New Year’s Bounty

From Syrian pastries to handmade tzedakah boxes, cool (and inspiring) gifts for Rosh HaShanah.

08/27/13
Jewish Week Book Critic
Photo Galleria: 

Rethink the old year, look ahead to filling the New Year with more kindness, generosity, beauty, with new tastes, words and stories. The Mansoura family has been baking traditional Middle Eastern pastries for more than 200 years, first in Aleppo, Syria, then in Cairo, Egypt, and now on Kings Highway in Brooklyn. Their Cairo café and restaurant, which they operated from 1910 until 1958, when the family had to leave Egypt, was one of that city’s most elegant institutions, frequented by actors, politicians, business people, even King Farouk.

Now they have been in the same Brooklyn location for more than 50 years, using recipes that have been handed down over five generations, still turning out distinctive and delicious baklava, kataifi, Turkish delight, hand-dipped chocolates, biscotti, roasted pistachios and more, kosher and pareve.

Their maamoul, a Syrian-Lebanese handmade pastry filled with imported pistachios or freshly ground date paste, is a traditional Jewish New Year treat. A gift package features 16 pieces, dusted with powdered sugar, packed in a Mansoura signature tin.

The fragrant shop, filled with the warmth of Josiane Mansoura and family, is well worth a visit, but it also offers mail order, with quick delivery available.

$26. Mansoura Pastries, 515 Kings Highway, Brooklyn. 718 645-7977. Mansoura.com

Some Jews follow the tradition of including fish in the Rosh HaShanah meal, as a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Whether your fish is gefilte or Roman-style red snapper, this rectangle pewter platter, plated with sterling silver, with blue-eyed fish for feet, is great for serving. From Penrose Judaica, a new Internet source for original, contemporary, handcrafted works of Judaic art for ritual and home use (as well as jewelry and home décor), with offices on the Upper West Side.

$130. penrosejudaica.com

A favorite author turns to a new medium. Read Ann Birstein’s “Jet Lag,” a long narrative essay published as a Kindle Single. She recounts a trip to Eastern Europe, as part of an organized “Discovery Tour.” Her ever-original account is uncommon, in Birstein’s signature style. She is the author of 10 books, including novels, memoirs and a biography of her father, “The Rabbi on Forty-Seventh Street.”

“Jet Lag” is available now from Amazon, and will also be available through Apple Quick Reads, Barnes and Noble Nook Books and Kobo Books.

$1.99. Amazon.com

Start the New Year with a new tzedekah habit. Legendary hedge fund manager and mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt got his start as a collector of Judaica with tzedekah boxes. Etsy, the Internet marketplace of handmade items and collectibles from around the world, features a number of tzedekah boxes, including round, hand-stitched leather boxes in earth tones, made in Haifa, Israel by Uziel Navah for UzieLeatheR, with some small enough to fit into a pocket. The artisan was inspired to work in leather by his travels in the Far East after his army service; now he focuses on Judaica.

In Los Angeles, ceramic artist Miriam Loory Krombach makes a blue-glazed clay tzedekah box, unusual for its color and shape. As she says, “art can help us all to let compassion for our world, and those in it, be a presence in our daily lives.”

UzieLeatheR, $32-$61. MiriamsKiln, $55. Etsy.com.

This year, experiment with honey that has meaningful origins, perhaps organic honey from Israel or fair-trade honey from a Mexican collective that enables its beekeepers to follow their centuries-old tradition and also achieve a stable income to enable them to send their children to school (for more information, fairtradejudaica.com). Encourage your guests to drizzle honey onto apples and challah gracefully with a striking stainless steel dipper designed by Israeli artisan Laura Cowan. It looks like a piece of spiraling ribbon.

$78 ($70.20 for Jewish Museum members). The Jewish Museum, Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street., Manhattan, or thejewishmuseum.org

These days, new small shops are cause for celebration. On The Table in Teaneck, N.J., just opened on Aug. 1, features stylish tableware, flowers and jewelry. Solid-colored glass bowls in an assortment of jewel tones are made of recycled glass; swirls within the glass are characteristic of hand-blown glassware. They’re available in three sizes, and the smallest would be lovely for honey. 

$16, $25, $40. On The Table, 1454 Queen Anne Rd. (corner of State St.), Teaneck, N.J., (201) 342-1089. Onthetablegifts.com (in construction)

And who will remember? And what do you use to preserve memory?/How do you preserve anything in this world?” Yehuda Amichai wrote in “Open Close Open.”

On these Days of Awe and the surrounding days, we do a lot of remembering of those who aren’t with us. We remember the creation of the world and, and, also, we pray to be remembered in the Book of Life.  A new title in the Jewish Lights series “Prayers of Awe,” “May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism,” focuses on the Yizkor prayer, edited by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman. A distinguished group of rabbis, scholars and theologians, including Rabbi Aaron Panken, Rabbi Edward Feinstein and Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, contribute essays with historical insight and, for some, personal reflection. Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur of Paris writes of “An Ongoing Conversation with Empty Chairs” and Rabbi Daniel Landes of Israel writes “Remembering the Dead as Halakhic Peril.” For those whose tradition is to read in shul, this is a fine book to bring along.

$24.99, at bookstores  

Looking ahead to Sukkot, bring even more beauty to your sukkah with brilliant hummingbirds made of glass. Crafted by Bandu Dunham, a self-taught and now internationally respected glass artist, author and teacher, the birds are made in 11 color variations.

$36. penrosejudaica.com

Last Update:

08/27/2013 - 12:51

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