Shopping for Jews? Clean Up on Aisle 5


Anyone who walked into Albertsons in Los Altos on a recent Sunday would have run right into Margie Pomerantz’s Passover table.

There she sat, next to the kosher food display right inside the supermarket’s front entrance. A big handwritten sign reading “Passover in the Aisles” hung down from her table, on which lay piles of Passover recipe books, haggadahs and other holiday resources.

Pomerantz and her fellow volunteers from Congregation Beth David, a nearby Conservative synagogue, were out looking for Jews. In a supermarket. Unaffiliated Jews, if possible, but they weren’t being picky.

They handed out information and collected names. Someone from the synagogue will call later with an invitation to a Shabbat service or other Jewish program.

Scenes like this, with a nonaggressive method of doing outreach, are being repeated across the United States this week and next, in dozens of communities.

It’s all part of Passover in the Aisles, an initiative conceived of by the Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI).

Some Jewish groups have been doing this kind of outreach for a decade or more, but the biggest push seems to have come in the past three to five years.

It is based on the idea of “public space Judaism” — taking programs out to where people are instead of waiting for them to walk into a synagogue or JCC.

“If we wait for people to come to programs within the four walls of our communal institutions, we’ll be waiting a long time,” says Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, executive director of the JOI, which provides guidance for such programs.

Passover is a particularly good time for this kind of outreach, Olitzky says, both because it is one of the most widely celebrated holidays among all Jews, even the unaffiliated, and because it requires people to go to the grocery store to buy matzah and other Passover products.

Olitzky says his outreach model has a lot in common with Chabad’s street outreach, which he admires. But he says, what “makes ours different is we are less intrusive, less discriminating. We don’t ask, are you Jewish?”

“It’s important that Judaism be shared passionately in public spaces,” Olitzky says. “That’s what Chabad does, and that’s what we do.”

Beth David’s assistant rabbi, Aaron Schonbrun, went to a JOI conference last year and says he was astounded at the concept of liberal Jews doing this kind of outreach. It wasn’t what he learned in rabbinical seminary.

“We learned at the conference that you can’t expect people to just write that check to the federation, especially not my generation,” the 29-year-old rabbi says. “We talked about how to engage Jews in Judaism, not Reform or Conservative or Orthodox, but Judaism.”

This is the second year Beth David has done Passover in the Aisles. By 3 p.m. on Sunday, after three hours in the store, there are just nine cards filled out at the Los Altos Albertsons, an hour south of San Francisco. But the volunteers have talked to dozens of shoppers.

One young woman who filled out a card was Galit Azulay, newly arrived from Israel with her husband, who is studying for his doctorate in the area.

“We’re here to buy food for the seder,” she says, adding that the couple aren’t affiliated and don’t plan to be.

She didn’t pick up any of the information, but entered the raffle for a seder plate.

Carol Greenberg also stopped by the table. A member of a local Reform congregation, she congratulated the Beth David volunteers on their outreach efforts. “I’m so excited to see you here,” she exclaims. Greenberg picked up a copy of their recipe book.

“I find that congregations’ recipes are much better than books,” she says. She also took one of the children’s haggadahs, which she plans to give to her newborn niece. “It’ll be a nice gift from her aunt, her first haggadah.”

Store manager Aide Garcia says she couldn’t be happier to host the event. “It increases our business a lot,” she confides. “It’s a way to promote our kosher food.”

The JCC in Columbus, Ohio did its first Passover outreach in a Wild Oats supermarket in 2003. They chose a new neighborhood in the northwest part of the city, an area where young, professional Jews have been moving, to improve their chances of reaching the unaffiliated.

“In the core community, we have an affiliation rate of 90 percent, versus 20 percent in the northwest, where most of the growth is happening,” says Lindsay Folkerth, outreach director for the JCC’s J-Link project. J-Link is a community outreach program created two years ago by the local federation following a demographic study of the Columbus Jewish community by JOI.

Seattle Rabbi Dov Gartenberg says his congregants “thought it was a little strange” when he set up a Passover outreach table in a local supermarket more than 10 years ago. That was before he heard about the JOI program.

He now runs food booths at a Whole Foods store before Passover and Rosh Hashanah, and has teamed up with a popular local chef to offer tastes of Jewish holiday foods. This month they’re offering a different charoset each week, along with recipes.

Gartenberg uses the tastings as a teaching opportunity. “As they taste, I say, this is what this food symbolizes, and it becomes a basis for conversation.”

