newsIsrael at War

As Chanukah approaches, US Jews seek Israeli goods as gifts

“Everyone is looking for a list of places they can support,” Michelle Geft of California told JNS.

Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat (third from left) at a meeting with heads of the business sector in Israel in Tel Aviv on Oct. 23, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat (third from left) at a meeting with heads of the business sector in Israel in Tel Aviv on Oct. 23, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

With tourism to Israel down, and tens of thousands of businesses displaced and shuttered in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel, Jews in the Diaspora are opening their wallets and using Chanukah as time to “shop Israel.”

Beth Held of Connecticut recently attended a pop-up “shuk” in her neighborhood that featured Israeli vendors who came to the United States specifically to promote their businesses and sell their wares. At the event, she picked up some wine, jewelry and even a handbag.

“They need our support, and I haven’t thought twice about doing my part,” she told JNS.

Jews and other Zionists are showing their support for Israel at Jewish Community Centers, Jewish museums and synagogue and day-school boutiques—like the one Held attended—as well as via online sites like Etsy, the Jewish National Fund-USA’s Mitzvah Market and sites affiliated with Jewish charities, such as ADI Negev or Yad LaKashish (“Lifeline for the Old”) in Jerusalem.

Michelle Geft of Malibu, Calif., belongs to several WhatsApp groups where the same questions keep popping up: What businesses in Israel can I buy from, and what local companies have Israel’s back?

“Everyone is looking for a list of places they can support,” said Geft, who receives a monthly box of goods from Israel through a company called Lev Haolam (“Heart of the world”).

A few years ago, Geft began receiving a box of items from Judea and Samaria in order to combat the boycott Israel movement. “When the war began, I doubled up my subscription to give even more support to Israel,” she told JNS.

Handcrafted items at Yad LaKashish (“Lifeline for the Old”) in Jerusalem. Credit: Courtesy.

‘People still have to pay their rents’

According to Michal Shiloah Galnoor, CEO of JNF-USA’s Western Galilee Now-Small Business Consortium, 96% of Israeli businesses are either small- or mid-size shops and companies. These mom-and-pop shops are often the first to suffer when crises hit, especially if their work relies on tourism dollars.

When COVID-19 hit, many businesses closed, but some were able to stay afloat through JNF’s online Mitzvah Market, which features works of artisans, crafters, authors and firms. The site is proving vital to keeping them solvent during the war.

“For many businesses, these order are the only sales they have at this time,” Galnoor told JNS. “Even in war, people still have to pay their rents on stores or work studios, mortgages, taxes, food. If they can’t sell their goods, there will be a ripple effect. Businesses with employees will lay them off. An artist will stop buying from the art-supply store.”

In addition to items individuals can purchase for themselves or for friends and family, they can buy boxes filled with goods for soldiers and Israelis displaced by the war. The holiday packages contain special Chanukah treats and a sevivon, or dreidel.

Seeing the toll a lack of business was taking on Israeli artisans, businessman Liran Weiss created a Facebook group called “Israeli shops to purchase from” four weeks ago. The page now has more than 35,000 members.

“A lot of artists and designers are getting sales from this Facebook group, and some of them are getting more sales than ever before,” Weiss told JNS. “The American community supports and purchases from us.”

When the group started, he envisioned it as a place where designers could showcase wares and people could pick out the items they wanted to buy. The reality has been even better, because “so many people are posting exactly what they are looking for—wall art, Star of David necklaces, Judaica,” he said. “We have it all.”

In advance of Chanukah, members have bought “so many menorahs,” he said.

Wall art and Israeli wines are on the shopping lists of New Jersey resident Yvette, who did not want to use her last name.

“The art for Chanukah is for ourselves and our stark bare walls,” she joked, before turning serious. She expressed her love for Israel and said she wants to do what she can to help.

Although she and her husband “don’t love wine,” they are “stocking up” on Israeli wines for others, because “we love supporting Israel.”

For those considering buying something from an Israeli vendor, Galnoor points out that there is a morale factor beyond the economics.

“They get up in the morning, check their email, there’s an order from the United States and they get to work,” she said.

Weiss echoed that idea, saying “we don’t want donations. We want to be busy, and that’s exactly what is happening. You have given us livelihood and creativity. Stores that were struggling are now beginning to prosper.”

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates