So? You need a gift?
If you’re looking for a Jewish gift, you don’t need go online to find quality items. Jewish gifts, with great local customer service, are available right here at home.
“The Guide to Jewish Wisconsin,” published annually by the Chronicle and Milwaukee Jewish Federation, lists six different gift shops. There are still more shops in Wisconsin, including some that are not always staffed but will open upon request.
With June graduations in mind, we spoke with local gift shop managers and visited local shops to find some great ideas for students. The result is this smattering of lovely thoughts and photos. Enjoy!
Crown Judaica store manager Hudi Rapoport sells more chai and hamsa necklaces than shema necklaces. But she sees her shema necklaces as a good option for a graduating student.
The shema, a key Jewish prayer, is spelled out in the Hebrew text of each of the charms, in whole or in part.
“The message of the shema is that God is the one who created the world and God is one. God is always in charge,” she said. “When children leave for the first time, this is a great message to always be with them.”
She’s noticed that when people buy the shema necklace, they feel a very deep connection to it.
Here’s another way to send the shema to college. Send your student with a mezuzah, which holds the shema prayer inside when affixed to a doorframe. Local shops offer plenty of mezuzot. This pair is from Israel.
To see more options visit Crown Judaica at 2233 W. Mequon Road in Mequon, at the lower level of the Peltz Center for Jewish Life. Hours are Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 262-242-9514.
Just two of the 12 people who volunteer at the gift shop here are residents of the Jewish Home and Care Center, 1414 N. Prospect Ave., even though the shop is inside the Center. Corrine Dropkin, 85, is the rare volunteer who lives in the home, though one might say she lives in the gift shop. She volunteers four days a week, having once run a gift shop in Chicago.
Barbe Kastrul Desmet, 65, drives in from Greenfield to volunteer. She says she has some non-Jewish customers who buy Jewish jewelry at the shop and the purses are quite popular.
“They are at a really good price,” she said. “We don’t mark them up much at all.”
The shop is open 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sunday through Friday. Inside the Jewish Home and Care Center, 1414 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee. 414-276-2627.
Shop Manager Suzanne Berland, who had an art gallery for 15 years, said she checks for quality when choosing a vendor. She said people will sometimes order online and feel like they’re getting a deal, but the quality can be poor and shipping charges can eat away at the deal.
“I think they’re good quality,” she said, referring to carved boxes made in Poland. “It’s a couple who does them and they were at the New York gift show. I go every year.”
“We have the product and you can hold it, you can touch it and you can see what it really is.”
Berland integrates handmade with commercial items in the shop. “It makes for a richer environment,” she said.
Glass Box Gift Shop of Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., plus Friday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. 6880 N. Green Bay Ave., Glendale. 414-351-4221.
Bobbie Cohn of Bayside and her daughter Betsy Kane of Mequon are the volunteer managers of the shop in this Reform synagogue in River Hills.
The shop earns thousands of dollars for the synagogue. “We give everything over,” Cohn said.
About half of the items the shop sells are not particularly Jewish, she said, so one can buy all kinds of items here and support the synagogue. Some items can sit for a bit before they sell. Other items, like mah jongg-themed magnets and candy dishes, fly out the door fast.
The Judaica Shoppe of Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun is at 2020 W. Brown Deer Road, River Hills. Hours are Wednesday 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to noon and by appointment. 414-228-7545.
The Kosher Lamp is one of Rabbi Akiva Freilich’s biggest sellers. No, you don’t eat it. No, it’s not made of kugle.
Rather, it’s a lamp from a company called Kosher Innovations that can be used on Shabbos under halacha, or Jewish law, according to the company and Rabbi Freilich. The key is that one contains or releases the light by twisting a piece with a shade in it without adjusting the bulb. The company compares it to closing a closet door when a light burns inside on Shabbos.
“People give it as gifts all the time,” Freilich said.
“We specialize in books, English Judaica books and Hebrew Judaica books,” he said. “We are an important source for ritual items, such as a tallis or tzitzit.”
Milwaukee Judaica is open Monday through Thursday, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 7020 N. Green Bay Ave., Glendale. 414-228-8933.
“The Jewish Book of Why,” is a nice gift for college students, said Bunny Cohen, co-chair of the Traditions Gift Shop at Congregation Shalom.
“They meet other students who come from little towns, from various places, and have questions about Jewish traditions,” she said. “It helps to answer a lot of questions.”
“Sometimes Hanukkah falls while kids are still in school,” said Judy Nelson, co-chair of the shop, citing an electric menorah as a good option. “Most dorms will not allow regular candles.”
The Traditions Gift Shop is completely volunteer run. The shop does lots of special ordering – stop by for Seder plates, tallit or other items.
The Congregation Shalom Traditions Gift Shop, 7630 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Fox Point, is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.; Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Summer hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. 414-352-9288.