 

Give Some Honey to Apples of Your Eye


The High Holiday Hustle. We know the steps well. It starts with a tireless trek to the mall in search of that stylish synagogue suit. Next comes the culinary juggling act, simultaneously preparing Aunt Sophie’s tzimmes, Bubbe’s killer kugel and a 22-pound turkey, dressed and trimmed. The last step is grooming an entire family and shuffling the whole gang out the door and into the synagogue in under an hour.

The entire dance sequence — minus the shopping — is generally repeated the following day. Scrambling through the better part of October, it’s easy to forget that the true meaning of the High Holiday season can’t be found in Nordstrom or Bloomingdale’s or Aunt Sophie’s tzimmes, but in appreciating and giving thanks for life’s sweetest blessings. So steal a few moments from the holiday hoopla to remind the true apples of your eye just how delicious they are. Even the simplest acts can send children a message, as loud and clear as the shofar, that they’re loved and cherished. The following sweet suggestions will help you show your children the honey this Rosh Hashanah and every other day of the brand new year.

Rosh Hashanah Honey for Kids

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• Take them to a paint-it-yourself ceramic shop and decorate Kiddush cups, apple plates or honey bowls together.

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• Leave Hershey’s Kisses on their pillows on erev Rosh Hashanah, along with a note wishing them a sweet New Year.

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• Celebrate the birthday of the world with a family nature hike.

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• Give the world a birthday present by planting a tree together.

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• Have a honey cake baking party.

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• Let them design the Rosh Hashanah tablecloth and challah cover using fabric crayons or markers.

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• Make a Rosh Hashanah hunt by giving children clues that lead them to different places in your home — i.e., go to the place where you rest your rosh (head) every night. Have a new clue waiting at each stop and a bag of holiday treats at the final destination.

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• Take a family excursion to an orchard for apple picking.

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• Bake a round challah together.

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• Visit ” target=”_blank”>www.babaganewz.com, where little techies can find Rosh Hashanah games and activities.

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• Have a Tashlich ceremony by a lake or river, so children can cast their sins away and start out the year with a fresh, clean slate.

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• Turn an apple on its side and cut it in half to reveal a star in the middle. Dip the fruit in washable paint, and let your little stars stamp away.

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• Steal some time to read a High Holiday picture book together — even if they say that they’re too old to listen to a story. Some noteworthy choices are “Gershon’s Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year” by Eric Kimmel (Scholastic, 2000), “The World’s Birthday: A Rosh Hashanah Story,” by Barbara Diamond Goldin (Harcourt, 1990), “Sophie and the Shofar” by Fran Manushkin (Urj, 2001) and “How the Rosh Hashanah Challah Became Round” by Sylvia Epstein (Gefen,1999).

Year-Round Sweet Stuff for Kids

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• Flip through photo albums and baby books, and tell them stories about when they were little.

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• Have lunch with them at school (note: disregard in case of preadolescence).

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• Have a campout in the living room. Roast marshmallows over candles and tell ghost stories by flashlight.

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• Give them a coupon that they can redeem for something priceless, like going to a movie with mom or a ballgame with dad.

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• Plan a family game night once a week. TVs, cellphones and computers not invited.

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• Have an unbirthday party — complete with a cake — for everyone in the family who does not have a birthday that day.

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• Take them on a “mystery trip” to a place you rarely go, like an amusement park, sporting event or children’s museum.

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• Proudly display their finest schoolwork.

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• Transform your family room into a movie theater, complete with tickets and popcorn.

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• Send them comic books, baseball cards or other goodies in the mail.

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• Create a new family tradition like a weekly pizza-making night.

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• Do something completely out of character, like starting a pillow fight.

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• Pack dinner up in a picnic basket and eat at the park.

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• Watch cartoons with them.

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• Make up a secret signal together for saying “I love you.” (Little ones will love being sneaky; older children will be thankful to save face in public.)

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• Arrange with the teacher to read a book to their class.

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• Host special dinners to celebrate their every day accomplishments, like losing a tooth, scoring a soccer goal or getting an “A” on a science test.

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• Slip a joke into their backpacks.

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• Ask them for advice about something they know well.

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• Tell them you love them — even if they roll their eyes when they hear it — every morning and every night.

L’Shanah Tovah to you and your honeys.

Sharon Estroff is a syndicated Jewish parenting columnist with graduate degrees in education and child psychology.

