Jewish Gift-Giving Guide
New to kosher gift giving? Giving a gift to a Jewish friend and aren’t sure what to give? Whether you are Jewish or not, you are not alone! There are lots of intricacies in the following of Jewish traditions which mystify Jews and non-Jews alike. But don’t despair – Kosher Gift Box is here to help! Below you’ll find answers to some of our most-asked questions.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
Although the details are extensive, the laws of Kosher foods all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules:
As in most things, there are exceptions to many of the rules, and different people observe the rules more stringently than others!
How does this affect gifts I send to Jewish friends?
When sending gifts to Jewish friends, it is always nice to send kosher gifts, whether your friends keep kosher or not. In this way, you honor their heritage in a thoughtful way. While there are different types of “kosher” (see below), we at Kosher Gift Box can always help you to send an appropriate Jewish gift via a kosher gift basket.
What are the different types of “Kosher?”
Meat (or fleishik)
Dairy (or milchik)
Pareve (also spelled Parve or Parev) – neutral foods that can be eaten with either Meat or Dairy.
Treif (pronounced TRAY-f) – forbidden foods such as shell fish (lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams, & crabs) and pork products.
Kosher for Passover - During Passover, observant Jews refrain from eating chometz (anything that contains barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt). No leavening is allowed. This signifies the fact that the Hebrews had no time to let their bread rise as they made a hurried escape from Egypt. Some Jews also avoid corn, rice, peanuts, and legumes as they are also used to make bread and may have other grains mixed in.
Other than observant Jews, who else might keep Kosher and why?
Observant Jews are only a small fragment of the marketplace; kosher certification is also relied upon by many Muslims, vegetarians (although this is not fool-proof; dairy and pareve foods may contain eggs or fish; but if it isn't kosher, it probably isn't vegetarian), some Seventh Day Adventists, as well as many other people who simply think that kosher products are cleaner, healthier or better than non-kosher products.[iii] So don’t hesitate to buy kosher gifts from Kosher Gift Box for your Muslim and vegetarian friends as well – they’ll thank you for it! You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the benefits of receiving and eating kosher foods and treats!
What is a “hekhsher?”
A hekhsher is a symbol denoting a product’s Kosher status which is commonly found on products throughout the United States. These symbols are registered trademarks of kosher certification organizations, and cannot be placed on a food label without the organization's permission.[iv]
What do the different hekhshers (symbols) of “Kosher” mean? (Star K, OU, OK)
They are simply registered trademarks of different kosher certification organizations.
What does a “supervising rabbi” do?
A “supervising rabbi” certifies that the food manufacturer or seller is following the rules for kosher foods. The process of certification does not involve "blessing" the food; rather, it involves examining the ingredients used to make the food, examining the process by which the food is prepared, and periodically inspecting the processing facilities to make sure that kosher standards are maintained.[v]
ALL PRODUCTS OFFERED BY KOSHER GIFT BOX ARE CERTIFIED KOSHER, SO YOU CAN BUY KOSHER GIFTS FOR JEWISH FRIENDS WITH CONFIDENCE. All of our products are baked/prepared in establishments which have a recognized kosher certification, such as OU, OK and Star K. In addition, we have our own certification by Rabbi Moshe Epstein of Bridgeport, CT. Rabbi Epstein is a member of the Rabbinical Alliance of NY and the Vaad Harabonim of MA. For questions about our supervision, he can be reached at 203-374-9782.
What is it, why do Jews “sit shiva,” and for how long do they “sit?”
Shiva is the Jewish tradition of mourning, and is referred to as “sitting Shiva.” Gathering together as a community is at the core of Jewish tradition, and mourning the death of a loved one is no different. The strength and support of friends, family and neighbors play a key role in helping the bereaved through the process of grieving. During Shiva the family stays home to focus on their grief, remember their loved one, and receive visitors. Shiva is traditionally a seven-day mourning period observed by the parent, spouse, sibling, or child of the deceased, but families sit Shiva for a shorter time period. Shiva generally starts immediately after the funeral.
Should non-Jews pay a shiva call?
