by LYA Choir before show, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., at LYA, 1148 Converse St., Reservations: (413) 567-8665 or info@LYA.org. $9/adults; $5/child; $40/family price (2 adults and 5 children under 11).
Worcester – Congregation Beth Israel Annual Hanukkah Party; bring your own menorah and candles and light the 7th candle, dreidel spinning contest with prizes, crafts, games, soup and snacks; adult & teen Yankee swap (bring a festively-wrapped gift valued at around $10), 6-8:30 p.m., 15 Jamesbury Drive, RSVP: (508) 756-6204, or firstname.lastname@example.org. FREE but donations welcome.
Chanukah Recipes 5778
Never Make These Classic Mistakes with Latkes. Follow these rules for perfect latkes every time.
By Shannon Sarna (From The Nosher, www.thenosher.com)
The time has come for the sacred tradition of frying latkes for Hanukkah. But wait — before you break out your oil and frying pan, make sure you aren’t making any rookie mistakes.
But First, Put On An Apron
Your clothes may get splattered, so wear something you don’t mind getting a bit greasy. You may want to invest in a splatter guard like this for easier clean-up of your kitchen and your shirt. A friend of mine even recommends spreading newspaper on the floor below the stove to catch all those little pieces of potato and splatters of oil.
Don’t Wring Out All the Liquid
I know, I know. Our ancestors have all told us to wring out all the liquid. But several years ago I made latkes with Michelin-star chef Bill Telepan who told me to leave some of that starchy liquid in the mix for the creamiest, crispiest latkes. And he was absolutely right. You should drain off some of the liquid, but if you leave in just enough of that liquid, the difference will astound you.
Never Use Olive Oil
You want to use an oil with a high smoking point; otherwise your latkes will burn. Olive oil is definitely the wrong choice, but there are many other oils you can use such as safflower or sunflower oil, which are food writer Leah Koenig‘s favorite oils for latke frying. I use good old standard vegetable or canola oil.
Make Sure You Test the Oil
My friend and colleague Tamar Fox reminded me to use a chopstick to test the oil before you start frying. Just place a chopstick in the hot oil before you begin frying — it should bubble around the chopstick if it’s ready.
Be Plentiful With Your Oil
Yeah, yeah, we are all watching our weight and health. But when it comes to frying latkes, it ain’t the time to be stingy with the oil. Make sure the bottom of your pan is generously coated with oil, though you don’t want the latkes swimming in oil either. You also should plan to add some oil in between each batch, since the latkes will absorb oil each time.
Don’t Forget to Season
You want to season your latke mixture of course, and don’t forget that potatoes need a lot of salt to really flavor them. But also, as soon as those hot fried latkes come out of the oil, sprinkle with a touch of salt. It really enhances the flavor.
Don’t Just Use Potatoes
There are so many wonderful vegetables to use in place of potatoes. Not to mention that cheese latkes are even more traditional in the Ashkenazi tradition than potato ones. Personally I love using a combination of beet, sweet potato and potato. But there are cauliflower latkes, plantain latkes, ramen latkes and more.
Give the Latkes Space
Never ever ever stack your latkes on top of one another after they have fried, and don’t sit them on top of a paper towel either. Instead, place on top of wire cooling racks placed over a baking sheet to give them space to drain and cool. If latkes sit on one another or a paper towel they will get soggy and lose that coveted crisp.
What to Do with Leftover Potatoes from Chanukah
If you’re left with a ton of potatoes post-Chanukah, don’t fret.
By Shannon Sarna (From The Nosher, www.thenosher.com)
Did you get a little overly zealous buying potatoes at Costco in preparation for Chanukah? Yeah, we know a few people just like you.
If you’re left with a ton of potatoes post-Hanukkah, don’t fret. You can still put those spuds to good use. First of all, the potatoes will keep for several weeks if you have a cool, dark place to store them, like a basement. But if not, here are a few recipes to try:
Mashed Potato Burekas
1 package phyllo dough, defrosted
leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg + 1 Tbsp. water
freshly ground black pepper
leftover gravy for dipping
Preheat oven to 350°.
Beat the egg with 1 Tbsp. of water.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick cooking pad.