Prices Too Low to Be Kosher


 

Illyse Zesch likes to start her Passover shopping early. So it isn’t surprising that, two weeks before the holiday, she made a trip with her fiancé — Rabbi Steve Conn of Santa Clarita’s Temple Beth Shalom — to the Kosher Club on Pico near La Brea, the largest kosher market in Los Angeles.

Among other things, the couple bought several bottles of kosher wine, some fresh lox, a variety of cheeses and a package of frozen gefilte fish. What they didn’t buy, however, was also noteworthy: no cake mix, macaroons, matzah or Passover candies.

Why?

“Those things we’re not getting here,” said Zesch, a 39-year-old attorney, “because we can get them cheaper at Ralphs or Albertsons.”

It happens every year, said Daryl Schwarz — who opened this 100 percent-kosher market in 1989 — only lately it’s been getting worse. Large supermarket and discount chains are able to undersell kosher specialty markets on the very products that, traditionally, have been the Jewish stores’ lifeblood. The chains can offer lower prices because they get volume discounts from kosher distributors. Or they can decide to forgo profit entirely on small-ticket kosher items, using below-cost discounts as a lure for shoppers, expected to buy more. Making money off kosher items is not essential to Ralphs; to Schwarz and other kosher merchants it’s a matter of survival.

Kosher products make up an astonishing percentage of the nation’s grocery bill — about $180 billion of a $500 billion total — though many consumers probably have no idea they are buying kosher. One supplier alone, Empire Kosher Poultry, processes 100,000 kosher birds (chickens and turkeys) per day for U.S. consumption. The kosher products industry is growing at a fairly steady rate of about 15 percent a year, said Menachem Lubinsky, editor of Kosher Today, an industry newsletter, with about 70 percent of the sales taking place through supermarkets or large chains. Competition from those chains, Lubinsky said, “is an issue that is now common in many different cities. The smaller markets, in a way, have to reinvent themselves to compete.”

Schwarz, of the Kosher Club, estimates that there are 20 to 30 small, independent kosher markets in greater Los Angeles. He believes that the number has shrunk slightly over the last five years, although he could identify only one market that had specifically shut down. Still, he insisted, the markets have had to scramble to survive.

Schwarz, for instance, has been forced to reshuffle his product mix by dropping or reducing the stock of items that customers are more likely to buy at lower prices elsewhere. One result is that some of his most loyal patrons are sometimes inconvenienced. But Schwarz has an even greater worry. “If the trend continues,” he said, “it will put the kosher markets out of business.”

He offers examples to illustrate his point. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Southern California, he said, produces a certified kosher-for-Passover version of its soft drink, made with sugar instead of corn syrup. But, based on volume and various other marketing considerations, the product is offered at a major discount to big grocery chains. Which is why in this Passover season, Schwarz contends, Kosher Club customers can choose between buying kosher Coke from him at $1.29 a bottle or walking across the street to Ralphs where the price is just 99 cents.

“How can I compete with that?” Schwarz lamented.

Bob Phillips, a spokesman for Coca-Cola in Los Angeles, said pricing depends on an array of factors including volume, advertising, display, brand recognition and positioning. “We sell to about 225 outlets, including small, medium and large ones,” Phillips said, “and we are glad to do so. There is lots of availability.”

Schwarz also noted that he pays $11 a pound for handmade shmura matzah; customers can buy it at Ralphs for just $9 a pound. “They lose money on it,” he said of his across-the-street competitor. “They use it as loss leader to get kosher customers into the store.”

Last year, according to the Jewish grocer, the resulting shuffling of products ended up causing major headaches for Passover procrastinators after, anticipating a drop in demand for their own more expensive matzah, Schwarz and other kosher merchants significantly decreased their orders from distributors. But Ralphs — perhaps underestimating the same demand — ran out of shmura matzah two weeks before Passover. So observant Los Angeles Jews had to spend extravagant last-minute sums shipping the specialty item in by Federal Express from New York.

And finally, Schwarz says, comes the case of the chicken. Kosher Club buys it from Empire Kosher Poultry of Mifflintown, Pa., the largest purveyor of kosher poultry in the nation. And the store sells it too, at $9.99 for a large bag of breasts. The only problem is that Costco, buoyed by lower prices based on high volume and willing to sell the product at near cost, offers the identical bag of chicken for $6.99, the same price Schwarz pays to get it.

