Finding the perfect Jewish-themed gift — or eight of them — for Chanukah can be tough. Fortunately, there are several Judaica stores both in the Valley and online that can help you stock up on presents for the Festival of Lights.
Some local synagogues with on-site Judaica shops include Temple Chai, Temple Solel, Beth Emeth Congregation of the West Valley, Chabad of Scottsdale, Temple Emanuel of Tempe and Temple Beth Shalom in the Northwest Valley.
Temple Chai’s gift shop has been in business for 25 years, and has one of the largest collections of Judaica in Arizona. This year, the store featured a display of new menorahs, toys and candles.
“The most common items for the people coming in are the candles and Chanukah gelt,” said Joan Neer, the store’s manager.
Ben Saks — the owner of the stand-alone Judaica store Judaica Central in Phoenix — prefers to have customers come in for a one-on-one session so he can help them find just what they want. Saks opened his showroom in 2015.
“As far as Chanukah, we have the regular staples, but we also have more elaborate and modern designs,” Saks said, “such as silver-plated menorahs and other colored designs.”
Saks also pointed to the store’s “cutting edge” fabrics and some brand new products that could be hits with the kids.
“We have this new dreidel that kids build out of Legos, and dreidel-shaped fidget spinners,” he said.
Saks’ store also offers personalized apparel, including yarmulkes. This year, Judaica Central has a new “emoji kippah,” which has a design based on the smiley-face emoji with sunglasses.
Local stores are always a great start, of course, but not everyone has the time or the means available to them to go on a shopping trip in person. In that case, there are many Judaica shopping sites online with a plethora of options — from gifts with gravitas to silly items that are perfect for the more whimsical names on your list.
“Definitely, this is our busiest time,” said Amy Kreitzer, president of moderntribe.com. “We have tons of new stuff, from emoji dreidels to a menorah in brass or chrome that’s a monument to the modern bagel.”
Kreitzer knows that some people simply have to shop online, even as they might want to support brick-and-mortar stores.
“Shopping online is a lot easier because you can have a larger selection than in person — and you don’t have to leave your home,” Kreitzer said. “We’re a family company who prides themselves on having excellent customer service. I work really hard to find items they can’t get anywhere else.”
Judaicashop.net, which is the official website of the National Museum of American Jewish History’s Judaica store, has been able to expand its market through the internet.
Judaicashop.net Manager Kristen Kreider said the industry has changed significantly since the late 1980s, when she owned a Judaica store. The ability to maintain an online presence has been a huge shift — and it's even become essential.
“Our online store is extremely successful,” Kreider said. “Without it, we’d be taking a hit.”
Back in the Valley, Judaica Central’s website, judaicacentralaz.com, brings in customers from all over the country — and it even supplies other Judaica stores with fabrics and products.
But even with the increased popularity of online shopping, Neer said the Temple Chai gift shop still sees a lot of people from across the state physically coming into the store to buy gifts rather than doing their shopping online.
“I get customers coming down all the way from Prescott just to do their shopping here,” she said. JN