Yes. It is always appropriate to comfort the bereaved, whether you are Jewish or not. If you can attend, do so. If you can’t, send an appropriately Jewish gift. Remember, Jews do not traditionally send flowers for mourning. Kosher food and kosher gift baskets are always appreciated to help feed the mourners and their visitors.
What is appropriate to bring or send for a shiva gift?
Kosher food is the most appropriate gift to send for shiva, as the bereaved will have many guests visiting them to express their condolences.
Kosher Gift Box has a large selection of kosher gifts ideal for shiva and sympathy at a broad selection of price points. Following are our top 3 shiva gifts. All are completely appropriate for Shiva gift giving and Jewish sympathy gifts.
I’m going to one – what is it, and what should I expect?
It is customary for Jewish parents in America to give their children two names - a secular name for everyday use and a Hebrew name for religious purposes. While boys are given their Hebrew names at their bris (see below), girls receive their Hebrew names at a baby naming ceremony, typically during the course of a regular service in a synagogue when the Torah scroll is open. Some families are choosing a less traditional route, holding a naming ceremony and celebration for their newborn daughters in the home. The Jewish baby naming also includes a special blessing giving thanks for a healthy delivery and for the health of the mother. Baby naming ceremonies are typically held within a month or two of the baby’s birth, but the timing is flexible.
A bris is the circumcision ceremony for all Jewish baby boys. It is a happy celebration that brings together family and friends. The bris is performed on the baby’s 8th day (assuming he is in good health) by a Mohel (an individual who has the required training). As part of the bris ceremony, there is the blessing over the bread (challah) followed by a spread of food that typically includes lox and bagels, noodle kugel (casserole), rugelach, cookies and more.
What is an appropriate Jewish gift for a baby naming or bris?
Giving a gift of Judaica (Jewish-themed art or religious objects) that the child will have throughout their life is always nice, as are kosher gift baskets celebrating the addition of a Jewish baby to the world.
Kosher Gift Box has a large selection of Jewish gifts ideal for baby naming and bris celebrations at a broad selection of price points. Following are our bestselling Jewish Baby Gifts.
What is it, and what is the difference between a Bar Mitzvah and a Bat Mitzvah?
A Bar or Bat Mitzvah (plural, B’nai Mitzvah) marks a Coming of Age milestone. It is a ceremony that formally marks the time in life when a child is considered old enough to be responsible for his own actions and to participate fully in religious services. It usually happens when boys are 13 and girls are 12 or 13 (depending upon personal religious observance). Today, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony is typically followed by a party that may be modest or extravagant with delicious foods, entertainment, and gifts for the b’nai Mitzvah.
I’m going to one - what should I expect?
Expect a serious religious ceremony where the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child will read or chant from the Torah and be very involved in performing the service. Depending upon the size of the congregation, there may be another, unrelated child being Bar or Bat Mitzvah-ed at the same time.
What is an appropriate Jewish gift?
For the B’nai Mitzvah, giving a gift of Judaica (Jewish-themed art or religious objects) that he/she will have throughout his/her life is always nice. The family of the B’nai Mitzvah will likely be entertaining many out of town family and guests and a kosher gift basket of food would certainly be much appreciated.
Kosher Gift Box has a beautiful selection of Judaica (hyperlink) that is appropriate for B’nai Mitzvot gifts as well as fabulous kosher gift baskets (hyperlink) at a broad selection of price points.
What is Judaica?
Judaica describes religious objects for use in celebrating our Jewish holidays or Jewish-themed art. Examples of Judaica are candlesticks (used for Shabbat and other holidays), Kiddush cups (used in the prayer over wine ushering in holidays), and mezzuzot (the beautiful, small prayer cases placed on our doorposts. Judaica makes long-lasting, heartfelt gifts for Jewish friends.
Here are some popular Judaica items:
Mezzuzah: A beautiful, artistic, small case containing Judaism’s most sacred prayer. Perfect for housewarming, wedding, and baby gifts.
Kiddish cup: A special goblet used during the prayer over the wine as we usher in each holiday, from weekly Shabbat to special holidays. Perfect for housewarming, wedding, and Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts.