A large chain can get a better deal from suppliers said Elie Rosenfeld, an Empire spokesman. Beyond that, he said, the manufacturer bears little responsibility for what happens to its chicken at the store. “The profit margin and revenue stream that determines what a Costco or Albertsons charges,” he said, “is not something we can control. Running a larger operation allows them to price things the way they feel comfortable, whereas smaller markets need to create the margins they need.”

The bottom line, he said, is that “if Costco wants to put our product at a certain price, there’s not much we can do about it.”

Unlike Schwarz, however, the chicken purveyor isn’t overly concerned. “I don’t think the little markets are in trouble at all,” Rosenfeld said. “They have done an excellent job of serving the consumer market and there is always going to be a place for them…. There’s a difference between going into a neighborhood grocery that offers more personal-type attention, and going into a larger store like Costco or Albertsons that serves the community in a different way.”

Yet there’s little doubt, industry insiders attest, that big chains are going after kosher consumers in big ways. A prime example is Ralphs markets, which has about 250 stores in Southern California. “We’ve been offering kosher items since 1986,” spokesman Terry O’Neil said, “and over the last several years the company has really expanded its offerings outside just those stores that serve Jewish neighborhoods. What we’ve found is that a lot of people who are not Jewish, for health or other reasons, are choosing to eat kosher.”

O’Neil declined to attach a dollar value to these sales, but the company, whose kosher offerings are overseen by several rabbis, has greatly increased the number of approved items it carries. During Passover and other holiday seasons, Ralphs stores stock literally thousands of such items.

“Our kosher customers,” O’Neil said, “are among our top customers in loyalty. We have studies showing that they spend significantly more than our other customers.”

Which is why Ralphs goes to such lengths to attract them. Among other things, O’Neil said, the company organizes several rabbi-led tours of selected facilities in the weeks preceding Passover. The tours are promoted in flyers placed in the stores as well as by mailings to 20,000 kosher customers and by advertisements in the Jewish press. The 15 tours this year each attracted 50-150 people, compared to 20-30 last year.

“This year,” O’Neil said, “has seen, by far, the most successful kosher tours and we’ve expanded them to more stores than ever before.”

And what about the fate of the smaller kosher market?

“I won’t comment on the competition,” O’Neil said without apology, “but I will tell you that it is our intention to be the supermarket of choice for the diversity that is Southern California. Whether that is the kosher customer or our Hispanic customers or our African American customers, we strive to have something in our supermarkets for everyone.”

All of which offends the sensibilities of some kosher merchants.

“The community should not rely on companies outside the community that aren’t committed,” said David Eskenazi, manager at the Kosher Club. “If you put all the kosher butchers out of business because they can’t compete with Ralphs, what do you do when Ralphs changes its policy, because it decides that it’s more interested in the Hispanic community?”

Carmela Geil, the Kosher Club’s controller added: “They can never do it as well as we can because we have the background. They’re very commercial, but it’s not the real McCoy.”

Many customers patronize the chains and the kosher markets, seeing value in each. Karen Avrech, of Los Angeles, said she’d just dropped $200 at Ralphs for a sundry of Passover items. But she completed her shopping at Kosher Club, Avrech said, because “they have a big selection” including some items she could find nowhere else. “Most people have to go to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Ralphs and the kosher markets,” she said. “It’s not just one-stop shopping.”

Added Zesch, Rabbi Conn’s fiancé: “You have to mix and match.”

Then came Jon Hambourger, surely God’s gift to a place like Kosher Club. “We do most of our shopping here,” the Los Angeles resident said, “because they have a good selection and good meat at good prices.”

But couldn’t he do better at Ralphs?

Hambourger wouldn’t know, he admitted, “Because I haven’t been in a supermarket in years. My perspective is that, as a community, we have an obligation to support Jewish merchants.”

His bottom line?

“Even if it means paying more,” he said, “I’d prefer shopping here.”

 

Resorting to Passover at Home


 

My friend Rhonda asked me nonchalantly, “Where are you going for Pesach this year?”

Envisioning the whirlwind travels ahead, my head began to spin. “I’ll begin at Target for new shelf paper, sponges, paper goods, cleansers and a new broom. Then I’ll dock briefly at Ralphs for the special deal on shmura matzah and whatever else they’ve got for Pesach that’s on sale. Next I’ll bully my way in to the kosher market for meat, wine and enough matzah meal to plug up the Hoover Dam. Then I’ll get over to Stan’s Produce for fruits and vegetables. By that time, I’ll have thought of dozens of other things I need, and start the whole thing over again. How about you?”

