I was originally going to post this Hanukkah piece on the Saturday gift blog, and then I thought maybe it wasn’t the most respectful day to write about a Jewish holiday. So I found this slot in the middle of the week that hadn't had a post.
The big news is that while our Hanukkah boxed cards are out, we can only find two of our loose designs. In the past, we’ve filed carry overs with Christmas, but for some reason, they’ve disappeared. I have not idea why, but if we don’t come up with something, I’ll probably break up some of the boxes. Our sale is a tiny fraction of Christmas cards, but we do have a good amount of business, especially for kids, and always have a holiday-themed wrap for customers. Everyone was excited that we worked our way through the roll we used for the last three years.We've gotten several compliments.
I guess I was most excited about the Hanukkah ducks. There’s one with a dreidel, one with a menorah, and one who just seems to be going to bar mitzvah class. The minimums were a little high for us, but I emotionally spread out the sale over two years. No, we don’t mark everything down at the end of the holiday. Last year we’d brought in a Jenga-like game with skeletons, and it actually sold better the second year than the first (3 in each year, but we sold out faster in 2013). Maybe the placement in the store was better the second time.
We also have two events that tie into Hanukkah and National Jewish Book Month, which is November. On Sunday, November 17, we are hosting Shir Hadash shopping day, where a percentage of designated sales goes back to this Reconstructionist congregation. By designated, customers have to tell us that they are participating, and forgo their normal Boswell Benefits (but the benefit is double—10% instead of the 5% that customers get). The featured speaker at 3 pm is Nina Edelman, who is talking about her father Max Gendelman’s book, A Tale of Two Soldiers (Two Harbors). The story is a remarkable tale of friendship between and American and German solider, and is a great tribute to her dad. Now I just have to continue to panic over whether the books will arrive on time—it’s one of those deals where we order from Baker and Taylor and they order from the publisher.
Our second timely event is Alisa Solomon’s Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof (Henry Holt). This event is co-sponsored by the UWM Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies, the UWM Theater Department, and the Harry and Rose Sampson Family JCC, which is a mouthful. I’ve been working my way slowly through Solomon’s book. I was just a little young to know that Fiddler on the Roof’s success was built on a decade of Sholem Aleichem fever. This event is Thursday, November 21, 7 pm, and should be a lot of fun.
Wonder of Wonders has been getting some great attention: Shelley Salamensky in The Wall Street Journalcalled the book “ exuberant” as it “careers through the countless twists and turns of the "Fiddler" phenomenon.” And Eileen Reynolds in the Jewish Daily Forwardpraises the “particularly thoughtful analysis of how the story “has achieved something like folklore status in the American imagination, and grapples, as any history of this musical must, with fundamental questions about Jewish identity.”
Another interesting book for which we are not hosting the author is Hanukkah in America (NYU Press), by Dianne Ashton. It sometimes seems that there is little variation with the menorah, dreidl, latke triumvirate but Ashton proves this is not the case. In New Orleans, you decorate your door with a menorah made of hominy grits. In Texas, latkes are seasoned with cilantro and cayenne pepper. And per the author, a Cincinnati custom is to celebrate with oranges and ice cream. Ashton, a professor of religious studies at Rowan University, has gotten a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal called it a “a successful and accessible history.”
Speaking of cultural traditions, Barbara Brown’s new book is Hanukkah in Alaska (Holt), with illustrations by Stacey Schuett. In it, a family celebrating not only see the northern lights, but a moose too.
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