Holy gobble menorah, Thanks-givukkah is around the corner!

The ‘Menurkey’

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Before you start going meshuga thinking there’s no way you can complete your Hanukkah shopping by Nov. 27, relax, grab yourself a sweet potato latke or cranberry filled pumpkin doughnut, and let News & Schmooze’s annual Hanukkah Gift Guide be of service.

 Menorah plus turkey equals

I’m guessing I’m not alone in having read a fair amount about this historic Hanukkah – the fact that the first day of our eight-day Festival of Lights holiday falls on Thanksgiving this year. According to a story by the Associated Press, the last time this happened was 1888, and the next time will be 79,043 years from now. Suffice it to say Thanksgivukkah is an once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

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That little fact certainly wasn’t lost on 9-year-old Asher Weintraub, a fourth grader from New York City. This mash-up of holidays inspired Asher to create the menurkey, a menorah shaped like a turkey holding candles in its plumes. He says one of the reasons he thought people might like to have a turkey menorah was because the holidays are similar –in some way both commemorate being “thankful.” A Kickstarter campaign, also Asher’s idea (with help from his parents), brought in close to $50,000, and now a few versions of the plaster menurkeys, in white and in blue, are being sold for $50 at www.menurkey.com.

Move over elves

Speaking of Kickstarter, it, too, played a large part in bringing Neal Hoffman’s “The Mensch on a Bench” to life this Hanukkah season. It seems his son, Jacob, felt left out because all his Christian friends had an “Elf on the Shelf,” which watches over kids during the holiday season to see if they are naughty or nice. So Hoffman created a 12-inch plush “chosen” man he named Moshe, replete with gray beard and white tallit, to sit on a bench and keeps a watchful eye over Jewish children during the eight nights of Hanukkah. The toy’s accompanying book tells the story of the Maccabees returning victorious from the war and includes family Hanukkah activities.

The Mensch on the Bench goes for $36 or $75 for the limited edition one, which includes a blue tallit. So popular was this item that it is sold out for Hanukkah but preorders are being taken for 2014 at www.themenschonabench.com. The book itself is available for $9.95 at the website.

Tee up

Keeping with the Thanksgivukkah theme, the folks at moderntribe.com are selling kids T-shirts featuring a black turkey perched on a guitar-shaped menorah with the words, “8 Days of Lights, Liberty & Latkes.” Retailing at $29, these cotton tees come in sizes from 12 months to 8 child, and can be purchased through the website with 100 percent of the proceeds going to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which helps people of all faiths fight hunger in Israel and the United States.

Red November

If you need more Cardinals Fever to get you through the winter, Chabad of Chesterfield has cornered the market on Bird-on-the-Bat insignia red Ts with lettering that reads “St. Louis Cardinals” in Hebrew. The shirts are available in both children and adult sizes, including XXL and sell for $19.95. Rabbi Avi Rubenfeld of Chabad also reports a limited number of Rams football tees with Hebrew lettering at $16.95. If you’re interested, email [email protected]

Star quality

One of the highlights of the Society for Midwest Metalsmith Jewelry Sale at the Ethical Society in October was Rachel Kranzberg Miller’s Judaica-inspired work. Her silver and bronze jewelry is truly stunning, from Star of David necklaces and earrings to “secret keeper” necklaces that resemble a small mezuzah to intricate, handcrafted mezuzahs themselves. “I would describe my work as a more modern take on traditional motifs,” says Miller, who lives in Olivette. Unfortunately, she is not participating in any more local shows, but her designs are available at rachelmillerartist.com. Jewelry starts at $35 and goes up, though most is under $200.

Second time around

Earlier this fall, my sister-in-law, along with her mother, sister  a busload of women from the Chicago area arrived in St. Louis to go second-hand shopping in St. Louis. That’s right, Chicagoans coming to St. Louis to shop. Apparently, it’s a regular thing. Who would have thunk? 

But as high-end consignment and second-hand stores go, St. Louis is no second banana. Not only are we home to the Style Network’s reality series “Resale Royalty,” featuring the women of the Women’s Closet Exchange, but we also have gems in two locations of the Scholarshop; the Resale Shop, run by the National Council of Jewish Women; Byrd; Upscale Resale; Rung and so many more.  So why not recycle and go green this Hanukkah by shopping second-hand? Chances are you’ll save yourself some green stuff in the process.

Book this

Garrison Keillor once said “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Certainly, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. But with so many titles to choose among, a lot of us get hung up trying to figure out which book to give. To help with this process, check out the story on Page 10 about Hanukkah-themed books for young readers. For adults, let me suggest the best book I read so far this year, “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe. This tender memoir explores the power of books, and how by reading and discussing them, we can forge closer, more meaningful connections with others. Another bonus is that it provides insights into dozens of other books that also sound terrific.

The gift of giving

Who among us hasn’t been moved by the footage from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines? Perhaps the greatest gift we can give those we love is to teach them to be selfless and give to others in need. Jewish Federation of St. Louis has set up an emergency relief fund at JFedSTL.org/TyphoonRelief. According to Federation, 100 percent of the money raised will support relief efforts by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which is consulting with local officials, the Filipino Jewish community, and global partners to assess and address the situation as it continues to evolve in the Philippines.