“We’re going to the Mauna Lani Hotel in Hawaii,” Rhonda said, barely able to look me in the eye.

Faster than you could say “dayenu,” my Jewish spiritual training to be happy for my friend battled with a far less noble instinct: insane jealousy. Never having been to one of these glatt-kosher shebangs, part of me longs for the unimaginable luxury of an entire Pesach without the endless cleaning or shopping, a week of catered gourmet cuisine, my choice of inspiring shiurim and lectures, and simple relaxation. But with a family of six, the cost of these jaunts sends me reeling. That kind of money pays for one and a half tuitions for a year. It could almost remodel a bathroom. We just don’t have that many disposable shekels lying around.

When I think of the burgeoning business of plush Pesach resorts, all I can say is, we’ve come a long way, bubbeleh. Not for these Jews the toothbrush scrubbing of the glass refrigerator shelves, the scouring of closets in search of a long-lost Milk Dud or the hefting of briskets large enough to feed every player on the Lakers. No, these Jews can just up and sell the chametzdik house for the week before jetting off to relive the Exodus on a sun-drenched beach. Well, a beach has sand, and Egypt had sand, so maybe there’s the connection.

My good friend, Dr. Diane Medved, a clinical psychologist and author, has never made Pesach at home. That’s because she and her husband, nationally syndicated talk show host and author Michael Medved, are sought-after speakers on the Pesach resort circuit. Over the years, they’ve poured their four cups of wine in Coronado, Phoenix, Hawaii and, Diane’s personal favorite, Hot Springs, Va. The Medveds have to sing for their suppers, with each of them giving lectures five or six times during the week. Still seems like a great deal to me.

“I know I’m diminishing my reward by not making Pesach at home,” Diane told me, “but I’ve managed to let that pass by. I don’t miss layering aluminum foil all over my kitchen and buying all that matzah. I look forward to it as a vacation.”

Although Diane lectures on relationship and child-rearing issues, her best-attended class is dubbed, “Free From the Fat Mentality,” an especially relevant topic given the food, which Diane says is served in “staggering” proportions.

Diane also enjoys meeting new friends, as well as the choice of participating in communal seders or small family seders, which are both offered.

But other friends who’ve attended resorts have returned convinced that Pesach was meant to be celebrated at home. And despite my slight case of Pesach resort envy, I also find the hard work of making Pesach liberating in its own way. If I am disciplined, I’ll clean and cook while listening to taped shiurim on the spiritual messages of Pesach. If I am disciplined, I’ll also take time to think, taking a “spiritual inventory” of myself while I clean. That way, both my house and my neshamah can embrace the holiday on a deeper level.

Also, being so deeply invested in the process of making Pesach makes sitting down to the seder an enormously satisfying feeling. Besides, Moshe didn’t keep barging into Pharoah’s palace demanding, “Let my people go … to the Las Vegas Ritz Carlton!”

I’m sure it’s possible to have a meaningful Pesach when you are also snorkeling or tossing the dice in a casino in between buffets (Is there ever a time when there isn’t a buffet?), but after all these years, finding myself in a resort while celebrating our redemption from slavery would feel like an out-of-body experience. Or like I won the lottery.

If money were no object, or if I were invited as a guest at a resort in exchange for some speaking gigs along the way, I’d be mighty tempted. (Note to Pesach resort planners: Very few people fall asleep during my humor presentations. And after all that food, they might be falling asleep because they’re full.)

In the meantime, I’m rolling up my sleeves, digging out my Pesach tapes and starting the Pesach-prep hustle. Perhaps sometime soon I’ll be rich enough to say, “Next year in Palm Beach!”

Judy Gruen is the author of two award-winning humor books and the popular “Off My Noodle” column. Read more of her work on www.judygruen.com.

 

Perfect Gadgets for Jetsetter, Homebody


When it comes Chanukah, you’ve got eight nights to get your gift giving right. Our Gift Guide points you toward a cornucopia of categories for every evening of the Festival of Lights. From low- to high-ticket pricing, we’ve got your loved ones covered, including frequent fliers, adventurers, techies and homebodies of all ages. Last-minute shoppers never fear. With online and phone-in orders, you won’t have to battle holiday traffic.