Menorah: A 9-branch candelabrum used for Chanukah celebrations. Holds 8 candles plus the shamas (helper candle) which is used to light the others. Perfect for wedding and Chanukah gifts (for people of all ages).
Shabbat candlesticks: A set of candlesticks used to hold the two candles we light to usher in Shabbat weekly. Lighting Shabbat candles is almost always a job reserved for the women of Judaism. Also of interest – Jews NEVER blow out candles, whether Shabbat or Chanukah candles; we let them burn themselves out. Shabbat candlesticks are perfect wedding, housewarming, and Bat Mitzvah gifts for Jewish friends.
Seder plate: Passover is the only Jewish holiday that is primarily celebrated with a service at home (the seder), not at synagogue. The Seder plate is the centerpiece of our home celebration, holding all of the important items used during the service. All seder plates have sections to hold the items, but they can be as varied in design (glass, metal, ceramic, bone china; traditional, classic, contemporary) as their owners. Perfect for engagement, wedding, anniversary, and housewarming gifts for your Jewish friends.
Elijah’s cup: The prophet Elijah is said to visit each seder and we fill a special wine glass and set it on the table for him to drink from when he arrives. Elijah’s cups make a lovely Passover gift.
Miriam’s cup: Miriam's Cup is a new ritual for the Passover seder. Its purpose is to honor the role of Miriam the Prophetess in the Exodus (to whom God gave a miraculous well which accompanied the Hebrews throughout their journey in the desert, providing them with water) and to highlight the contributions of women to Jewish culture, past and present. During the seder, Miriam’s Cup is filled with water poured from each of the water glasses of women at the seder. A Miriam’s cup makes a perfect gift for girls being Bat Mitzvahed or Confirmed, bridal shower, the birth of a daughter, or Passover in a family rich with women.
Yarmulke: The yarmulke (or kippah) is a thin, slightly-rounded skullcap traditionally worn at all times by Orthodox Jewish men and sometimes by both men and women in Conservative and Reform communities during services to show devotion to God. Yarmulkes make a nice gift for the birth of a baby boy, for a B’nai Mitzvah or child being Confirmed, or any Shabbat.
Tallis: The tallis is the prayer shawl worn by (predominantly) men during services. Tallit make wonderful Jewish gifts for B’nai Mitzvot (both boys and girls).
Hamsa: A hand-shaped amulet used for protection by both Jewish and Muslim people, shaped in the form of a symmetrical hand, with thumbs on both sides. The Hamsa is used to ward off the evil eye and can be found on the entrances of homes, in cars, on charm bracelets & chains and more. In Jewish use, Hamsas are often decorated with prayers of a protective fashion. Hamsas make great Jewish gifts for all occasions (birth, B’nai Mitzvot, housewarming, engagements, weddings) and especially for people who are ill or facing surgery Click here (hyperlink) to see our selection of artistic Hamsas.
If something is Kosher, WHY is it NOT automatically also Kosher for Passover?
Passover celebrates the Jews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. As they departed, they did not have time to let their bread rise and therefore made matzoh (unleavened bread). While many foods are kosher under standard guidelines, during the Passover holiday, foods must also be free of all leavening (anything that contains barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt).
Isn’t Passover just a one- or two-day holiday like the rest of the Jewish holidays?
No – Passover lasts 8 days – from sundown the first night through sundown the eighth night.
My friends aren’t particularly observant. Why can’t I send a kosher gift that is not “Kosher for Passover” during Passover?
Even if your friends are not particularly observant, it is respectful to send only Kosher for Passover items during the holiday. Most Jewish companies are actually closed during Passover and if they are open (like we are), they will not be able to send non-Kosher for Passover items during the holiday.
Kosher Gift Box carries an extensive "menu" of Kosher for Passover gifts. They are available approximately 6 weeks prior to Passover.
Why is there more than one way to spell many of the holidays (e.g., Chanukah/ Hanukkah, Matzoh/Matzo/Matza, Pareve/Parve, Rosh Hashonah/Hashana)?
In general, most words which have multiple spellings do so because they are Hebrew words that are being transliterated into English. For example, “Chanukah” and “Hanukkah” describe the same holiday and no one will be offended by a card with a different spelling than the one they traditionally use.