Roll out phyllo dough carefully to prevent splitting. I like to divide the layers of the phyllo in half so I can get four sheets instead of two. If the layers seem too brittle and dry, brush with vegetable oil.
Working quickly, cut each sheet horizontally into 4 strips.
Lightly brush a strip with the egg wash. Place a scant teaspoon of mashed potatoes at the right end of the strip and fold the right bottom corner up and to the left to create a triangle shape. Continue wrapping the triangle into the remaining strip, being careful to preserve the triangle shape. Seal the end with egg wash if necessary and place end down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat this process with the remaining strips.
Lightly brush the tops of the burekas with egg wash and sprinkle with dried thyme and freshly ground black pepper.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with warmed leftover gravy.
Pastrami Tater Tots
2 large russet potatoes
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 lb. pastrami
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup flour
1-2 cups panko bread crumbs
Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel and cube potatoes.
Cook potatoes until tender, around 8-10 minutes. Drain and add to a large bowl and mash.
In a skillet over medium heat, crisp up each piece of pastrami in batches, cooking 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and dice finely.
Add mayo, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper to potato mixture. Mix in diced pastrami.
Prep your dredging station. Place flour in one bowl, two beaten eggs in the second bowl and panko crumbs in a third bowl.
Form tater tots into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces and place on a baking sheet. Dredge tots into flour, then egg, then panko and place onto baking sheet. Pop into freezer for 30 minutes or in the fridge for 1 hour.
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry each tot until golden brown on the outside and remove from pan.
Place onto a baking sheet or platter lined with paper towel. Sprinkle with salt while still hot.
Serve with preferred dipping sauce.
Recipe yields around three dozen.
By transmitting values, children’s books are the Hanukkah gifts that keep giving
By Deborah Fineblum/JNS.org
Hanukkah and children’s books go together like latkes and applesauce.
In fact, Hanukkahs of old often included a book, its pages spotted with droplets of candle wax. In its pages the brave Maccabees once again defeat the Syrian Greeks, a tiny cruse of oil keeps the temple’s menorah aglow for a miraculous eight days, children spin dreidels for chocolate gelt (money) and you can almost smell the sizzling latkes.
These days, the marketplace overflows with books that can warm up the coldest Hanukkah night. The books reflect both the holiday’s miracles and the nuances of growing up Jewish in the 21st century.
Hanukkah-themed children’s books “help us see how the miracles in our own lives reflect the miracle” of the holiday, says Meredith Lewis, director of content and engagement for the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library program, which distributes nearly 200,000 Jewish children’s books to families in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.
As of press time, publishers were still rolling out new Hanukkah releases, but several titles had already surfaced. Among them are Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale, by Gloria Koster, a spin on Little Red Riding Hood; and Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas, by Pamela Ehrenberg, featuring a family celebrating with spicy Indian food.
“You can smell the curry coming off this wonderful new book,” says Lewis, noting that Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas and Little Red Ruthie made it into PJ Library’s fall lineup. Other notable new releases include Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor, by Ann Koffsky; Way Too Many Latkes: A Hanukkah in Chelm, by Linda Glaser; and The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story, by Renee Londner.
But tried-and-true Hanukkah classics continue to delight.
“If I had to pick one Hanukkah book to read to my kids every night, it would be Eric Kimmel’s brilliant Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, says Kamin. She also loves Kimmel’s lesser-known goblin story, Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night and his The Hanukkah Bear,” in which an elderly latke-maker mistakes a bear for her rabbi.
For those looking for a dramatic children’s book, Louise Borden’s The Journey That Saved Curious George features Hans and Margret Rey’s escape on bicycles from the Nazis during World War II—taking children’s book manuscripts along for the journey.
Meanwhile, for interfaith families, Hanukkah can be a delicate time when it comes to reading.
“Parents and grandparents say, ‘A book about Christmas and Hanukkah? That’s great!’ But they need to read it first,” warns Kamin. “Is it patronizing or insulting? Or does it sensitively reflect the message of Hanukkah for an interfaith family?”
“In what can be a confusing time of year,” she says, “it’s often the grandparents who become the portal to tradition and play a key role in shaping identity.”