Bon Voyage

Breathe right with the ionic 1.5 oz. Ultra-Mini Air Supply ($125). Bless your car with a compact version of “Baruch HaCar” ($20), the traveler’s prayer. Surprise your favorite road warrior with a collapsible flashing orange Pack-A-Cone ($25). And supply travelers with Eagle Creek’s astonishing Pack-It Compressors, Two-Sided Cube and other well-priced, smart ideas, such as the Flat Pack Organizer, Jewelry CarryAll and waterproof Splash Caddy ($10 and up). Magellans.com, (800) 962-4943.

Streamline laptop travel with an action-packed lightweight Vertical Computer bag ($85). Awesome convertibility, with a removable computer sleeve for quick getaways. REI.com, (800) 426-4840.

Retrieve luggage with the Victorinox’s astonishing Global Track I.D. Tag ($15). You lose it, they send it back — gratis. SonomaOutfitters.com, (800) 290-1920.

Lux

Cuddle up with a scrumptious F horseshoe head pillow ($25), Brookstone.com, (866) 576-7337.

Eshave’s rich shaving creams, in floral for her and cucumber for him, complement a his/her kit with pink and blue Lucite-handle razors ($195). The picture is complete with a T-shaped chrome stand. Plumparty.com, (800) 227-0314.

Top-of-the-line, foldable “noise canceling” stereo headphones are pricey. Save with NoiseBuster ($69) from Pro Tech Communications.com. Amazon.com (free shipping).

Brew full-bodied gourmet coffee or tea anywhere in the unbreakable, portable Bonjour French Press Carafe ($15). Add romance with a totally flat, packable plastic WonderVase (three for $15) that you mold under warm water. Or create ambiance with a flickering, battery-operated CandleSafe made of real wax ($25). Magellan’s.

Oprah loves a shimmery lime and powder blue silk throw ($100). Will you? PlumParty.com, (800) 227-0314.

Washable suede shirts, sweater jackets and “cashnear” knits are equally yummy ($89 and up). Travelsmith.com.

Techno

Save money and the planet with a Dual-Voltage Battery Recharger ($35). Complete with four AA NiMH batteries, this practical gift runs on both 110 or 220 volt current. Magellan’s.

Shape up with a digital pedometer ($30), loaded with a panic alarm and calorie counter. Or tune in with Orion’s AudioView AM/FM radio binoculars ($90). Travelsmith.

Navigate 20 reversible routes with a wrist-mounted GPS receiver/personal navigator from Garmin Foretrex ($130 to $170). In under three ounces, compute speed, track trips and calculate distances, all while telling time. REI.

Countdown

The flip-top, analog Dakota Mini Travel Clock ($35), features sleek stainless steel in a charming wooden box. Or keep time here and in Israel with easy-to-set dual-time tank style watches ($79 each) for him and her. Magellan’s.

Wake up to shortwave with Grundig’s ultra-compact Mini Radio ($40). Draws in seven bands of shortwave signals, plus AM, FM. With a digital clock, sleep timer and earphones, it’s good to go. Or indulge and download news, weather and calendar dates on the Suunto Web Watch ($299). Includes stopwatch, alarm and date. Subscribe to MSN Direct for stock quotes, sport scores and more. Travelsmith.

Call of the Wild

Prepare for all-weather winter adventure with outdoor gear. Add breathable warmth with soft, moisture-wicking Performance Wool separates ($95 and up). Fast drying and machine washable. Bundle up with 650-fill-power goose down jacket ($99) with a water-repellent, breathable finish that resists light moisture. Doubles as a zip-in liner for REI parkas and packs small for the space conscious. And hydrate with the REI Runoff Pack ($60 and up). The women’s version boasts super comfortable shoulder straps for women-specific contouring. REI.

The ultimate camping mat, the self-inflating Therm-A-Rest Dreamtime Sleeping Pad ($199) includes a cushy pillow top and washable fleece cover. Campmor.com, (800) 525-4784.

His

The classic calfskin Taxi Wallet ($49) or the Cash InCase key ring ($20) stash cash for all occasions. Magellan’s.

Gift gentlemen with the English Butler Shoe Shine kit ($80), includes a distinctive leather case. Delight amateur astronomers with the Night Navigator digital electronic compass ($99). And help Zayde fight off chills and spills with a stylish “Teflon” Stain-Free Cardigan ($99). Travelsmith.

The Gerber Nautilus Flashlight Tool ($69) packs a four-mode LED light with Fiskars scissors, a fine-blade knife, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, with a bottle opener. REI. Or cut loose with Leatherman’s “high-wattage” Charger Ti multitool. It boasts interchangeable bits, perks galore and lightweight titanium handles. Cabelas.com, $100.

Hers

Classic equestrian-style boots ($160) combine comfort and fashion. Bornshoes.com. Or prep her for wet weather with a 100 percent waterproof, packable microfiber Balmacaan raincoat ($179), optional lightweight liner ($70) and plenty of rain-worthy boots ($89 and up). Travelsmith.

For the perfect shoulder bag on the road or at home, Hobo’s women-designed, microfiber Essential Traveler ($69) hides travel documents and organizes pens, travel guides and more. Attach a handsome leather phone tote ($25) that doubles as an eyeglass case. Magellan’s.

Wrap her in a cultural souvenir from the Himalayan region of Kashmir. This black merino wool shawl ($89) features colorful hand-embroidered flowers. ShopNationalGeographic.com, (800) 437-5521.

Kids

Wooly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, hornless rhinos and giant sloths hold court in NatGeo’s Prehistoric Mammals book ($30). Ages 8 and up.

Or explore the “Atlas of the World,” eighth edition ($125). Hard copy purchases include online access to customized maps, satellite imagery and downloadable updates. National Geographic.

Little ones beam in super-bright blue light with a tiny Microbeam flashlight keychain ($20). Brookstone.

A responsible teen ready for a pocketknife? A miniature Jewish version of Victronix’s “Star of David” model ($15) features a bright blue case and white Magen David. SwissArmyExpress.com, (877) 289-2769.

Little Robosapien ($100), a carefree “pet,” combines robot technology with personality. Command Robo with a remote or speech to fetch books and perform 65 other functions. Ages 6 and up. SharperImage.com, (800) 344-5555.

Lisa Alcalay Klug is a former staff writer for The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

Web Links Your Wallet to Gifts From Israel


 

With Chanukah fast approaching, you might want to look to the east for the best gifts. Presents from the Holy Land have resonance for both the recipient and for Israel, whose economy could use a little boost from American consumers. Since most people can’t just run to Jerusalem for holiday shopping, consider these Web sites as outlets for gift items you can’t get anywhere else.

” target=”_blank”>israeliproducts.com

Buy a jar of honey from the actual Land of Milk and Honey. Or create a unique and original gift basket from this site, which includes cookies and pastries, spices and olive oil. And if you spend more than $100, then Linda Katz, owner of the site, will pay all of the shipping charges. Hers is a shop based out of Maryland, dedicated to paying all the overhead costs of importing Israeli goods. The two-year-old Internet company donates 100 percent of its modest profit to charities in Israel. According to Katz, her small staff takes no salaries and they all have other jobs. She said the main goal of her business is to distribute Israeli products in the United States.

” target=”_blank”>israelrose.com

A couple years ago, Flori Rosenthal of Tustin’s Congregation B’nai Israel visited some family in New England. She was greeted with warm smiles and fragrant roses upon her arrival. When she asked where the beautiful roses came from, she was surprised to learn they came all the way from the Negev Desert in Israel. Since, she has arranged fundraisers for her temple by purchasing the roses in bulk and selling them to congregants and community members. The roses grow in a computerized climate-controlled greenhouse and come in eight varieties. Two types of mixed dozens are also available. The roses are freeze-dried and need hydration upon arrival. Instructions are included with the package. According to Flori, the hydrated roses last up to two weeks. The only catch for these beautiful desert blooms is you have to purchase a minimum of four dozen so they can be sent in bulk. Four-dozen roses cost $70 — that’s only $17.50 per dozen, shipping included. The deadline to order roses for arrival by the start of Chanukah may already have passed by the time this article goes to print, but if you hurry, you may be able to receive your roses before the eighth night.

” target=”_blank”>mavrikjewelry.com

This site brings beautiful custom-made jewelry found only in boutiques directly to your doorstep. Internationally acclaimed artisans such as Michal Negrin and others fashion breathtaking adornments from precious metals and stones, as well as other materials, inspired in the heart of the Holy Land. The pink, green, blue and gold crystals in Negrin’s rings surround a delicate flower set in a ring of brass. The rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces capture light and attention wherever they go. Another favorite set by an unnamed artist is a fiery blue opal set in a sterling silver square — a bargain at $49.95. While you’re at it, why not splurge on the earrings, too? Only $45 more. Oh, wait. We’re shopping for others, right?